Boarding School Blog / ,

A Parent Reflects on Medicating Her Son

In early July I wrote a post, “Thinking About Stimulant Abuse” a response to what I (still) think was a shallow New York Times article, “Risky Rise of the Good Grade Pill.”

Today, I recommend a companion piece about attention deficit stimulant prescriptions from a parent’s perspective- Bronwen Hruska’s “Raising the Ritalin Generation.”

Raising the Ritalin Generation

Hruska writes from experiences and perspectives that I lack. She writes of the teacher making the suggestion to medicate her son- which has always prompted the question from me- “is the teacher qualified to make this analysis?”

I’ve never been through a teacher suggesting one of our kids try medication. I have however been in meetings where teachers suggest medication just as Hruska experienced.

When her son, Will, was in the third grade, his teacher suggested “Just a little medication could really turn things around for Will.”(NYT) Thus began the family’s path down unnecessarily medicating their son.

Hruska discovered and experienced the gaping holes and assumptions with the stimulant industrial complex as a quick solution to kids being kids.

She writes of the growth in ADD and ADHD diagnoses. She observes that no clinical test for the diagnosis exists:

“…doctors make diagnoses based on subjective impressions from a series of interviews and questionnaires. Now, in retrospect, I understand why the statistics are so high.”(NYT)

Most importantly, Hruska, I think, finds the roots of academic medication trends in her final paragraphs when she trains her observations on the fact that our educational structures and institutions now continually want, and push, kids to develop more quickly and complexly than their growth process may allow.

Hruska writes:

“Which brings me to the idea of ‘normal.’ The Merriam-Webster definition, which reads in part ‘of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development,’ includes a newly dirty word in educational circles. If normal means ‘average,’ then schools want no part of it. Exceptional and extraordinary, which are actually antonyms of normal, are what many schools expect from a typical student.
If ‘accelerated’ has become the new normal, there’s no choice but to diagnose the kids developing at a normal rate with a disorder. Instead of leveling the playing field for kids who really do suffer from a deficit, we’re ratcheting up the level of competition with performance-enhancing drugs. We’re juicing our kids for school.

We’re also ensuring that down the road, when faced with other challenges that high school, college and adult life are sure to bring, our children will use the coping skills we’ve taught them. They’ll reach for a pill.”(NYT)

It’s as though we’re trying to bring Garrison Keillor’s description of Lake Wobegon to life:

“[Lake Wobegon] where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”(Prairie Home Companion)

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

More by Brian Fisher

Subscribe for email updates: