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What Do I Do When a Teacher Says My Child Needs Meds?

By Dr. Joseph Gianesin, Behavioral Consultant

Question:

My daughter gets in trouble at school. The teacher says she is in high speed all the time, doesn't watch where she is going, knocks things over or trips over stuff. Her teacher says that she doesn't pay attention to her work, she does it fast all the time and it ends up messy.

The teacher would like me to put her on medication to slow her down, but I refuse. I have told her teacher that I give her worksheets and reading to do at home, and she will sit down and do the homework, and does a fine job.

What do you suggest I do?

Answer:

Some teachers make a quick diagnosis and push parents toward the medication route without having gone through a thorough process of evaluation.

However, experienced classroom teachers have seen hundreds of children over their careers, and if they have a concern about a child, I would be willing to have the child evaluated. This normally means that your pediatrician or a specialist in ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) evaluates your child.

This will likely include a questionnaire for the teacher and parents to fill out, along with observation and feedback from those persons who interact with your child the most. After the initial evaluation, your doctor could offer several forms of intervention that might include medication but also some strategies for parents and school personnel.

Teachers regularly encounter children with ADHD and can provide several accommodations for children who exhibit the symptoms you described. If your child turns out to have this disablity, the CHADD Web site can be of great assistance. It also lists several accommodations and strategies to help your child get the most out of school that don't include pharmacology.

Lastly, the fact that your child can sit and focus in the home setting is not really comparable to a classroom where there are numerous stimuli and distractions.

My advice in a nutshell: Have your child evaluated and then make a decision that you and your doctor are comfortable with regarding the interventions.

One last note, although there has been a huge media blitz about the dangers of ADHD medications, thousands of children each year benefit from them and are able to focus and concentrate on their schoolwork resulting in higher self-esteem and academic success. Your doctor should counsel and advise you on the benefits and drawbacks if you decide to utilize medication as an intervention.

Dr. Joseph Gianesin is a professor at Springfield College School of Social Work. He has more than 25 years of experience as a child and family therapist, a school social worker and a school administrator. Along with his academic appointment, Dr. Gianesin is a program and behavioral consultant for public schools in Massachusetts, helping them develop and manage programs for children with significant mental health problems.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.