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Earlier this school year, I had a fellow staff member ask me if I wouldn’t write a column about medication and our students. I said I’d keep it in mind, and the time has come to grant that request!

It seems there are more and more students who are on some form of medication these days. There are all manner of reasons for this, most of them dealing with some form of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). NBC News just reported that some studies show that 11% of all US children have a prescription for ADHD. And that number is climbing.

There is a lot of speculation on why this number is growing all the time, with much of the guessing trying to tie this into electronics and the great amount of time spent before them. However, some studies have also shown a 53% growth in adults taking these drugs. For so many of them, it’s a matter of, “Oh, that’s what’s been bothering me all these years!” Let’s face it; I don’t remember many kids being diagnosed with ADHD growing up. They were just labeled as hyperactive and they would grow out of it.

Getting a diagnosis for your child is a tough step. As parents, we want what is best for our kids, but it’s very difficult to take a step down that path because it’s almost like admitting your child is flawed. I’ve seen a lot of parents struggle with this decision. Honestly, nobody wants to medicate their child. So many people have told me that it hurts to have to “drug them up.”

On the other hand, I’ve heard from former students and from parents of students that pre-medication, some of these kids are suffering silently. They may act out a lot, and the hope is they’ll “grow out of it” without needing drugs. But many of these kids describe the difference once they are on meds as coming out of a claustrophobic tiny box into bright sunshine and open fields of green grass. Imagine being in that box all the time – wouldn’t you act out, trying to escape?

Many students I teach lose focus; it’s part of the age. However, it’s become easier and easier to pinpoint those who are just daydreaming and those that can’t focus for more than the attention span of a goldfish without a superior effort. It’s no fault of their own; that’s just how their brains function. I’ve seen some amazing success stories of kids who were trouble and not doing well in school and then turning it around because they were out of their confinement and breathing fresh air (well, as fresh as air gets in middle school).

It also becomes apparent when a child who’s normally on medication suddenly isn’t. It’s a completely different person in front of you. I’ve had students who are generally well-behaved and get their work done suddenly turn into wild beasts who are disrespectful and defiant, all because they didn’t take that little pill.

Again, I can sympathize with the difficulty as a parent to take this step with children. However, there really is no stigma with being ADHD. In fact, it can help the student get some more help at school through a 504 Plan. I don’t see kids make fun of others because they have to take their medicine. I do see them shun those who can’t be a part of a civilized group without disruption.

It’s difficult too to get the dosage right, and it changes as the child grows and goes through puberty. We’re very understanding of that, and many parents ask us to keep an eye on things as dosages are adjusted so we can help pinpoint the right amount. We’re happy to help if it means the student can learn at an optimal level.

It’s disappointing when a child has a diagnosis and parents can’t keep to the responsibility to make sure the child takes the medication every day. Kids can be forgetful, but parents should not be on a continuous basis. We see more and more of this, and it’s disappointing that some kids miss out on a good education because of it. Sometimes there are health insurance issues, but these can be overcome with some effort.

All our staff want what’s best for the students. Sometimes it’s not an easy truth to swallow, but swallowing that little pill can make a huge difference in finding a path to success.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is polyphiloprogenitive, which means extremely prolific, as in, “The number of medications in the nurse’s office was polyphiloprogenitive, and Gratia could hardly keep track of them all.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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