Our Schools Are Turning Into Mental Institutions with the Teachers as the Diagnosticians
April 21, 2003
Written by Patricia Mark
My name is Patricia Mark and I am a mother from Connecticut. I have two daughters ages 17 and 9 and a son 16. I have been married for 19 years and have lived in Connecticut for 16 years. I am writing to you with concerns regarding ADHD, the dangerous drugs that are being prescribed for this disorder and the tactics the schools are using into drugging our children.
When my son was in second grade I attended the end of the year parent /teacher conference. I walked into the classroom where this meeting would be held to find not only the teacher but the school psychologist and one of the teachers from the special education department They informed me that my son had attention problems and that there was medication like Ritalin that could help him.
I was given a video tape on ADHD to view at home and a check list called the Conner’s’ Rating Scale to complete at home. (I was never informed, that the Conner’s’ Rating Scale is a survey and if in the future, if I wanted a copy of what the teacher, school psychologist or any faculty member included in this survey, I would not be able to get a copy because it is under copyright law).
At this meeting, I asked how they came to this diagnosis of ADHD? They informed me that the school psychologist observed him while the class was in session. (I never gave the school written consent for their psychologist to observe my son in class). I then asked the psychologist, how long he observed my son? He said “about 5 minutes“. They asked me who my pediatrician was and I told them. They said to call him and that he would know what to do! We made an appointment with our pediatrician and told him the schools concerns about our son; he said we would watch him in the coming year and to inform him of any concerns.
In third grade we began to notice staring spells with our son. During the spell, I would ask him if he was okay. He would respond that he was and as fast as the spell came on they would be gone. Our son’s 3rd grade teacher brought this same staring spell issue to our attention. We contacted our pediatrician who made an appointment for us at the local hospital to have an EEG done to rule out Epilepsy. The EEG result was negative but he continued to have the staring spells. This was later confirmed by a neurologist as Petite Mal Seizures.
In third grade, I was being coerced by my son’s teacher to medicate him. I was told that my time was running out and that I should go to the local CHADD meetings. She insisted that he be tested. I asked if the school could test him, she said that they could but there was a long waiting list and that we didn’t have time to waste. So we spent $1,600.00 to have him tested by a psychologist who diagnosed our son as being ADHD and recommended a trial run of Ritalin. He also stated in his evaluation that our son should be examined by an occupational therapist because he had concerns about his writing. My son at this point of his education was having difficulty with reading, decoding words and when writing he would reverse letters like b and d. Although he was able to spell a word correctly from his head, he would scramble the letters when he wrote them on paper. He didn’t like to read, but he enjoyed being read to immensely. Here, I am being told that my child does not have an attention span, yet, I could read to him for hours and he would sit and listen! He has an amazing memory and would retain incredible information well advanced for his age. I could not understand how a child of his intelligence would have a problem with reading and writing. We scheduled a PPT to review the testing and the school categorized him as “not learning disabled”, and came up with an accommodation plan under Section 504, they modified his grades and granted him un-timed testing. This made it able for them to advance him to the following year even though he should have been held back. During the coarse of his third grade year his teacher put a desk in the classroom closet and would make my son go in there and do his class work. When the class was going to view a video she would make him go in the closet and close the door. We had no knowledge of the abuse that our son was experiencing. It’s no wonder that he started to become very frustrated and withdrawn. With his grades being modified he was advance to the 4th grade.
In fourth grade, I was asked by his teach if I would consider placing him in the “Individual Learning Center”. He explained, that my son would get the help that he needed there. Hoping that he would get the help that he needed, I agreed. In the ILC, his dyslexia and dysgraphia should have been identified and an appropriate program should have been incorporated to accommodate his needs. With no concern for his difficulty in reading and seeing that his writing was a great weakness for him, they had him dictate his work to an aid and she would do the writing for him. There was never any concern from anyone about his reversal of letters and the inability to write. Still with his grades modified and testing un timed he was advanced into 5th grade.
In fifth grade, he continued to spend most of his school day in the ILC, but was mainstreamed for Science and Social Studies. He hated being kept away from his classmates, which made it very hard for him to make friends. I would express my concerns about how he was learning to his teachers; they said it was the un-medicated ADHD. Although he struggled through the year he was advance into the 6th grade.
The 6th grade is the first year of Junior High School in this school district. He went through the school year being harassed by various students, chased through the halls, bullied and teased about the way that he read. Kids would tell him “3 words, Hooked on Phonics”. Through the coarse of the year, I would raise my concern with various teachers and faculty about my son having the knowledge in his head but not being able to express it on paper. The assistant principal told me, if I would only medicate my son he would benefit. At the end of his sixth grade year after reviewing our sons report card and state testing and noticing no advancement in his education, we realized we had no alternative but to hire a special education attorney.
Our attorney scheduled a PPT and requested that the school conduct an independent evaluation on our son. They agreed and gave us a list of psychologist to pick from. A neuropsychological evaluation was done on our son; it revealed that he was Dyslexic, Dysgraphic and ADHD. We met with this psychologist to review her results and she insisted that our sons ADHD be medicated. We asked her if the drug she recommended, Ritalin, was safe. She stated that it was. We then asked her to put it in writing, she refused. With our concern for our son being sensitive to seizures we chose not to medicate him with a Schedule II, highly addictive, amphetamine like drug. According to the Physicians Desk Reference it states that, the use of Ritalin by anyone with a seizure disorder is not recommended. After submitting the results of the test to the school, we had a PPT, in which the school came up with a new plan for the coming school year, which was still not appropriate for our sons needs. We asked for residential placement at the Kildonan School, in Amenia, NY, which specializes in educating dyslexic children. They refused, stating that according to the Guidelines for Identifying Children with Learning Disabilities, which the State of Connecticut Department of Education had developed and promulgated in 1999 directs school districts such as the Board states that “ although a learning disability may certainly occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions, student should be classified as learning disabled only when the learning disability is the student‘s primary problem. If medical conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity disorder are present the PPT needs to consider the impact or causation these conditions have on the students learning problem. They claimed that because my son was labeled ADHD he did not qualify for a “Learning Disabled” label that would allow him to be placed out of district.
Our attorney, filed due process and we went for almost one full year of hearings. During the coarse of the hearings, the school insisted that our son have an emotional evaluation done by one of their psychiatrist. Her diagnosis was Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood and a Learning Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). She suggested the use of an antidepressant such as Wellbutrin, rather than Ritalin or Dexedrine, because of the continuity of action, safe side effect profile, and benefit on anxiety and mood. We met with this doctor to review the results of her evaluation. She informed us that our son has an incurable disease that needs to be treated with medication. We asked how long he should be medicated? She said for the rest of his life. She also stated, that if we did not medicate our son he would kill himself one day, either by driving a car and getting into an accident or by drug addiction. She stated that not medicating ADHD is like denying your diabetic child from insulin. We stated our concerns about our sons history of possible Petite Mal seizures. She told us to put him on Dilantin and then put him on Wellbutrin. In the Physicians Desk Reference, it states, under side effects for Wellbutrin, “seizures are perhaps the most worrisome side effect“. She suggested that we give a drug to control the seizures (Dilatin) and then give him a drug that would bring on seizures (Wellbutrin). With this in mind, we continued to do what we felt was best for our sons health and well-being, and refused to medicate him. During the hearing, the psychiatrist told the hearing officer and the board of education, that ADHD is a disease, which has been confirmed by a PET scan on the brain.
a grueling year of hearings, the hearing officer made her decision in our favor. She granted our son residential placement in the Kildonan School, to address his learning disability. She also ordered, that he be tested by an Occupational Therapist, who’s results confirmed that he needed therapy to address his writing (dysgraphia). She also granted that our son have counseling incorporated into his program. Last but not least, she stated in her Final Decision and Order, that “ The case of Valerie J v. Derry Co-operative School District reminds us that Parents, not schools, are responsible for making medical decisions about their children“. Unless the school is contemplating reporting a case of suspected medical neglect, which is not the issue in this case, the school must address a student’s needs whether or not parents comply with suggestions that medication might be of assistance.”
The school district appealed the decision, and our case is currently pending in Federal Court. Their case is based upon an un-medicated condition of ADHD and within their case they quoted the psychiatrist stating, that not medicating our son almost rises to a form of negligence and abuse.
We had our son independently evaluated by a Neurologist. In his evaluation, he stated that our son given his history of Petite Mal Seizures should never be given any medications that might lower seizure threshold. He also stated that he found our son to be neurologically intact and without any manifestations of hyperactivity or Attention Deficit Disorder.
a) Our schools are turning into mental institutions with the teachers as the diagnosticians.
b) The drugs being prescribed for these children are in the very least dangerous and highly addictive i.e. according to the Physicians Desk Reference, Ritalin, is classified as a Schedule II drug, in the same category as Opium and Cocaine, which means it is highly addictive. These drugs are being made into a patch so it can be released into the child’s body without any concern for taking a pill at school.
c) The testing for ADHD varies and there is not a valid test to identify this so called disorder or disease. Schools are using ADHD scales (Conner’s’ Rating Scales) to profile these children.
d) Schools are receiving funding from the state and federal government for every child that is labeled ADD/ADHD.
e) Schools are using tax dollars to pay for their legal fees from their budgets to fight parents that are representing their children that they feel have been denied proper education. There are laws being implemented that will prevent the parents from receiving reimbursement for their legal fees if the case is granted in favor of the parents.
f) According to the National Institute of Mental Health and American Psychiatric Association both state that the evaluator needs to review the child’s medical records, in order to rule out any underlying medical conditions like, Petite Mal seizures, chronic middle ear infection, poor vision etc. ( Not one of the evaluators asked to review my son’s medical records)
g) There are many children that fall into the category of ADHD and many of them have underlying learning disabilities that are not being identified. Instead they are being labeled and in most cases drugged.
h) Parents are not being informed of the documented side effect and risks of these drugs or given other alternatives to treating ADHD/ADD so we can make an educated decision in regards to what we feel is best for our child.
I) I was never informed that ADHD/ADD is classified as a mental illness, I would never have subjected my child to being “labeled” with a mental disorder, if I had known that it was a subjective diagnoses.
Children today are more sophisticated. They are exposed from their early childhood to advanced technologies i.e. computer, computerized games, television etc…. The conventional way of education is not stimulating their desire to learn. There should be more creative teaching and hands on education. The idea of expecting a child to sit for hours is unrealistic. Their should be implemented in every school an appropriate program that is able to identify learning disabilities in their early stages in order to avoid the frustration that my child had to endure from not having his learning disability properly identified. Truly, it is not the child that needs to be modified, but the technique of teaching and the way our education system is viewed. Last but not least, our medical profession should be held responsible for allowing our children to be drugged and labeled with a mental illness that many medical professionals do not validate as a true medical condition.
On April 15, 2003,our story was featured on the Montel Williams Show.
Information provided courtesy of www.ritalindeath.com