Laura O'Reilly - Stanzilis RN, MSM YouHealth & Wellness for people of all abilities and the aging population. Committed to Creating Healthy OutcomesI may be the contrarian here but many parents are upset and vulnerable when they are told their child is different (rightfully so) and will opt for medication as a first intervention if a teacher recommends it (and some teachers actually do recommend medication for children who don’t fit in their ‘box’ in the classroom. I have personally witnessed this). *Disclaimer-Teachers are great. They are heroes who dedicate their lives to children. I am speaking on what I perceive as an attitude of our society.
Many of these children who are 'different' are future artists and performers and innovators and individuals with an alternative perspective. What I would love to see is a movement that identifies unique qualities in children and fosters their interests and talents. More and more children are being ‘classified’ in order to have their unique learning needs addressed. (That is not always ‘stigma free’. They are often pulled out of class for services.) Medication often comes along with this classification.
I know of Parents who are not in medicine or mental health who do not question or push back for fear of being deemed ‘difficult’ or in denial over their child’s...what?...”different-ness”?...place on the spectrum? I’m a health professional and a believer in modern medicine. I believe that for some with certain diagnoses that medications for physical and behavioral health are absolutely necessary. Thank God for modern medicine. It saves lives. I understand this. I value this.
But back to Asperger's...medication is not always the solution for all. When did being different or hyper or socially awkward become a medical condition? It happened right before my eyes but somehow I missed it. It happened when video games became the norm and seeing kids playing outside became a rare sighting.
Fostering lifelong fitness habits is a great long term stress management, weight management, and health management strategy. We know the science behind that. Just as exercise and diet may be a first course of treatment for high cholesterol and blood sugar before medication, unique educational interventions ought to be tried before prescribing a medication to a child whose brain is still developing.
I’ve seen children with Aspergers (who by the way are often the wittiest and funniest kids) and ADHD on poor diets and given candy as a reward for good behavior. (Nutrition 101). All that glucose and no way to burn off some energy. SMH, as we say.
I believe more nutritional education and support is needed for parents whose children have behavioral issues. Parents and caregivers need support. Forming good nutritional and physical activity habits is a great place to start. Kids need to be kids. They need to be creative and to run and play and burn off energy. Let’s get behind that.
I advocate for parents to question the teachers and healthcare providers that suggest medication as a first intervention. Ask about alternate strategies before making a decision. I’ve experienced having a teacher recommend medication for ‘daydreaming in class’ or because my child made funny faces in a mirror while washing hands, which I thought was appropriate 6 year old behavior. Clearly she and I were not on the same page. I asked if she had plans to retire.
I suggest we start first with natural health and wellness strategies (including emotional wellness) and the arts as a first intervention before prescribing medication that has potential short and long term side effects. And then, only if really, really necessary, prescribe the right medication for the right diagnosis to manage symptoms while still encouraging healthy lifestyle habits and coping strategies. But let's celebrate different. Unique people make unique contributions to our world.