Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Did Medication Become the Norm?

Last week I had a personal situation that got me thinking.

My little guy has really been struggling with Kindergarten. Basically, a Kindergarten classroom is absolutely the worst environment for him that we have encountered. Although he still has occasional issues elsewhere, he does much better in other environments.

The school has been great - they have tried all sorts of ways of adapting things to make it better for him. However, he has had several unsuccessful experiences.

Due to feeling constantly overwhelmed, he was not experiencing any "just right challenges" inside or outside of school. After each school day, he was worn right out and had no tolerance left for challenges. I feel really strongly about "just right challenges" - if you have not read it already, you may want to check out my post on it: The Just Right Challenge.

He had so many negative experiences that it started affecting his self-esteem. It was heart-breaking to see my usually happy little guy feeling so bad. What really made me think that something needed to change was when I found him sitting by the garbage cans and he told me he wanted to be thrown out with the trash.

After careful consideration, researching the evidence on it, and talking to others who do it, we decided to homeschool him, so that we can provide him with a safe home base with "just right challenges" in the home and community.

When we informed the school, they invited us in for a meeting to discuss our decision. I explained our rationale, and quite a bit about homeschooling. I addressed their concerns about socialization, and explained the research on it. The meeting went quite well, and ended with them saying that although they would rather he stay in school, they respected our decision.

I just want to be clear that we have been really happy with our school - they have gone out of their way and worked really hard to make things go well for our son. I know they want the best for him. They also have been respectful about our decision.

Here is the thing I really want to talk about: If I had chosen to continue my life as usual and medicate my son, nobody would have questioned my decision. Nobody would have called me in for a meeting and told me they disagreed. I would not have had to explain the research on it. In fact, I would have been lucky if anyone had even taken the time to tell me the possible side-effects.

Yet when I look at the research on homeschooling, it is predominantly positive, with no side effects. Research on medication is often positive in certain situations, often lacking for children, and often shows that there are rather significant side effects.

I am not against medication - I think it can be a helpful tool, but that it is only one tool in a toolbox. Given the possible side effects, I believe that it should not often be the first tool we reach for. There is an illusion that if we just take the correct pill, we will be fine.

There are so many different options for what each person and each family can find helpful - counselling, therapies, homeschooling, sunshine, exercise, social connections etc. How did medication become the norm, while everything else is questioned?

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