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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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East Rx eludes schools

The Journal of the American Medical Association's report that use of psychoactive drugs is skyrocketing among American children came as no surprise to pediatrician Kevin Powell of Urbana, Ill. Increasingly parents tell him that educators demand Ritalin for children who act up in school.

"Parents are in a hard place," says Powell, a member of the ELCA Work Group on Science and Technology. "The question is, if the child has a behavior problem, is it a medical issue?" Powell says the answer is frequently unclear, but society turns to psychoactive drugs because schools and families have limited time and resources to handle problem children in other ways — such as offering counseling.

Ritalin is a godsend for children who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the most common psychiatric diagnosis for children, Powell says. But not all antsy children have this disorder.

In deciding what's best for children with behavior problems, parents, educators and doctors need to work together on a strategy that might include medication, but also other remedies, such as family counseling and alternative education, says John Scibilia, ELCA director for schools.

Medication alone is not "a magic wand" that solves all educational problems, Scibilia says.


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