The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is troubled that George Will would be so irresponsible concerning the needs and welfare of children with a well-established disorder of brain functioning. His Dec. 2 op-ed column, "Boys Will Be Boys," contained egregious errors.
Will's statement that "10 to 12 percent of all American schoolboys were on Ritalin in 1996" is wrong. His suggestion that medications for the treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), specifically methlphenidate (Ritalin), are abusively overprescribed is also wrong.
Epidemiologic studies suggest that ADHD begins before the age of 7 and affects 3 percent to 10 percent of school-age children. Contrary to Will's assertions, the percentage of U.S. youth being treated for ADHD is approximately 3 percent. This means that half of the children with ADHD go without appropriate treatment.
Research demonstrates that Ritalin can be helpful in the treatment of ADHD. But every trained child and adolescent psychiatrist knows that a positive response to medication is neither diagnostic nor a panacea and is only part of a treatment plan that often includes psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, social skills training, parent education and modifications to the child's educational program.
Will's column also made mention of the movement in Colorado to curtail teachers from recommending medication for behavioral modification. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry agrees that teachers should not recommend medication. Teachers should, however, be encouraged to recommend an evaluation for a child by a psychiatrist or other well-trained professional who can recommend the best course of treatment for a particular child.
The writer is president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
If Ritalin is addictive, as George Will claims, why then doesn't my severely hyperactive son have tremors, vomiting or other withdrawal symptoms when not on meds during holidays or vacations?
Will claims we are "drugging children because they are behaving like children," which shows how uninformed he is about the neurobiological disorder of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Mental health professionals have parents and teachers fill out extensive checklists that cover behavior across all settings, are scored by computer and indicate any elevated levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. The diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists lists behaviors that must exist and have been present for a certain amount of time, with onset before age 7.
My son's personality has many facets, some quite admirable and enjoyable. And with the help of understanding educators and other adults, he probably will grow up to be happy and successful. But poorly researched and one-sided "let boys be boys" columns will only misinform and miseducate the public about this clinically measurable neurobiological disorder.
--Bonnie Hyde Simpson