I am worried about my son taking Ritalin for long too long. Can it do him permanent harm?
Try integrating biofeedback into his regime, along with behavior modification, and see if
it's possible to wean him off Ritalin.
My 9-year-old son has been taking Ritalin from a pediatric psychoneurologist ever since his
first year in elementary school when he was diagnosed as having (AD/HD) Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder. I was relieved at first when his hyperactive symptoms decreased and his behavior at school
improved. I am worried lately, though, as his medicine was gradually increased over the last three
years, and his side effects have become more pronounced. He doesn't sleep well, he's lost his
appetite, and he is underweight for his height and age. I've been told that if he stops the medicine,
all of his AD/HD problems will return. But it really worries me that continued use of the medication
might do permanent damage to his health and brain development. Am I wrong? Is there an alternative?
Rightly or wrongly, AD/HD has commonly been treated with medications such as Ritalin, Dexedrine,
Adderall, and others. Medicines such as these, which paradoxically speed up the brain and slow down
hyperactivity, have rescued many parents troubled by their children's symptoms and difficult behavior,
as well as frustrated teachers tired of trying to manage hyperactive (usually pugnacious) behavior in
the classroom, not to mention untold numbers of AD/HD patients ashamed of themselves for acting abnormally.
Since AD/HD patients lack in attention, they have problems following instructions, are easily at a
loss as to what to do, are unable to stay sitting, are unstable, and overactive. So rather than
deal with their behavior in the classroom or at home, parents and educators grasped at any solution
that offered them relief, whether it was good in the long run for the child or not.
The result was that many children with mild behavioral problems were needlessly medicated, and the
ones with proven conditions received more and more medication. Such overmedication was eventually
met with parental concern, such as yours. Be encouraged-there are a number of ways to treat AD/HD
without using medication.
First, biofeedback can be quite effective in treating this condition. Essentially, it teaches the
subject to alter various autonomic responses normally beyond the range of conscious control, such as
heartbeat, breathing, sweating, etc. By watching one's EEG activity projected onto a computer
monitoring screen, the subject finds himself increasing his own brain Beta waves, thereby suppressing
slower Theta waves. The implication is that Theta waves are perceived by the brain as disturbing,
and a stimulus to frenetic action. By learning to intervene in the nerve pathways of the brain and body,
it is theorized that new brain ways are forged, circumventing the ones that expressed the symptoms of AD/HD.
Human brains are surprisingly adaptive, resilient organs, with nearly unlimited ability to learn new
things. Starting at two years of age, children with AD/HD can benefit from biofeedback. If done
correctly and precisely, the benefits can be permanent. Such cutting edge therapeutic techniques using
computers have been touted as "the miracle of 21st century technology."
As a specialist in treating AD/HD with a great deal of experience, I can attest to the efficacy of
biofeedback for treating this condition-completely eliminating the need for medication. What a joy
for parents to get their children back undrugged, healthy, confident in their futures.
The other method of treatment without drugs is called behavior modification, which works extremely
well in conjunction with biofeedback. It is particularly useful if administered after biofeedback, to
retrain a child's behavior, after a long absence of the habit of self-control. Here is how it works.
Position AD/HD students in a quiet seat in the classroom, close to a model student who can help him
without disturbing others. Allow him/her more time to finish school work and make certain that he/she
understands exactly what is expected of them, by giving instructions in written form as well as in words
spoken clearly and slowly, making eye contact. Divide the work into smaller, more manageable tasks; have
them prepare a separate notebook for each assignment; assist them in organizing their assignments;
provide an extra set of textbooks at home in safekeeping with the parents since they frequently lose books.
Get them to record the assignment on a tape recorder for easy recall.
For those with hyperactive or impulsive behavior, reward or punish them immediately, using time-outs for
wrong-doing; always praise them for good behavior; set a precise behavior code and stick to it; be
consistent in meting out praise and making corrections; make it their habit to raise their hands when
asking questions or answering; and from time to time let them do their studying standing up if they wish to
(too hard for them to keep sitting long).
Students with AD/HD are often quite intelligent, but sadly if they are not recovered by puberty, they may
suffer permanent damage, making it difficult for them to find themselves in life, professionally and
personally. Give them a chance to make use of their abilities, like other children, through natural means.