Ritalin helps to comply with the system?

I’m deeply concerned by the amount of children who are diagnosed as having a ‘problem’: ADHD, autism, dyslexia, even ‘gifted’ (hoogbegaafd in Dutch). It is a good thing that there is greater interest in the fact that every child is ‘unique’ and deserves its own learning trajectory. But diagnosing 10-25% of children with a “problem” is deeply worrying, especially if children receive medication like Ritalin to make them perform better at school – e.g. be more calm, quiet and concentrated during lessons.
I am convinced we should not look at the problems children have (they might even start to believe that they are a ‘problem child’), but instead look at all their possibilities – and facilitate them in getting more out of themselves than they ever imagined.

[box] A cousin of a friend of mine has always had an amazing talent for drawing. She could visualize all her thoughts and express herself in a fantastic way. She is what you may call a ‘visual thinker’ (‘beelddenker’ in Dutch). However, the moment she went to school, problems started. She was not allowed to make drawings anymore for more than 10 minutes a day. Her pencils were taken away and she had to write words instead. She transformed from being a happy child into a ‘problem child’. Now at age 11 she is taking Ritalin and her parents say that her school results are improving: she is now more calm and concentrated. Which is also why her parents are supportive of using Ritalin: her school results improve, which is “in her best interest”.[/box]

This example makes me so mad, sad and frustrated. We are even prepared to use medication to put children into our standardized system. While the unique talents of this child could be of great value: people who are able to express their thoughts in visuals instead of words are much more valuable in today’s visually oriented society. But simply because we have no standardized means to assess these qualities, we try to limit them and instead develop other skills – which are not her natural ones.

I have also heard that the long term effect of Ritalin has proven to be in the same destructive category as Prozac. If you have backing (or countering) material, I’d love to receive it.

I have also heard that ‘problem’ children have proven to be behaving and performing x% worse than ‘normal’ children, and y% worse than ‘gifted’ children. Even when the labels were switched (the ‘gifted’ became ‘problem’), this effect was measured. If you have backing material for these, I’d also love to receive them.

In the past months, parents have shared very many of such stories with me. Please share yours underneath the blog post on this subject.

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Claire Boonstra

Claire Boonstra, founder of Operation Education - feeding the movement to revolutionize education. I have lived many different roles in life - as a student, engineer, corporate employee, wintersports-blogger, strategic marketing manager, mobile future event organizer, augmented reality startup co-founder and now an education reformer and public speaker. But I am also a mother of three young children, a daughter, wife, sister, utopist dreamer, asker of difficult questions, visionary, improv dancer, skier, former glider pilot – and most of all a human being in search of how I can best balance my three main priorities in life: my family, my personal wellbeing and my mission to feed the movement to revolutionize education.

12 thoughts on “Ritalin helps to comply with the system?”

  1. luckily, there are already schools which are offering the curriculum through visuals, kinestetics and audio, and let the children express their talents in many creative ways! See here for some pictures on the Waldorf school of my kids: http://vrijeschoolmichael.nl/foto-s-en-video
    Here for example drawing and learning letters merge : http://vrijeschoolmichael.nl/klasse-n-werk/2, and also auditory means like fairy tales and playing drama is used to integrate the letters.

    1. and before the age of 6 0r 7 the children can learn by only playing, contructing, singing, acting, drawing and painting, moulding, feasting and being in nature in this school!!!

  2. My daughter had trouble ajusting to the school system as well. We tried different school systems: she has been on 2 different elementary schools and 2 highschools. I had her tested several times, but I refused to give her Ritalin or other drugs. But recenty she turned 18. She went herself to the psychiatrist, filled in a list and got prescribed ritalin oh so easy!! I was right there when the “diagnose”was made, but since my daughter is now 18, I cannot withhold her any more from taking this drugs any more 🙁 she says she needs it to be able to finish school (she started VWO and dropped several levels since high school, now school is compulsory till she gets a “starterscertificaat”). she says it works for her to keep her concentrated during boring lessons (now she is doing MBO, something creative and fun for her, and she really enjoys the practical stuff, BUT she is DUE to follow lessons and pass exams AGAIN on math and language which she already graduated from twice in highschool! ). Side effects: she has al kinds of illnesses since she takes ritalin (not 100% sure if it is related) and: she faces a nightmare passing her drivers licence, having to fill in many many forms and passing extra tests, which take ages and cost a fortune…not to mention the stuff itself!) She is a student, so not very rich…

    I heard that some teenagers got this stuff prescibed, save some up and sell it to other teenagers that want to take drugs for fun, which is illegal! Are you surprised?

    Is our compulsary school system inducing our kids to illegal actions?????

    Is this the moral and economic system we want to teach our kids and youngsters??????


  3. Hey,

    I’m now 24 years old and I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was only 8 years old. I must admit that I was a very active child.

    I already needed to take pills when I was 8 years old. My mom has always been against giving pills. So to mislead the teachers she would give empty capsules or sugar pills.

    In secondary school I needed to take Rilatine. The symptoms of Relatine were : no appetite anymore and a constant feeling of numbness.

    I have always revolted against taking those pills but school made it very clear that without taking the pills I would be kicked out for sure.

    I’m now 24 years old and during my five years of studies I never took a single pill anymore. I know a lot of students that take Relatine during exams because it helps them study.

    When looking back on this it makes me angry the fact that they put the stigma of ‘ to be cured/ not sane ‘ on me by making me take those pills. I also regret the fact that the average teacher doesn’t want to take an educating role anymore and just want to ban all children that don’t fit the system.

  4. The problem with this topic (ADHD and learning) is that it is easy to get lost in the extremes. Truth is that ADHD is both over- and under-diagnosed still. The real cure isn’t to boot the pills nor to drug kids into submission. It’s to educate teachers and change the learning environment to teach creativity and teach creatively.

    Right now teachers have no goals for stimulating lateral thinking skills in their kids and are expected to prepare them for academic careers focused more on science, technology, engineering and math.

    They need to be empowered to teach both science and the arts (and the art of science) using creative learning methods and materials. This way, there will be much less problems with attention/distraction of kids -without- ADD and more ‘use’ of the natural abilities of kids that do actually have it.

    All in balance though, as we do not want to create a new problem for kids that have a nack for systemic and orderly problem solving. Those that actually -should- become the philosophy and physics Phd’s that the education system is now trying to make of all of them.

    Full disclosure: I was diagnosed ADD at age 40 and glad I had wise teachers, parents, coaches and friends in my life that helped me become successful without drugs. Also glad I know more about my mind’s tricks now and able to steer it in the right direction; sometimes helped by ritalin, neurofeedback, sometimes by mindfulness, sometimes by simply choosing to let it go out and ‘play’ 🙂

  5. I believe it was the venerable ideologist and humanist, Harvey Jackins, who was the foremost and initial thinker, to define and look at abstract oppression, scientifically and systematically.

    When babies cry, this is a natural release, a natural mechanism, built into the human nervous system. But ever so often, parents hush their babies, stuff their mouth with a pacifier, rock them, even yell at them. Everything to stop this wining and crying. This is oppression. The denial of natural and proper release. This release, that happens in many variants along a scale of emotions, is crucial for human development, at those times, when pain and trauma creep in. And what do we do? We deny babies their release.

    So we have to understand what is oppression, when we create new systems of human development.

    Certainly, stuffing teens with Ritalin is a form of oppression. Instead, we must create new healng processes that would be more advanced and enlightened. Then we will see that 90% of the teens are gifted, if not all of them to the very last of them.

    They are all, each and every one of them, a powerful angel, that comes to this earth, equipped with many blessings and talents, and value…

    Much before they are teens, in their primal years, they have already taken a bundle of oppression into their systems. Oppression is the anti-human force behind intellectual degradation, which results in grown ups who function within less then ten percent of their true potential.

    I think, we, the human race, is arriving upon a new age of humanistic enlightenment. This website is all about this new age, and when this website owner, a very beautiful and beloved woman cries in her TED speech, it is because she is aligning with enlightened humanism in her mind.

    Just as Spinoza and Voltaire have been very emotional about the dawn of an Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, a new age of reason, just like them, we look today at the future, and realize the next step.

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