Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Ellul 5760 - Setpember 20, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by











Home and Family
Drug Therapy -- Behavior Modification for Children with ADHD
by A. Ross, M.A. in Speech, Education

It is important to stress once again that good ideas and excellent advice given by the most experienced professionals, or printed in bestsellers on child managment, do not always work. Although they may work very well for some children, they do not work on others. We all know that raising children is not like using a well tried recipe and knowing the cake will always succeed. There can be a dozen children in the same family, eleven of whom conform, more or less, to the rules which their parents have laid down, and then the twelfth shows that he has no intention of fitting into the mold. If he has an obvious disability, then at least parents know where they stand, and accept him for what he can or cannot do. But if he has ADD which is such a highly variable, complex and imprecisely defined disability, they may not even take him to have it diagnosed until the family seems to be falling apart.

It does not seem logical to give an over-stimulated child a stimulant medication. Yet methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine sulfate (Dexedrine) are both stimulants and are widely used in the treatment of ADHD. The enthusiasts criticize the antidrug activists of ignorance and of trying to mislead the public deliberately. They claim that their opinions do not have a scientific source. The more moderate practitioners claim that these drugs are not sedatives, they do not dull the child's faculities, and that parents have nothing to lose by trying them. The Citizen's Commission on Human Rights, and other vociferous activists, assert among other things that "Ritalin is a dangerous, addictive drug often used as a chemical strait jacket to subdue normally exuberant children because of intolerant educators, parents and money hungry phychiatrists." The question arises whether these activists have ever dealt with one of these `normally exuberant children' for any length of time.

In the end, the decision is up to the parents. One cannot believe everything one hears or reads. On the other hand, can one afford to ignore it? "He's so hurt by being shunned by his mates, although he brings it all on himself." "He's like a mosquito in my ear. I try to stay calm, but as he goes on and on, my chest feels tight, my neck tenses and I want to scream." "He is blind to mess, compelled to touch everything and leaves a trail of lost property wherever he goes." "He now gives up without even trying." These are just a few of the things parents say about their beloved child.

Parents often object to the term `psychiatrist,' afraid he will make their child into a `case,' and furthermore, that he will be stigmatized for life. There is no easy answer to the first fear; there are good and bad pracitioners out there. As for the stigma, it is there already. A child with ADD is different.

So, after much deliberation, this child is taken for diagnosis, and given Ritalin. The following are some of the claims reported in various journals of medicine and psychiatry, published during the last ten years:

Stimulants reduce restlessness, improve classroom productivity, keep the child focused on a task and increase accuracy in his work. Children are less impulsive and disruptive, and learn when to leave things alone. Written work is neater and speech is less garbled. The child listens, takes instructions and can accept reasoning. Interactions improve between the children and their teachers, parents and peers.

Stimulants do not increase intelligence. They do not increase the child's natural abilities. They just allow him to make the best use of what he has. We have not mentioned the child who is oppositional and defiant, really wanting to hurt others. These children have a pure conduct disorder which, most practitioners agree, is not helped by Ritalin.

At this moment, there has been much research into the short term benefits of stimulants. However, long term benefits are still conjecture. It is axiomatic that happier, less negative parents have a happier, more responsive child. A happy, responsive child feels good about himself, and his self esteem improves.

But what of the side effects? Addiction, if any? And how about the reaction of maybe even a spouse or other relatives, who are very opposed to giving stimulant drugs to children? Interested readers with access to relevant literature will no doubt receive answers to all the questions they wish to ask.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.