1996, Harrison Memorial Hospitals Publication Dept.
Over one million U.S. children currently take Ritalin, a number that gives pause to even staunch supporters of the drug. Long-term effects of the medication are still under study.
And Ritalin's biggest shortcoming, according to Judith Bluestone of Seattle's HANDLE Institute, is that it masks the symptoms of ADD without addressing the underlying causes.
Bluestone—who has three decades' experience working with neurological impairment in both the U.S. and Israel—believes medication can be helpful in the treatment of ADD. What she doesn't advocate is its indiscriminate use.
HANDLE's nontraditional methods involve strengthening neural pathways, or neural rehabilitation. Besides people with ADD, patients at the institute include those with closed head injuries, learning and language disorders, Tourette's Syndrome, and autism.
Changes in a chiId with ADD’s physical environmment can lessen distraction, and help him or her stay on track, Bluestone and many other experts say.
“Often the problem isn’t an inability to pay attention, but an tendency to pay too much attention to a particular task.
This hyperfocus is hard work, and the presence of other stimuli--say revised instructions from the teacher--can be very stressful.” Perhaps the child needs to be placed in a quiet comer of the classroom or given a pair of headphones. His tests may not differ in length from other classmates’, but contain only 5 questions on a page rather than 30. And for the ADD child, Bluestone says movement and learning are often very tightly linked.
“They don’t want to disobey the direction, ‘Sit still and listen’. It's just not the way they process information. Motion helps them learn.” Perhaps the most important aspect of treating ADD is simply reminding families of their youngster’s unique potential.
Bluestone says, "Sometimes we put labels ahead of people. My hope for the children I see is that the roadblocks come down and doors finally start opening."
Reprinted by permission of Harrison Memorial Hospital
~ 1996, Harrison Memorial Hospitals Publication Dept.