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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (17 April 1999)
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Childhood is not a disease
by Gabriel Millar

In schools in the US it is common practice now to keep bottles of Ritalin with the children's names on them and to dose them every three hours to suppress their hyperactivity. And it is beginning to happen here. We are a quick-fix culture. We want a chemical in the brain to be the culprit and we want a chemical to fix it.

The assumption that we have found the chemical answer, and its widespread application, can have unforeseen unsavoury consequences. If we use children as guinea pigs, we may rue it. We have seen it happen with women: Thalidomide, the Pill. And some of the side effects of the drugs versus hyperactivity and the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are already known: Ritalin - tics and irritability, Pemoline - liver damage, Tofranil - irregular heart rate and blood count. Is it really acceptable to tinker with the delicate mechanisms in our children's bodies just as these rhythms are establishing themselves?

To assume that a brain dysfunction is the absolute cause of hyperactivity and ADD, and that this dysfunction is caused by an insufficient amount of dopamine in the frontal lobe, is not only flagrant materialistic and reductionist thinking, it is pandering to that part of us as parents et al that is too busy or self-absorbed to imagine that we may have some responsibility for this condition, and its remedy. Dosing children up for years with harmful drugs to keep them quiet comes perilously close to the totalitarian measures of the former Soviets who dealt this way with dissidents who disrupted the regime.

The energies of children need creative, or at least constructive, outlet, not suppression, and this means time, one-to-one focus, commitment, and imagination and real love from the adults around them. We can do things with them rather than keeping them quiet with plug-in drugs like television and computer games that give them a wallop of unnatural sensory overload. We can hike, bake, play, look after animals with them, let them physically work off their surplus energy.

Many children rate low in an IQ test because it tests only the rational intellect, and their intelligence may be more metabolic, a craftsman's talent. If they were given more chance to work with their hands, to make things, they would be more fulfilled and less fidgety. The symptom "often has difficulty organizing tasks...' refers to the intellect which, in any case, is not normally that keenly developed in a child under seven.

And the fact that most children (and adults) eat devitalized food is a serious factor. Lack of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B, can lead to nervous agitation. This is then aggravated by sugar snacks, leading to the symptom "often 'on the go', or often acts as if 'driven by a motor". We have all seen children racing around, as though motor-driven, after a sugar binge. The problem is that, in our culture, they are on a more or less constant sugar buzz.

Ours is the first culture, the first time in history, that children get so bombarded they go numb at the sensorial and emotional levels, needing more and more stimuli, a scene that leads inevitably to hyperactivity and a short attention span. In the US by the time a child is five, he has seen 20,000 murders on celluloid. He simply cannot digest them, and his hyper state is his instinctive response to being offered stones instead of bread. His response to the lack of vision and information overload at school, and celluloid 'baby-sitters' at home.

Children need warmer, more intelligent mothering and fathering, creative activity and nourishing food and less overload of information and violence if they are to grow into strong, ethical, centred individuals. When these things are offered, they will manifest the relief of being really seen and understood, and the Earth will be a more peaceful place.

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[transcript from a letter to the editor
in The Ecologist of Sep/Oct 1998
Ref. rit1]
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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (17 April 1999)
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