A few days ago a good friend of mine called me, very distressed because her 6-year-old son’s teacher called her in and told her that her son has an attention deficit disorder and he needs to be put on Ritalin. She asked me if I could do an assessment with him to see if he in fact does have a problem. So obviously I agreed, feeling very disturbed myself because I know how quick people are today to “diagnose” young children with Attention Deficit Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Furthermore I completely disagree with young children being given such strong, mind altering medication.
Now I’m not saying that the Disorder does not exist. I have seen children who actually do really have attention problems, but this does not apply to any child who can’t sit still and pay attention for long periods of time, especially if they are only 6 years old.
Anyway, back to the little boy in question. Ahmed, is his name, Masha’Allah he is such a cute little child, with these huge hazel eyes and sweet smile. I spent 2 hours with him, doing different tasks and he was able to sit still and pay attention throughout that time. Okay so he started getting a bit tired and lost concentration towards the end of the 2 hours, but isn’t that normal? Shouldn’t we allow for normal human behaviour? I mean, who doesn’t get tired after doing work for two hours straight. His behaviour in my eyes definitely did not warrant a diagnosis of ADD/ ADHD and he most definitely does not require medication.
I find it really sad, because what this “medication” does is control children. It turns them into robotic type kids, who are “manageable”. Since when are children supposed to sit still and be quiet for hours on end. Since when can we expect them not to be curious and explorative. I know that classroom situations are difficult for teacher’s, especially when they have to deal with large numbers of children who come from different cultural and language backgrounds, as is the case here in South Africa, but I think that we really should not be so quick to diagnose children with anything. Perhaps the child has a different learning style, where he or she cannot learn by looking at the board or even from reading books, perhaps there are children, like Ahmed who learns in a practical manner, by physically doing things and watching others do things. These differences in learning style are important and needs to be considered within a classroom setting, especially before making claims that children have a disorder and need to be put on Ritalin.
Image from here
I know that there are parents who initially thought that medicating their children would be good, only to regret it later, because they saw the effects that it had on their children. These “drugs” are not something to take lightly and the repercussions can be detrimental.
Now I’m not condemning the teacher in question here, after all I am not a teacher and truly admire those who are. I used to lifeskills sessions with children at schools and honestly they literally ran circles around me, so I know that I would never be able to do what teacher’s do every single day. Having said that however, I believe that children are all different, they are amazing and unique in their own way. A child may not be good at Math or reading, he/she may struggle with writing and learning letters, but that same child will have talents in other areas. Giving labels to children, especially at such a young age is dangerous, not only will it affect the child’s self-esteem, but it will also stifle their talent and it will teach them that if they can’t be like everyone else then there’s something wrong with them. This is very unfair in my opinion.
Let me just also add that I am not saying here that children should not be disciplined. I think that the discipline is very important for children. Children who grow up without discipline become adults without discipline and then we have a whole society of selfish and arrogant people, which we can already see today.
Let us remember the example of the Most Beloved of Allah, Our Master , Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He loved children, and treated them with kindness and respect, he took the time to understand each individual child’s problems and was never harsh with them. His perfection was evident in this area as well as he had just the right balance. If only everyone could emulate this perfect and blessed example, the world would be a better place for us all!