Letter: Ritalin children

Sir: I read with interest the review of Richard DeGrandpre's Ritalin Nation (5 March). As an educator I am aware that there appear to be children whose behaviour is problematical to their parents, their schools and themselves and for which there appears to be no extraneous reason, such as stressful life events or unwise child-rearing practices. Some such children do appear to be helped by Ritalin and it can indeed, in some cases, effect a radical change within a short time.

Of grave concern to many teachers however is that Ritalin may be being prescribed much too freely and without sufficient follow-up. Some children have led lives so full of events which are stressful or painful to them and so lacking in parental care and control that it would be strange if their behaviour were not affected; Ritalin will not solve their problems.

Doctors may need to be aware that there are parents who take a cavalier attitude to medication and cheerfully double the recommended dosage if the child seems to be getting difficult, and sometimes advise the school to do the same. Some even use the medication as a pick-me-up for themselves.

It is also worth mentioning that the parents of children who are diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are entitled to an attendance allowance, which could also provide motivation for seeking such a diagnosis.