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Using ADHD drugs to control 'non-compliant' pupils is 'inhumane', say experts

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    ‘The use of ADHD drugs like Ritalin to control "non-compliant" pupils is “politically totalitarian, physiologically inhumane” and reminiscent of Stalin’s Russia, leading educational psychologists have said.

    They add that such treatment should be considered the safeguarding responsibility of all professionals involved in the affected child’s care – including teachers.

    The British Psychological Society’s division of educational and child psychology has produced a paper outlining its position on the use of drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    The paper states: “If we had read…that children in Stalin’s schools…were being forced to take mind-drugs that made them compliant in school, we might have been indignantly outraged, morbidly fascinated but unsurprised.’

    Do you agree that monitoring the use of this type of treatment for non-compliant children should be part of teachers’ safeguarding responsibilities? Can teachers really cope with additional safeguarding responsibilties? Is this treatment really the right way to deal with pupils’ behaviour? Does it send out the wrong message about how to control a child’s behaviour?

  2. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    No. Some teachers are already far too eager to refer pupils, especially boys, to CAMHS.
  3. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Speaking as a (former) teacher I certainly don't see it as having been my job to monitor the use of - legal, prescribed - drugs like Ritalin. Nor would I have had the foggiest idea how to do such monitoring.

    I always refused to do any optional first aid training as I saw it as the thin end of the wedge (medical problems at school? Employ a school nurse). My job was to teach my subject(s), not be a surrogate parent or social worker.
    Jolly_Roger1, Alice K, thyr and 2 others like this.
  4. Ellakits

    Ellakits Occasional commenter

    I, in common with most teachers, am not medically qualified.

    I cannot make a judgement about whether drugs are the right treatment for ADHD, indeed I cannot diagnose ADHD.

    I leave that to the doctors and psychologists.
    FrankWolley likes this.
  5. aypi

    aypi Occasional commenter

    The only pupil that I taught who I knew went on to Ritalin was more manageable before. I knew he struggled and could see when he was volatile, he could be distracted and then OK in the class. Once on prescription his attendance dropped and his behaviour was harder to predict. Last time I spoke to him he was hoping to not spend a christmas in jail. He did go to jail, one of several visits.
  6. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    As with the other posters, I have insufficient knowledge of these drugs to judge whether their use is ethical.
    I have known children become calmer and more manageable with them.
    I have known children be badly behave when parents have saved the drugs to ensure complant behaviour when the child gets home.

    ADHD is a description of behaviour that can be caused by a number of things. I certainly take the view that such drugs should only be used in times of last resort and should be prescribed and monitored by professionals.

    I also wonder if putting hyperactive children into a learning environment focused on reading while sitting still then punishing them when they need to be running about and burning off energy could also be considered " totalitarian and psychologically inhumane". There are not easy answers, but different kids need different approaches.
  7. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    I think it's a fair point but the criticism and monitor responsibility must be placed on those prescribing.
  8. elder_cat

    elder_cat Established commenter


    1. I am not, and never have been, a SEND practitioner. Nor do I think I ever had/will have the personal qualities needed to be one.
    2. I have great respect for SEND practitioners and the work they do.
    3. I am not condoning the administration of drugs, and certainly would not want the responsibility foisted on me to do so, or to monitor the health of a student under the influence of such drugs. I think that's just an accident waiting to happen.
    But I also sympathise with other students when their lesson is being disrupted.

    If, as I suspect, words like 'inclusion' never exisited in Stalin's Russia, then the situation of having to control behaviour somehow would never have been an issue, because the affected person would never have been in the school system to begin with.

    “If the only symptom of a child’s ADHD is their non-compliant and irritating behaviour, then control and compliance at home and in school achieved using drugs might also appear politically totalitarian, physiologically inhumane, a serious safeguarding issue, and in contravention of basic human rights and freedoms enshrined in international law at this time.”

    Do the other children in the classroom, who may be affected by the 'non-compliant and irritating behaviour', not also have 'basic human rights and freedoms enshrined in international law at this time' ? If so, would those rights include the right to an education in an environment where lessons are not consistently disrupted by 'non-compliant and irritating behaviour' ?

    '“Put plainly, using…psychotropic medication to coerce, control or manage a child or young person’s behaviour, just because they were uncompliant with institutional rules or an adult’s instruction would be ethically unacceptable,” they say.'

    It probably is, but if not using the medication results in the students' classmates being deprived of the right to get the most from each lesson, then surely that is also ethically unacceptable ?

    In addition, they argue that the use of such medication to control pupils’ behaviour, when that behaviour is not causing the affected pupils any distress, would be an infringement of their human rights."

    I am confused as to who is being referred to as 'the affected pupils'. The pupil using the medication, or the other pupils in the classroom with them ?

    If anyone thinks any of the above is insensitive or offensive, then I apologise unreservedly. I no longer teach, but if I were back teaching today, I would have no issues with the principle of inclusion. I might however, on occasion, have some concerns over the ***** nilly way in which it gets implemented, simply to allow management to be able to tick the relevant box.
    Jenkibubble likes this.
  9. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It is of course also cruel to allow these children to grow up without understanding, somehow, that there are boundaries to life, that they need to allow other people to get on with their lives and that they need to learn about the world in order to be a part of it.
    Jenkibubble and Alice K like this.

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