First Contact – Someone is “Concerned”
It usually starts like this for parents of active kids – especially parents blessed with very active kids.
There’s a call from your child’s teacher. You were half expecting it. About two weeks earlier you met with her about your nine year-old’s behavior in the classroom. She said he’s a nice enough boy, very cute, however, he’s inattentive and easily distracted. That, and he’s much too active during classroom hours. Oddly enough, you’ve seen him at home when he’s using the PlayStation III. That too active, inattentive kid can be so focused on the TV screen he won’t budge – even if it’s pizza for dinner. He seems intensely attentive, to the point you have to pry him away from the game.
Nevertheless, this time the teacher tells you “. . . your child still isn’t paying attention and he continues to be up and down all day long, and we are concerned.” She said “we,” so now you know there’s at least one other person at the school who’s concerned, and that concerns you.
The teacher said she would like to refer your child to the school psychologist for an “evaluation,” with your consent. Your concern increases so, of course, you consent. After all, these are the experts, you reason, and you must trust them.
They know best.
The Disease Model Indoctrination Process
You have a meeting with the school psychologist. She’s a doctor of some kind, and you’re a little intimidated. While you were expecting her to test your child, you’re given a behavioral questionnaire to complete too. You didn’t expect that, but that’s good. At least something is being done to help your son, and the experts are being thorough.
You’re beginning to learn about the process, and you’re impressed.
In a week or so, you’re informed the evaluation is done, and you’re asked to attend another meeting. You’ve been worried and you’ll be glad to get an answer. Then you get your answer. The psychologist recommends you seek medical assistance for your child because he likely has “attention deficit disorder” with, God forbid, “hyperactivity.” She uses the term “disorder” for the first time, and it unsettles you. She tells you she can’t treat him because “this is a medical problem.”
A doctor of psychology recommends you seek help from a doctor of medicine.
Enter the MD – With Chemicals
By now, you know this is serious. You have to inform your family too, and that won’t be easy. You’re a conscientious parent, and you’re persistent. You want the best for your child, so you search for a “child psychiatrist,” as others have suggested. Maybe someone you know, or the school, makes a referral. If you’re “lucky,” you’ll find one.
You do, and you make an appointment. The nurse takes your child’s vitals, you provide a family medical history, and they’re done with your child. You’re a little surprised. You were expecting something more “medical.” Maybe an x-ray, a blood test, a “scan” of some kind, or another medical procedure that can be measured or weighed or looked at – something. After all, that psychologist told you “this is a medical problem.”
You’re learning a little more about the process.
A Family Changing Event – The Diagnosis
You meet with the doctor and, for the most part, you do most of the talking. You tell him about the school’s concern and the tests from the psychologist. Maybe your child is asked a few questions, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. He’s not there to talk. He really doesn’t need to be there at all. The doctor is there to make a diagnosis based on the information you give him. The doctor’s only function is to do nothing, or prescribe a chemical – and he can’t prescribe a chemical without a diagnosis.
Within 10 to 20 minutes, the child psychiatrist has heard enough and says “. . . I’m prescribing a chemical to help with your son’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” Maybe he calls it a “mental illness, or a “mental disability,” or “mental disorder,” or “psychiatric disease” or just plain “disorder.” It’s what you expected. You’ve talked with family and friends before this meeting. Still, hearing it for the first time from an MD makes it much too real.
There’s a brief explanation of the “disorder.” He says something about “brain chemistry” and some sort of “imbalance,” and you know he mentioned “dopamine.” You know you’ve read about dopamine somewhere. It all sounded so “medical.” The special chemical he’s giving your son, you’re told, helps to fix all this, so that your son will sit still in his chair during school hours, and so your son will do his school work when the teacher tells him to do his school work.
You’re anxious to get the treatment part of the process started.
How Soon Will It Work?
Well, you first have to know it will take some time – a few weeks, maybe more, maybe less – for the chemical to begin to have an “effect” because it has to “build up in his bloodstream.” Once in his bloodstream, you may begin to see some improvement, although there will undoubtedly be some “adjustments” along the way due to unpredictable yet very common “side effects.” It’s been made clear to you: there will be good days, and there will be bad days.
Strangely enough, you’re still a little relieved. At least the medical doctor knows what your child “has,” and you leave the office confident this new chemical will help your child in school, and that’s all that matters. You privately fret your child has a “disease” or “disorder,” and you’re not clear how long your son will have to take this chemical – the doctor was vague about predictions – nonetheless, you’re reassured, and optimistic.
The teacher is pleased you are taking steps to help your son. The school is happy too, and, to some degree, so are you. You find comfort when you hear, over and over from friends and professionals, “it’s just like diabetes.”* That means, thankfully, your son’s “ADHD” can be “treated,” with the right chemical.
He’s Just A Little Flawed
About your child, well, at some point you have to explain to him he has a “handicap ” – or “disorder,” or “disease,” or a “mental illness” or, maybe, “an imbalance” – and that’s why he’s not sitting still, and that’s why he’s not paying attention to the teacher in school, and that’s why he needs this chemical to help him. It’s tricky, but with the advice of others who’ve gone through the same thing, you do it. You make sure he understands he’s not responsible for his unwanted behavior in the classroom. You make sure he understands it’s not him, it’s not you, it’s not his teacher, it’s not his school – it’s his “disease.”
Four months go by and you’re disappointed. Yes, the teacher said she saw “some initial improvement,” but a month later, she began to complain again. You’ve had two “follow-up” appointments with the doctor to “review” your son’s chemicals to find out how they are helping or not helping. At the last appointment he increased the dosage of the chemical. Now, at this appointment, he’s suggesting a change of chemicals “that has less side effects, and better results.” Of course, this means this new chemical will have to “build up in his bloodstream” too, and there will be new “adjustments” to make along the way.
By this time, you’ve done research, so this wasn’t unexpected. You’ve surfed the web for the past few months, read dozens of articles, and you’ve talked with other parents who also have children with “disorders.” Changing chemicals, up and down doses, extra chemicals for the “side effects” is the rule – not the exception. You’ve talked with some parents whose children are taking 3 or 4, or as many a 5 different chemicals. You hope you don’t get there.
Don’t Worry – It’s “Normal”
You’re troubled too. He’s not sleeping well. His appetite comes and goes. He’s not doing any better in school either – maybe a little worse – and now they’re talking about special classes, and you have to make some decisions. On top of that the doctor says he can give you another chemical to help with the “side effects” of the first chemical. You have to think about that one. You do, and you agree.
Your child seems to be a little more distressed too, a little more unhappy, a little more frustrated, maybe a little more angry. You are too – all of it. It’s going to be a longer road than you expected, but you’re going to stay with it and do whatever is necessary.
You know by now from your doctor, through your research, and by talking with other parents, all of this is a “normal part of the process.”
And It’s Done
You and your child are now willing, all-in customers of the disease model of “modern” psychiatry. You can’t stop the “treatment” now. It’s been made clear to you, and you know it as fact, your son has a “medical condition.” Now you’re the one who educates others that “it’s just like diabetes,” and you wouldn’t dare stop treating diabetes.
You now know everything you need to know about the process. You’re indoctrinated. You’re an advocate. You’re an expert. You’re fully prepared to indoctrinate another parent.
And so it goes.
For a very real, very recent example of the indoctrination process, read a mothers story about her experience with her 8-year old son – and how he’s doing now – in her article in the NY Times: “Raising the Ritalin Generation” here.
* See “It’s Just Like Diabetes” in the forthcoming essay: Psychi-Babble – Psycho-Babble’s Evil Twin
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