"The way to sell drugs is to sell psychiatric illness." -Dr. Carl Elliot, University of Minnesota Bioethicist The Washington Post (2001)
Drugging children for telling us our culture doesn't meet their needs
"ADHD" is a fraud. It was a label concocted by psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry that allowed them to turn the distress of children held hostage to public schools (and other traumatic environments) into a financial goldmine. Manufacturing a label for the alarm signals of suffering children serves the needs, pockets and whims of the pharmaceutical industry, the medical and mental health industry and of course, the factory public schools. The "ADHD" label does not serve the needs of children, who are suffering distress as a result of this unhealthy society we have created. Instead, the label draws attention away from children's unmet needs and conveniently redirects the focus to stimulant drugs- a form of chemical restraint that requires no responsibility on the part of adults or our culture to meet children's needs.
On March 8, 2012, I was featured on the Anderson daytime show with my son, Brycen R. R. Couture to discuss how traditional schooling and disconnected parenting produces the very symptoms the medical industry packages as "ADHD". Both my son and I debunked "ADHD" labeling and drugging by making it clear that when children live and learn in an environment of freedom and joy, following their interests and learning through play and movement, the symptoms dissolve.
The Disease and Drug Model vs. Nature
Dr. Peter S. Jensen of the Mayo Clinic, Founder of The REACH Institute and "lead Federal investigator for the longest study of ADHD treatment", was also a guest on the show. Not surprisingly, he supported the "disease" explanation for children's symptoms, as well as the psychiatric drugging of children. He insinuated that because his argument is about "listening to the science" that my argument in favor of unschooling, organic parenting, play, anti-inflammatory diet and natural remedies must be unscientific. I reminded Dr. Jensen that as someone who has worked as a mental health professional for a decade, I am a scientist. I hold a post graduate degree in psychology and obviously had to study rigorous scientific method and conduct research in order to obtain a Master's degree. I am also qualified to evaluate, diagnose and treat the full spectrum of mental health issues and well as refer children to neurologists and psychiatrists for "ADHD" testing and drugging. However, what is different about me is that I am not a slave to the medical and pharmaceutical industry. I can correlate facts about child development, children's needs and the effects of trauma to an explanation for "ADHD" and other mental illness. For psychiatrists and others involved with the psychopharmacology industry, there is no other authorized position but the "disease", diagnose and drug model.
I realized the seriousness of this "disease" and "drug" business when I spoke out within the system with the wrong ears listening: Years ago, I ran a training on alternatives to psychiatric drugging of children for a group of paraprofessionals working with families of children labeled as mentally ill. One of the jobs of these paraprofessionals was to provide information and resources to families about mental health issues and treatments. As a result of my exposé of the pharmaceutical industry, I incurred the wrath of two powerful state agencies: the paraprofessional program which was contracted by the state and The Department of Mental Health in that state. I had to obtain an attorney when these pro-drug agencies banded together to threaten a side job I held with a state-contracted mental health agency and to bully me into removing ChildAdvocate.org, my former personal children's rights website that had nothing to do with my job.
Going against the authorized position can get people into trouble at a governmental level.
Did Dr. Jensen admit that "ADHD" is a symptom of traditional schooling?
I can understand why Dr. Jensen, like other psychiatrists and doctors, won't admit the obvious- That trauma, poor parent-child attachments and unnatural environments like traditional school produce mental and cognitive distress in children, and that changing those environments will heal children's distress- Too many psychiatrists making such statements would bring down the entire industry! However, Dr. Jensen did unintentionally contradict his entire "ADHD" labeling and drugging argument by admitting the following,
"Laurie is absolutely right, nature didn't wire us to sit in large groups and be very quiet, it kind of wired us to be romping and hunting."
"School is pretty boring".
"Laurie makes a good point. It depends on the nature of the task. So if you give the child a chance to go out and romp and play you don't see ADHD difficulties... ADHD is a problem with paying attention not to things in the environment but things that you have to study and concentrate on with your brain and learn."
"Johnny just can't contain himself because he just wants to be in the wild."
I almost feel that this post could end with the words, "I rest my case".
A real disease doesn't go away when you're on summer vacation
Kimberly, the other mom who appeared on the show with me, was in favor of using stimulants to address her son's reported symptoms. She stated that her son's therapist used a diabetes metaphor to convince her to put her son on stimulants: "[The therapist] said, 'Kimberly, if your son was diabetic, you would give him insulin.' And, that was a light bulb moment for me when I realized that I was denying my son the tools that he needed to succeed."
I felt so sad for Kimberly and her family that a therapist irresponsibly placated the system by convincing this intelligent mother to override her natural instincts rather than empower her and her husband to find a learning environment that met their son's needs. When Dr. Jensen grabbed the metaphor and mentioned that children don't require drugging when on summer vacation, I stated, "Diabetes doesn't go away when you're on summer vacation".
My son, the "ADHD" expert
If "ADHD" was a true "disease", it would not disappear during summer vacation, or when children are free, happy, safe... or when children are unschooling. My son commented this morning, "If you take ADHD at face value, its more like an allergy to boredom and the inappropriate environment of school." I would consider Brycen an "expert" on "ADHD", as he was given this label in early childhood, prior to him joining my life through adoption.
My son, who was a severe trauma survivor, could not tolerate the environments where he was forced to live and "learn" for the first 11 years of his life. These school and foster environments did not meet even a fraction of his needs, yet his intense alarms signaling his distress were labeled as "ADHD" and drowned out with a number of chemicals over the years. Labeling and drugging a free spirit like Brycen made him more manageable to the adults in those environments and abdicated their responsibility for not meeting his needs.
The day I was matched with my son in November 2004, my first parental decision was to have him tapered-off the stimulant drug he was on at the time. Due to legal protocol of adopting a child through the foster care system, Brycen and I would not officially be allowed to meet until January 2005 when certain inter-state paperwork was processed. In the months leading up to our special day, I met with his public school teachers and others who had made decisions for his life. I informed his 5th grade teacher that Brycen would be removed from the stimulant drug and would be attending a child-centered, play-based private school until our adoption was legalized and then would be unschooling once our adoption was legalized. I reminded the teacher that my almost-11 year old son weighed only 68 pounds due to failure-to-thrive syndrome; him being on a stimulant drug seemed to exacerbate the below average weight and height he had at the time. The teacher stated, "I know he's only 68 pounds, but its easier on the teacher when he's medicated."
I wished that day, in that moment, that I could have located Brycen in that school and taken him home with me. However, he would have to remain there for two and a half more months. In January 2005, after 11 days of visitations, my son was already showing signs of holistically thriving. By the time he officially moved into our home in early February, he was free of the stimulant drug, beginning his healing journey and detoxing from public school.
There is no conclusive evidence that "ADHD" is anything other than natural boy behavior or children's distress signals
My statement on the show that there is no conclusive evidence that ADHD is a brain disorder is factual. There is no evidence that ADHD is anything other than natural boy behavior or a collection of distress signals of children in highly distressing and unnatural environments. Dr. Peter Breggin is one child psychiatrist who has boldly spoken out against labeling and drugging of children. He remains firm that despite heavy funding of studies by the pharmaceutical industry, no conclusive studies have found that "ADHD" is a disease. In fact, he debunks the "brain scan" studies stating that the differences seen in the brains of children with "ADHD" (vs. children without "ADHD") were due to the effects of psychiatric drugs on the brain over time. Dr. Breggin was featured along with me in Cevin Soling's powerful documentary, The War on Kids, which addresses the imprisoning aspects of public schooling.
In an upcoming blog post, I will be addressing some of the questions and comments raised during and after the show about "ADHD", drugging, anti-inflammatory dietary interventions, Attachment Parenting, unschooling and how I believe that most families can live an unschooling lifestyle as humans did for millennia.
Watch Clips of Laurie and Brycen on the Anderson Show!
Laurie A. Couture, Attachment Parenting and Unschooling coach- Learn drug-free solutions to "ADHD" behavior: http://www.andersoncooper.com/2012/03/07/laurie-a-couture-attachment-parenting-coach/
Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Stimulants and ADHD by Peter Breggin, MD