Behavior problems are generating medical problems for students and children of color are most at risk


One of my neighbor’s sons, about 16 years old now, has been placed on psycho-pharmacological meds because of a persistent ‘behavior problem’ in school. This young man, always has been very respectful to me, and no matter where he is, if he recognizes me, he will say hello. Need I say that this young man is an African-American adolescent, and his story is certainly no anomaly.

When I learned that he was placed on medication, and now has an I.E.P. for related services, and to meet his comprehensive developmental, behavioral and academic needs. The thing is that this young man is quite intelligent, with no learning deficiency; he simply had a behavior problem that the school and the team of professionals could not successfully address in-house All of the expertise of professional educators working in schools produced a decision that directed this child to an outside provider. He was sent to a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, whose professional opinions were to place him on psychotropic drugs to manage his behavior. Unfortunately, the drugs made him sluggish and withdrawn. Now was that the results that was intended or expected? He wasn’t hearing voices, nor was he violent. No physiological disorders. He was just acting out in class.

His parent was at a disadvantage, because without an advocate or someone who could translate the jargon and educator-speak, she was left at a loss. Therefore, she consented to this form of treatment for her son. Because of behavior, his academic life was altered and his self-esteem was potentially irrevocably negatively affected. How many parents are facing or have faced this dilemma?

This has been going on for a number of years already, and though he probably protested, he was doomed to take these pills every day of his life, as long as he attended school. In my opinion, this young man’s needs were unmet in the classroom, or there was a familial influence that he was acting out in his classes. What he needed was an adult without bias, a sincere desire to connect with this student and mindful of all external factors that contributed to or influenced his acting out behavior. He needed counseling, but not long-term or mandated counseling.

The right questions weren’t asked, and no one really listened to his words, attitudes or behaviors, either. Without speaking directly or verbally, behaviors are an indication of our emotions, and thoughts, and children speak more effectively with their behaviors. Children lack the vocabulary or awareness of self that they resort to whatever works best. They communicate to us if we are paying attention, and are authentic in our regard and concerns. But, no one was listening.

This young man found a way to cope with being called names, teased and ridiculed by his peers. And, he found a way to appear compliant with taking his meds, while placing them under his tongue and then when nobody was watching, spit them out. He showed them. I wonder how many black boys and children of color are placed on medication to address problems that could and should be managed in the classroom, in the school AND without the need for outside consultation! Isn’t that what counselors do, classroom management, and behavior interventions are designed to do? Another instance where we fail our children! Sad. So sad.

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