Archive for July 15th, 2010


natural nurture

Ever since Allison wrote her comment to my July 3rd entry, “Seeking a Soulution,” I have been thinking about a significant fact in my life: that almost all of the young people in my family are—or were as kids—ADHD.

The prevalence of this condition is only 3% to 5% of the school-aged general population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). So it makes me wonder how, through a natural and long-term process of accretion, ADHD has played a part in the process of mutual selection which characterizes my family?

I have always thought my kids are more interesting than others. Maybe I am more tolerant of some behavioral characteristics which so bother others. Maybe I see these “problems” as assets. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that I am dismayed by parents’ decisions to put their kids on psychotropic drugs, to put them into residential treatment, or farm them out to the foster care system just because they are too challenging to deal with—I have seen it all in the lives of my kids and I don’t approve.

A couple days ago I researched “Casa by the Sea,” the “summer camp” in Mexico to which Michael Perry (the 28-year-old man executed on July 1st here in Texas, who was diagnosed at age 7 with ADHD and started on Ritalin and Prozac by his parents) was sent in shackles as a teen. What a hell-hole that place must have been!

Operated by World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP), a Utah-based organization founded in 1998 and controlled by Robert Lichfield, Casa by the Sea was shut down in 2004 by Mexican authorities due to substantiated claims of child abuse. Perry said that conditions for him on death row were better than at Casa by the Sea.

One thing which grabbed my attention is that parents would spend more than $25,000 a year to incarcerate their ADHD kids at Casa by the Sea or the numerous other “treatment” mills operated by WWASP. Parents mortgaged their houses and depleted their savings to pay for services which (according to Perry) included serving beans and rice at every meal, except on Sundays, when spoiled fish was served. Staff members at Casa were poorly educated and poorly paid, even the teachers. Kids were subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

I haven’t been able to find out anything about Perry’s parents except that they are “good Christian people who did all they could to help their son.” The same person who said this—a friend of his parents—explained that Perry’s birth mother, who was on drugs, gave him up for adoption. “Michael Perry was condemned from birth due to his birth mother’s actions,” this family friend said.

Hmmm, maybe so—but maybe not. Administering psychotropic drugs to a 7-year-old may have been the actual start down a slippery slope which took Perry through a succession of treatments, mental health facilities, prisons and “programs” which seem to have only made a bad problem worse.

Mind you, I am not suggesting that Perry’s parents were unloving or negligent. I’m sure they always did the best they knew. I’m certain they made their decisions based on credible “expert” guidance. It is hard to believe they knew what was actually happening to their son at Casa by the Sea. Considering the burdensome costs they incurred trying to “fix” their son, I can only imagine they were in a very desperate place—a sacrifice-filled nightmare that spanned nearly three decades. They deserve our understanding and compassion.

Yet I’m convinced the prevailing “expert” view of ADHD is all wrong. I believe that refined sugar, processed chemical-laced foods, television and personal electronic devices, and other such stimulants should always be restricted or eliminated altogether before resorting to drugs which can have a lifelong deleterious impact on brain development. You can’t expect to pump your kids up with all kinds of unnatural substances and then expect to bring their systems back into balance by administering even more powerful unnatural substances. This is insane. In embracing drugs as the first-line treatment for ADHD, the health care profession is breaking its oath to “do no harm.”

My own experience tells me that our preference for viewing ADHD as a “problem” rather than a “difference” is the first fork in the road. With few exceptions, every child is perfect in his or her own unique way. (How often I have wished I had Derek when he was six, instead of the “good Christian foster family” who abused and abandoned him.) As the adults in our kids’ lives, it is up to us to shape around them rather than expecting them to conform to us.

Kids need unconditional love and natural nurture, not chemical restraints.