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Local View: To the therapist who recommended drugging my daughter

This could be written to almost any therapist these days. Or any parent. But it isn’t. It is written to the therapist I took my daughter to, the therapist who was part of her evaluation at Miller-Dwan.

You had a Ph.D. after your name, so I had to at least consider you semi-

reliable. You had me come in and sit down. You made me feel like I was in a safe place. You watched my daughter play for a short time, in your office, with your couch and your desk and no toys. You had me fill out some papers, papers that asked questions about my daughter’s behavior, about family structure, about how she interacted with others. From that you deduced, in a very short time and with even less evidence, that my daughter fell into the same category as so many other children these days: ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. You recommended drugging her.

Now, I don’t denounce that you must be very smart. After all, you have a Ph.D., and I understand that it takes a lot of work and some brains to obtain such a degree. I know you must get a lot of “encouragement,” let’s say, from the drug companies to push the borderline kids over the line, prescribing the drugs these companies produce and receive revenue for. I understand that, much like in the emergency room, you must give every patient you see a


Taking those things into consideration, I don’t think my daughter got a fair shake, and I wonder if she will from now on. Making that particular recommendation for my child after only observing her in an environment that was boring for me (and I’m 36!) was unfair.

She was 4 years old when you saw her. She is a high-energy child, yes, but most 4-year-olds are. You made a mistake in your diagnosis. You made an even bigger mistake when you tried to shame me for not wanting to put her on drugs immediately. When I voiced my concern about putting her on medication, you painted a picture of my daughter failing at school and not being able to ever regain lost ground. You tried to lead me to believe she would be a social pariah because, who would want to be friends with a kid who couldn’t act like the norm? For those things, you should be sorry.

I know you were just “doing your job,” but isn’t your job first to “do no harm,” according to the Hippocratic Oath?

That in mind, have you researched the side effects of these drugs you wanted my vibrant, happy child to take? You must have seen some of the “zombified” children who needed their meds “adjusted.” You must have noticed they were but shells of the children they once were. Did you think their weight fluctuated significantly one way or another?

I think the problem lies in this: We have, with increasing frequency, expected children to act like adults. They should sit quietly and behave nicely. But anyone who actually has had children knows that is not the case. Expecting kids to sit still and “be good” for six hours a day at school is unrealistic, especially when things like recess and P.E. are disappearing from the school day. The fact that we equate sitting still with “being good” is problematic in and of itself. Considering everyone’s concern about childhood-obesity rates, these kids should be encouraged to move around as much as possible, yet that is the opposite of “being good.”

But back to that doctor.

I left your office without a prescription for my daughter. I don’t want one and frankly don’t think I need one. I left with a big ol’ chip on my shoulder, though, since you insinuated I was somehow doing my child a disservice by refusing to drug her. You claimed others would see your recommendation in her chart and that the diagnosis would follow her for the rest of her life now that you put it in her record. Maybe so. And maybe some doctors will frown at me initially, wondering how I could defy Ph.D. logic.

Maybe I will be that mom. But if being that mom means I know my child better than someone who observed her for a short time and evaluated answers on a survey, I’ll take it. And I will take it with a kid who runs and plays, jumps on things and hollers, all with a smile on her face.

Moriah Erickson is a writer with a terminal degree, a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page, and a respiratory therapist who lives in Duluth’s Woodland neighborhood with her husband, a self-employed flooring contractor, their voiceless hound dog and their seven children.