Anti-psychotic drug calms down five-year-old boy but mom says placebo effect may be responsible.
Things are looking up for the little Hamilton boy who was kicked out of seven day-care centres and suspended twice from junior kindergarten last year.
He's now in senior kindergarten in a different school and has managed to get through the whole term without being suspended. He's also on a powerful anti-psychotic drug called Resperdal, even though he's only five years old.
The boy has Oppositional Defiant Disorder, a condition in which an ongoing pattern of hostile behaviour seriously interferes with day-to-day functioning. When he loses control he screams, swears and sometimes hits or kicks. He can be destructive, too -- his parents have had to replace almost every piece of furniture in their east Hamilton apartment.
His mother thinks one reason he's doing better in school is that he's only there a couple of hours a day. His last school had a full-day, alternate day kindergarten program, and he "would start to blow out" towards the end of the afternoon.
The other problem was that the school was about half an hour's walk from their house and his parents have no car.
The family moved last fall and his new school -- just across the road from his home -- has a half-day kindergarten. His mother still picks him up a few minutes early, so that he doesn't have to deal with getting his winter clothes on while other children are around.
His mother is happy with his school, his educational assistant and his teacher.
"He's got an amazing teacher -- she's great."
Her son is a bright-eyed chatterbox, always on the move, with a smile that lights up the room. He likes school -- especially playing in the toy kitchen --and he likes his teacher.
"She's always nice."
How does he behave? "I play very nicely," he said.
His mother didn't want him to be on Resperdal, but felt forced to do it in September. The school would do nothing for him unless he was on medication, she said. She's convinced the drug has a placebo effect -- not on her son, but on school staff.
"The minute he was put on medication, all of a sudden they were willing to help him and find all these programs for him. They tell themselves that he's on medication, so he must be doing better, and then they try harder."
She said that normally doctors don't prescribe Resperdal for a child as young as her son, who turns six in February. The family's dire situation prompted the doctor to make an exception.
"He said it had to do with the effect that (the boy's) problem was having on our whole family," his mother said. "He thought that it would help him to stay in day care and do better in school."
Both she and her husband had lost their jobs because of phoning in sick so often. They had to take turns doing this so that one of them would be available to care for their son every time he was sent home from school or day care. They faced being on welfare because of him.
She has now found another job, working an afternoon shift, but her husband is still looking for work. Day care remains a problem.
The boy had been in a half-day therapeutic day-care program but his parents were advised to put him in a full-day program over the summer, to try to get him used to going to school all day. Unfortunately the move backfired -- he was quickly banished from that day care and his placement in the old one is no longer available.
His parents put him in another day care, close to his school, but he was booted out after just three days.
"He busted a paper towel holder in the bathroom," his father said. "They said he was acting up and screaming and swearing."
"He's been kicked out of every day care in the city below the Mountain," his mother sighs.
She's heard that the Kiwanis organization wants to open a new day care and if that happens, she hopes there will be a spot for her son.
"He goes to their summer camp every year and they never give up on him. They just care," she said.
By Christine Cox
The Hamilton Spectator
(Dec 27, 2005)
Here's a comment in reply to the above:
Young people who need compassion and generosity
By Kelly J. Bradley, Hamilton
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 3, 2006)
RE: 'What a difference a pill makes' (Dec. 27)
I read the article and am glad the little boy is getting the education he needs. However, what had to be done for him to get his education enraged me.
This young man has been discriminated against before he gets into kindergarten.
I understand oppositional defiant disorder; my son was also diagnosed with it. However the diagnosis was dropped in favour of other conditions. My heart goes out to mom and dad. I understand their heartache.
The Hamilton Board of Education had no business holding a gun to these people's heads -- including he doctor's.
I know how the system works. I have been through it with the board of education with my son.
Get a different diagnosis.
We often hear: We don't have the funding; we do have the funding, however no one is qualified; too much bullying from other students and we can't protect him, understaffed, you can do it yourself from home ... and so on and so on.
I even had one well-meaning individual offer to report him as a truant to see if he could get into school that way!
My son is 19 and has only received a Grade 5 education.
He is now on a disability.
The Hamilton Board of Education needs to get some education themselves on the Human Rights Code, on mental illness, on how to deal with someone who has a mental illness, on the side effects of medication.
And they need to do it now.
Many mental health advocates are bringing to the forefront the fact that treatment and services should be built around our needs (yes I have a mental illness also) not built around society's needs -- or, even worse, in our best interests.
Therefore, it is up to the board to access funding and whatever is needed to meet the needs of the children.
Please no budget cuts.
I realize the Harris government made a huge cut to services for special needs kids, but now the board needs to do some advocating to get those funds back.
I paid my education tax, 25 years worth, and the board refused my son an education. Who do I see to get my money back?
The number of children and youth being diagnosed with a mental illness is rising.
This means the board needs to change its ways and not by getting parents to put their children on dangerous medications.