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An "Attention Disorder" in Schools?

Yesterday’s New York Times contains a piece sure to stir up a great deal of discussion. It reports on the increasing prescription of stimulant medicines to students struggling academically not necessarily due to a diagnosis of ADHD, but because their needs are not being well met in schools that are themselves often struggling and underfunded.

Leaving aside many of the moral and ethical issues this raises—and one might argue that there are compelling arguments from both sides—what troubles us here at Think:Kids is the notion that schools are so strapped that “other ideas” (that is, non-pharmacological ones), are unlikely to be implemented because they “cost money and resources compared to meds.”

Implementing a new approach to the problems of challenging kids certainly does come with a price tag and a learning curve, and it can seem costly, but not when the potential savings are fully considered. In our part of the country, some students who cannot succeed in the public school system are ultimately placed in out-of-district schools that cost the home school district upwards of $60,000 a year per pupil. Multiply that across a large school district, and even intensive consultation on an evidence-based approach like ours becomes a relatively inexpensive investment, which is likely to reap benefits beyond the one initial student. This is not to mention the dollar cost of the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Research has shown that programs can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by dramatically reducing restraint and seclusion, which the CPS approach has done time and time again across a variety of settings.

Please help spread the word, and help school districts, legislators, and anyone else who will listen, that rethinking challenging kids, and getting serious about helping them succeed, doesn’t need to be ruled out on financial grounds. The likely benefits far outweigh the potential negative side effects, which in this case are…none!

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