Pubdate: Tue, 30 May 2000
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2000 The Gazette Newspapers
Contact:  P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, NY 12301-1090
Fax: (518) 395-3072
Author: Carl Strock - Gaxette Columnist


Imagine being accused of child neglect for taking your kid off the
controversial medication Ritalin. Imagine winding up in Family Court
for such an offense.

That's what has happened to Mike and Jill Carroll, a young couple from
West Berne, who last year decided that their 7-year-old son Kyle
wasn't doing well on the Ritalin that he had been prescribed and
informed a nurse at Berne Elementary School that they were taking him
off it for two weeks to see how he fared.

They remember the nurse saying OK, but notwithstanding, the school
quickly filed a report with Child Protective Services of Albany
County, and the Carrolls then stood accused.

The superintendent of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District, Steve
Schrade, won't say who put the complaint in motion, but he does say it
was approved by the principal.

The formal legal complaint, from the Department of Social Services,
signed by caseworker Rick Magan, also accuses the father of having hit
the mother in the presence of the children, and of twice physically
abusing young Kyle, once by shoving him into a wall and hurting his
arm and once by whacking his bottom hard enough to raise welts.

I talked to the parents the other day in the corridor of Albany County
Family Court, and both denied these charges, which they said were made
anonymously, then investigated by caseworkers and never

Jill, who seemed a forceful enough person, said of being hit, "I'm not
the kind of person who would stand for that," and Mike said he
administered "a smack on the bottom here and there," but nothing excessive.

I have no way of knowing if those accusations are true or false, but I
am concerned with the charge against the father which states that he
"fails to ensure that 7-year-old Kyle takes medication prescribed for
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, thereby placing the child at
risk of educational failure." And I take note of the intake report on
him which says, "Fa [presumably father] is refusing to give the ch
[child] the Ritalin."

That's what interests me, threatening to take a kid away from his
parents partly because the parents object to giving their kid Ritalin
- - even though they immediately resumed giving it to him when the
trouble started, and indeed a court order is in effect requiring them
to give it.

Kyle, the second of the Carrolls' four children, is admittedly
hyperactive. As the parents recall things, at the end of the boy's
kindergarten year, a teacher told them they should get him evaluated
by a doctor.

They complied, and the doctor they went to gave them a questionnaire
to answer of the type I have previously discussed in this column and
observed the boy for about 45 minutes, during which time they say the
boy was "into everything."

At the end of this visit, the doctor told the parents that Kyle had
"attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," and eventually prescribed
Ritalin, though they don't remember if he prescribed it on the first
visit. He also recommended that they take the boy to a

They did that later, not immediately, and they say the psychologist
they saw, recommended to them by the school, herself took Ritalin and
was therefore a strong advocate of it.

Mike and Jill both say that their son's grades went down when he
started taking the medication, that he became under-active rather than
over-active, that he lost his appetite and no longer slept well, and
that's why they wanted him to try two weeks without the medication.

Such effects on the boy would be no surprise for anyone familiar with
the literature. The Drug Enforcement Administration lists among
Ritalin's side effects, "insomnia" and "loss of appetite" along with
things like "headache," "dizziness," "heart palpitations," "blurred
vision" and "growth suppression." (Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is a
member of the amphetamine family and acts on the central nervous system.)

If the Berne school people, the Child Protective Services people or
the Family Court people are not familiar with the literature, I would
be happy to recommend some of it to them.
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MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson