Schoolhouse Rotten: Kids, Meds, & Myths

A person I respect and follow on Twitter and whose path doesn't cross mine in any other way just tweeted this Schoolhouse Rock: Conjunction Junction parody from MadTV. It makes fun of "overmedicated" kids. You know, kids like Leelo.

I've been fairly on edge with the emotion and exhaustion this week, so you know what followed: instant tears of outrage. But as I am now a mature lady of 40 years, I didn't call the tweeter out in public! I wrote them an email, instead:
I follow you on Twitter as I appreciate your acerbic wit and lack of pussy-footing. However I was saddened to see your tweet about the Schoolhouse Rock parody re: overmedicated kids. My nine-year-old son has fairly intense autism coupled with a lot of ADHD fun. His story is longer and more complicated than what follows, but basically, after years of resisting meds and trying every behavioral method we could instead, we tried the drugs. After a few mismatches (there is no one try this, get that with autism), we tried Risperdal. It has transformed both his and our lives. His self-injurious behavior had decreased, we no longer worry about getting him a protective helmet. There haven't been any new holes in our walls, or destroyed furniture. I am no longer covered in bruises and cuts. His sisters no longer scream and run when he enters the room. He is sitting next to me right now, calmly putting together a large floor puzzle. We are still an atypical family, but we are an atypical, *happy* family. I cannot express the depth of my gratitude to the medication that has made this possible.

Please understand that I do not mean to attack you, not at all. I love your writing, and attitude. But I do ask you to consider that, as Judith Warner wrote in the sporadically useful Huffington Post, there is a myth about overmedicated children. And I do know that my son's case is extreme. But running around in the quirky kids parenting circles as I do, I know a lot of families who've had to make similar choices with less affected children. None of them have come to their decision lightly, and all of them have wrestled with enormous guilt. I don't believe they deserve the additional burden of public ridicule on their quest to help their children.
What would you have said?


  1. *clap! clap! clap!*

  2. I just watched this with my husband. He's usually one to enjoy a good crass joke. While I was dumbstruck with horror and disgust, my usually sanguine and quiet husband went pale. I read him your reply to the person and asked him how he would respond to them.

    He's a man of few words so his answer floored and moved me. He simply said "Perception is more powerful than truth." Does the person who tweeted this obscene parody really think it's funny? Is THIS what they want strangers to view as their truth regarding acceptance of children with special needs who also require medications? Do they really want to be perceived as crass, ignorant, and bigoted against anyone let alone those who didn't *choose* the challenges they face?

    More importantly, Shannon, is this someone you really still consider worthy of your respect and your emotional or mental energy? Clearly, they don't think children such as yours or mine are worth *their* respect.

  3. Forgot to add, FWIW, I admire that you were able to craft sucha polite and articulate email to the person. I doubt I would have been able to.

  4. Brava.

    In addition, I would have said that the overmedicated child myth may prevent some parents whose children could benefit from medication from seeking it because they fear the "bad parent" stigma that is unnecessarily attached.

    I know parents--very good parents, in my estimation--who avoided medication for years based on the mistaken idea that medication is a crutch used by "lazy" parents. Their child suffered with an essentially untreated psychiatric disorder far longer than he should have because of other well-meaning but thoughtless parents who helped perpetuate this idea.

  5. Nicely done. I probably would have just pretended I never saw it. Your response is much more useful.

    And "perception is more powerful than truth"? I'm going to have to digest on that for a while. That's really true.

  6. Whymommy6:24 PM

    Really nice response. I haven't seen the link, but now I have no interest in it. Love the way you approached it.


  7. Anonymous6:32 PM

    Perception is more powerful than truth. Yes, people only see what they want to see. It's unfortunate, isn't it?

    Thank you Shannon for speaking up, and for doing so in such a a thoughtful and articulate way. We need to debunk the myths--it's time.

  8. It only takes a few bad apples to skew perception. People have no idea how difficult a decision this is for the vast majority of families- those who decide to go with medications, and those who also decide to try to avoid medication.

    Such videos are born of fear- fear of people who are different, of situations outside personal experience, or world where such decisions are even considered. The extreme ignorance of special needs is always astounding, and the fight against it an uphill battle. How do you counter a "clever" little image such as this? Scientific evidence is rarely as catching or comforting to those who find this amusing.

  9. Incredibly gracious reply on your part. WELL DONE!

  10. As usual well written and to the point. Didn't watch the video, don't want to.Dealt with this stupidity for along time now

  11. How would I have responded? Not nearly as well as you did lady! Thank you for voicing eloquently what most of us are thinking. I probably would have ended by cursing him. You did so much better. I hope that he feels like the ass that he has behaved like and posts a public apology via twitter. But I won't hold my breath.


  12. I agree with Niksmom's husband about the skewed roles of perception and truth. Which is why it is important for all of us to be vocal about myths like these.

    The person who tweeted this parody hadn't considered the perspectives of parents like us, is all, and responded politely to my email with a sincere apology. Which makes me doubly relieved about not having a twitter tantrum, about forging ties with a possible ally instead of making an enemy.

    Thank you to everyone who responded.

  13. I followed a link over from Julie's blog, and wow. What a great post I found!

    I think your reply was spot on.

    I look at the medication your child has to take in the same way as I look at the medication I sometimes have to take for asthma. Do I want to be taking it every day? No. But when I need to take it every day, it is clearly far better that I do so. It is so sad that we as a society cannot get to the same place for drugs that work on the brain.

    Thanks for writing this.

  14. I have not watched the video and I will not do so; watching things like that is too upsetting to me because I have an emotional disorder. I have suffered my share of bullying, and in my estimation anyone who posts blogs or videos that make fun of, ridicule, or mock other human beings (or the creations of other human beings) is a bully. And in my understanding of life a bully is a very damaged creature (or creation) himself. He is a person who grew up with bullies and never developed the portion of the heart, soul or brain that thinks deeply, or feels compassionately ..... therefore we can expect all kinds of stings, arrows and poisonous darts coming from him.

    Bullies are a danger to struggling individuals and society. We just have to avoid them, continue to build our own self worth and educate these misguided people. Bullies are a fact of life. They must be re-educated ((dealt with by firm, wise members of the "Tribe" so to speak.)) More letters similar to Shannon's would be a very useful and appropriate thing to do. I salute you, Shannon. Because letters like that tend to break the syndrome/the ugly game that it is.

    I can bet you he is used to sparring, shaming and fighting and he gets his energy that way. It's his drug of choice. He needs to find a better way to dump his own hurt and anger! Hurt people tend to hurt others. For us to wound the bullies among us with shame, accusations or name calling always has a way of making the problem worse for our own growth as well as for the growth of others who watch our example!

    A survivor

  15. Beautiful response on your part. I would have not been able to come up with something that well put.

    I struggled for a long time with putting my son on medication because I was worried about what it would make people think about me as a parent. To this day I regret letting that influence my decision.

  16. I put off placing my boy on meds for so long, it was only when he got incredibly violent and irrational b/cos of adolescence that we tried it as a last resort. While it hasn't stopped the rages, it has slowed them down enough so that it gives us 1 minute to react rather than 5 seconds lol! However, these are very powerful drugs for anyone, nevermind kids, and the decision caused us many sleepless nights.

    I'm very pleased that she responded graciously; if it means that there is one less person thinking that we are somehow "lazy" as a result, then all to the good.

    I haven't watched the link, they are all the same nowadays. What a superb response, I doubt I would've been quite so polite.

  17. silimom9:36 AM

    Standing ovation. And I am heartened by the fact that the tweeter contacted you and apologized. I hope he does so publicly on his twitter account.

  18. We waited 6mths too long to put my eldest son on Risperdal. He was on it from age 6 to 8 until it rebounded (created the anxiety and behaviour). It allowed him to learn to control his emotions - he's no angel at 10, but there's no more headbanging either - and he could sit and eat a meal, not stand and eat one, he could think his thoughts one at a time.

    Little boy was put on Risperdal (Adderall made the symptoms worse) from July to Feb of this year. His attention span had hit zero during the spring. We removed it b/c he stopped sleeping through the night. His attention span has still improved, his speach is still better than it was.

    I am open to trying meds again if we need to. I will not let them suffer due to some misconception about how evil they are.

    Meds are a PERSONAL choice. A choice btwn Parent, child and practitioner.... and nobody elses business but your own.

    Saying that... the school was unimpressed both times when I removed the meds and yanno... that's what we have OT and PDD services for.

  19. Never had a chance to get back here to see that the original source apologized. THAT is especially encouraging in light of the SmockityFrocks and Deputy Headmistresses of the world who still don't get it that it's NOT OK to mock another's pain, disability, struggles.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.