Dr James Schaller

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Back to School: A Balance of
Allopathic and Integrative Medicine

Michelle's son was called to his principal's office for behavior problems. Michelle wanted to be balanced in the way she handled young Joe, but was unsure who to trust. She felt the school was intolerant of "real boys," but she also struggled with her son.

Her pediatrician handed her a script for Ritalin after a ten-minute visit. It worked initially and then stopped working. So she was given a script for Prozac. Soon, she stopped both, since the plan was unclear.

Michelle's friend convinced her to try Joe on a nutrient shake, some omega 3 fatty acids and two other "ADHD supplements." While there was no long-term behavioral change, he continued on them. Joe also met with two "alternative medical practitioners" who did not help after four months. But Joe thought they were "neat" and enjoyed meeting them.

Being a parent is challenging. At times parenting a child like Joe can make you feel very finite. Family, friends and teachers try to help and offer a mixture of wisdom and criticism. Yet, often they do not seem to notice your fatigue as the parent.

Consider some thoughts that may put a "Joe" or a "Joan" in perspective.

  1. If your child is able to be kind or affectionate to anything or anyone, that is a good sign.

  2. If they have ever had grades that were in the "Satisfactory" or "B" range, that is also a hopeful sign.

  3. Behavior problems have literally a hundred causes. Anyone that "knows" the single cause of your child's problem in 15 to 60 minutes, has no idea what he or she does not know.

  4. Behavior problems with one cause are the exception, not the rule. Even if we identify a strong cause, other lesser contributors may still exist

  5. ADHD or ADD is not as simple a topic as some believe. While it does exist as a clear neurological disorder with evidence from history, genetics, spine fluid studies and brain metabolism scans, it a diagnosis of exclusion. Meaning, you have to rule out anything that looks like ADHD or ADD. Guess what? Almost every psychological, medical, neurological, academic and social problem can look like ADHD in a child. So much for the simplistic solutions.

    The good news is that we can intervene in a behavior problem in many ways. We can get at the hub by many different spokes.

  6. Know your ideology and the ideology of your treating practitioner. Do you believe neurological behavior disorders exist before the age of 12? Are medications a very last resort and do they scare you? Do you prefer herbal medicines? Would you like to pursue aggressive one-on-one training or Neurofeedback?

    *For example, child and adolescent psychiatrists are the most trained traditional medical practitioners for treating children with behavior problems. Most spend five or six fulltime years after medical school to treat children. Yet as a writer, technical advisor and reviewer of child psychiatry journals, I have found them to be excessively controlled by drug company money, and too closed off to newer treatment options. They are a major shortage sub-specialty in the USA. They should be trained to provide all major treatments--except school testing. They have been involved in thousands of studies on child behavior disorders.

    *Child Psychologists or certified school psychologists can be very helpful at finding mismatches between a child and their "work" world of school. They have a solid training, are usually more affordable, often take insurance and are able to do various non-medical treatments with children.

    *Social Workers are typically the most cost-effective child therapists available. Most take insurance. Many pursue special training in doing therapy with children.

    *Neurologists, family doctors, pediatric neurologists and pediatricians are physicians with some exposure to child behavioral problems. They offer limits and benefits. A neurologist may notice a change in a child's reflexes after a car accident, letting us know that there may have been slight brain bruising. A pediatrician may note a chronic sinus infection and allergies agitating a child. Nevertheless, they are required to master thousands of other youth problems and so they spend limited time on behavior.

    *Alternative Practitioner options -- as you look through the advertisements you may see individuals who work with children and youth. Again, you need to know what ideology fits your beliefs. If a child is not severely aggressive, suicidal or failing out of school, you have some time.

    Learn about the philosophy of the practitioner. Learn their costs. Have they treated many youth like your child? Ask for the time required for treatment. Can any treatment be done at home?

    After some period of evaluation, you should ask for a treatment plan, and a crude time line. No one can be certain of an exact timeline for a child, but it does not hurt to ask. If your child does not improve promptly, that does not mean the practitioner was insincere.

    *Tutors -- on my website I have an entire article on what makes a good tutoring experience. Certainly, a good tutoring experience assumes the child already has a school, teacher, and curriculum that fit. If a child has the wrong academic school program, you can tutor them 10 hours a week and it may not help.

  7. What kind of time and money do you have? If you are on a limited income and have little time, be real about your limits. Most children with behavior problems take some time to have their behavior improve, so resist starting with the most qualified and most expensive, if you will have to terminate in a month. If someone is out of your price range, simply consider a non-patient consult, just to get an opinion. I offer these by email all over the USA, and they have been helpful to people.

There is no book that answers all the questions on your child. They are unique. If you zig instead of zag, it should eventually become clear. Just continue to reflect on them, try not to get too mad at your child, and stay open to any option that may work.

And perhaps most important ... don't forget to breathe, meditate and pray.

Solicited for Publication in a Regional Magazine

James L. Schaller, MD, MAR is an internationally published academician treating people from all over the USA. His initial training was in medicine and child and adult psychiatry. His website, www.personalconsult.com offers 135 free articles in 9 areas of medicine, wholesale nutrients, and has 50,000 visitors each month. He has published over 30 articles in medicine and health, many in leading journals. He has just completed another book, Out of Control Youth: 70 Practical Solutions, and is currently writing, Brain Repair & Maximization: Autism to Alzheimer's. His primary office is in the Community Bank Towers, near Pine Ridge and 41, in Naples, Florida. Appointments are made at (239) 239 0133 for Naples, and through this website for non-patient consults outside Florida.