Now that school is starting up again, we are seeing the yearly rash of articles about Ritalin.

Let me clarify that.

We are seeing the yearly rash of articles about the ease and even eagerness with which parents put their children on Ritalin.

One notoriously zealous pediatrician, writing recently in, argued that parents use medication as a "substitute for discipline, rewards and spending enough time with their kids." He said he found a "disturbing trend on the part of caregivers to reflexively regard drugs as the remedy of first choice."

Remedy of first choice.

I'm not sure what parents he knows, but I have yet to find one that grabbed at drugs as a remedy of first choice. On the contrary. I have seen parents with armloads of books on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and its treatments. I have attended lectures on ADHD packed with parents hungry for information. I have seen mothers fighting back tears as they hand the school nurse their children's first dosages of Ritalin, knowing their child is now officially "different."

By the time most parents decide on medication, they understand their child has a medical disorder. Not a behavioral problem. Not an America-in-the-New-Millennium problem. He has a failure in a mental mechanism. All the discipline in the world cannot change the child's brain any more than discipline can change a diabetic child's pancreas. If we readily give a diabetic child insulin to compensate for his physical dysfunction, why should we be any less vigilant about giving an ADHD child medication to compensate for his?

Here's what else I have seen: Children who have blossomed on medication. Children who finally have social lives because they can control their impulses, stay focused in a game, read social cues. Children who finally can listen to a teacher and take a test and read a chapter without a thousand distractions and mind vacations. Children who finally understand they aren't stupid.

Yet, now the Ritalin Reactionaries have persuaded some legislators that schools should not be allowed to mention medication to parents whose children exhibit symptoms of ADHD. In the New York Times last Sunday, a front-page article reported that this restriction will become law in Connecticut in October. Similar bills have been introduced in five other states.

Think about this. Teachers, special education coordinators and school psychologists, who work with thousands of children over the course of their careers, cannot even suggest to parents that medication might be an option in helping their struggling child.

As with any medical condition, there are those who advocate alternative remedies to treat ADHD. Great. But enough with the "Say NO to Ritalin" bumper stickers. Surely our children are better served by trading in slogans for science.