Draft Aug. 2005

Autism News for Illinoispuzzle ribbon

New laws to prevent school districts from discriminating
against children the schools think should be medicated.
  1. The environment
  2. The New Illinois statute
  3. IDEA Amendments of 2004
  4. OSEP letter - the Federal view.
  5. Psychotropic Drugs and Children: Use, Trends, and Implications for Schools - Fact Sheet

I. The environment: teachers have misconceptions about drugs they want their students to take.

"This study was designed to assess general and special education teachers' knowledge, opinions, and experience related to the diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and its treatment with stimulant medication. A random sample of 200 general educators and 200 special educators from Wisconsin were surveyed. Results revealed that teachers had limited knowledge about ADHD and the use of psychostimulant medication. Teachers' opinions about the effect of stimulant medication on school-related behaviors were generally positive, although special education teachers were more positive than general educators. The survey confirmed previous research indicating that teachers were the school personnel who most frequently recommended an assessment for ADHD. The results are discussed In terms of their educational significance and implications for teacher preparation and continuing education.

The percentage of teachers who correctly agreed or disagreed with statements on the 5-point Likert-type scale is shown in Table 1. Responses were determined to be correct on the basis of the NIH Consensus Statement (1998). Only 5 out of 13 items were answered correctly by more than half of the responding teachers. To determine whether the mean differences were significant between general and special educators, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) comparing means was completed. There were no statistically significant differences between general and special educators.
The teachers who responded to this survey had less knowledge about ADHD and the use of stimulant medication than one would expect considering their pivotal role in the recognition and treatment of ADHD.

Although teachers knew that the long-term effects of stimulant medication were not well understood, they were surprisingly uninformed about the risks of stimulant medication. Most were unaware of the possible side effects of stimulant medication, especially the possibility of decreased growth rate and increased risk of tics. Fewer than half knew that stimulant drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine have abuse potential similar to Demerol, cocaine, and morphine. If teachers knew more about the side effects, perhaps they could more carefully weigh the pros and cons of pharmacological solutions for behavior problems.
Another misconception was the belief that the diagnosis of ADHD can be confirmed if the child's behavior improves as a result of taking stimulant medication. In fact, stimulant medication improves behavior, attention, and concentration for children without ADHD in the same way that it does for children diagnosed with ADHD (Peloguin & Klorman, 1986). If a child's behavior improves as a result of the diagnosis of ADHD and subsequent stimulant drug therapy, teachers may incorrectly assume that a disorder with a neurological basis has been confirmed. This sense of validation may bolster their confidence and contribute to an escalating cycle of referrals.

II.     The New Illinois Law:

(105 ILCS 5/10-20.35 new)
(105 ILCS 5/10-20.35 new)
Sec. 10-20.35. Psychotropic or psychostimulant
medication; disciplinary action.
(a) In this Section:
"Psychostimulant medication" means medication that
produces increased levels of mental and physical energy and
alertness and an elevated mood by stimulating the central
nervous system.
"Psychotropic medication" means psychotropic medication
as defined in Section 1-121.1 of the Mental Health and
Developmental Disabilities Code.
(b) Each school board must adopt and implement a policy
that prohibits any disciplinary action that is based totally
or in part on the refusal of a student's parent or guardian
to administer or consent to the administration of
psychotropic or psychostimulant medication to the student.
The policy must require that, at least once every 2
years, the in-service training of certified school personnel
and administrators include training on current best practices
regarding the identification and treatment of attention
deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder, the application of non-aversive behavioral
interventions in the school environment, and the use of
psychotropic or psychostimulant medication for school-age
(c) This Section does not prohibit school medical staff,
an individualized educational program team, or a professional
worker (as defined in Section 14-1.10 of this Code) from
recommending that a student be evaluated by an appropriate
medical practitioner or prohibit school personnel from
consulting with the practitioner with the consent of the
student's parents or guardian.

IDEA Amendments of 2004

sec 612(a)(25) Prohibition on mandatory medication.--
                    (A) In general.--The State educational agency  shall prohibit State and local educational agency
                personnel from requiring a child to obtain a  prescription for a substance covered by the Controlled
                Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) as a condition of   attending school, receiving an evaluation under
                subsection (a) or (c) of section 614, or receiving   services under this title.
                    (B) Rule of construction.--Nothing in subparagraph   (A) shall be construed to create a Federal prohibition
                against teachers and other school personnel consulting   or sharing classroom-based observations with parents or
                guardians regarding a student's academic and functional  performance, or behavior in the classroom or school, or
                regarding the need for evaluation for special education  or related services under paragraph (3).

III. OSEP: The U.S. Department of Education had this to say about the issue:

The Kucinich letter, April 29, 1999, implies that schools violate IDEA and
 section 504 when they withhold education from a student by insisting on meds:

"As we discussed in March, the Department of Education oversees two federal 
programs that provide for the education of children who may have attention 
deficit hyperactivity disorder. Part H of the Individuals with Disabilities 
Education Act (IDEA) provides funds to States to help meet the excess costs of 
educating students with disabilities and requires state education agencies and 
local education agencies to make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) 
available to all eligible children with disabilities. Section 504 of the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires a local education agency to provide a free 
appropriate public education to each qualified child with a disability, which 
consists of regular or special education and related aids and services that are 
designed to meet the individual student's needs. Any failure on the part of a 
local school district to deliver required special education, regular education, 
and/or related aids and services to an eligible child with a disability may be a 
violation of the guarantees of FAPE under IDEA and Section 504 of the 
Rehabilitation Act.  

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes that stimulant medication, 
prescribed under the supervision of a physician, maybe one method of effective 
treatment of the characteristics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 
This is fully consistent with the recommendations of a November 1998 National 
Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement on diagnosis and 
treatment of ADHD. It is important to reinforce that the decision to prescribe 
any medication is the responsibility of medical, not educational professionals, 
after consultation with the family and agreement on the most appropriate 
treatment plan. The use of stimulant medication and other proven diagnostic and 
treatment practices were the topic of technical assistance products developed 
several years ago by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs. These 
materials, designed for school personnel, have been widely distributed and are 
currently available from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted 
Education, 1-800- 328-0272.
Full letter.

Identifying and Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

A Resource for School and Home

U.S. Department of Education, 2003 (a 23-page resource manual describing all behavioral and other treatments) says this:

"Pharmacological treatment remains one of the most common, yet most controversial, forms of ADHD treatment. It is important to note that the decision to prescribe any medicine is the responsibility of medicalónot educationalóprofessionals, after consultation with the family and agreement on the most appropriate treatment plan."


Psychotropic Drugs and Children: Use, Trends, and Implications for Schools

Revised December 2004
The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools
The School of Public Health & Health Services

Recent increases in the use of psychotropic medications by children and adolescents,
limited information on the benefits of these therapies for children, and concerns
about the adverse consequences of certain drugs have prompted the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration to revise their guidance for prescribers and patients. Because
some of these drugs will be brought to school for administration during the school day,
the Center has developed this fact sheet to summarize key information on the topic.

puzzle ribbon

back to AutismNews.