like packing up and moving to a new town

Alternative is another name for options

This video makes me feel a bit queasy.

It's about diagnosing children with bipolar disorder and medicating them.  Not that I'm against medication, because I'm not.  I have a close friend who is bipolar and I knew her before she presented symptoms, after she was diagnosed, and I've seen her both on and off meds.  She absolutely needs them.  There are lots of people, even children, who need some type of medication or other to help them function.

But feeding multiple pills to four-year-olds when diagnosing seems like "an experiment"... ugh... it just hits me in the gut.  Especially when you see professionals admitting that children can often be misdiagnosed.

The part I really have a problem with is the portion (I'll summarize for those who don't want to watch) where a mom is asking her 4-year-old child's psychiatrist if there any other options outside of medication, such as therapy, to help her child and the psychiatrist says "No".

There are other options. You can get a second opinion.  You can see a panel of specialists, not just one person from one field of study.  There are different types of therapies.

OT (occupational therapy) has done wonderful things for Chance.  It has also been wonderful for another classmate of Chance's who goes to the same center.  Now granted, neither of these little boys have bipolar disorder; they both have sensory processing issues.  But OT can be helpful for a variety of issues, including mood disorders.  It is an option and one that I don't think is very well-known.

I also have no doubt that if we had "just waited" like so many people suggested, if I had not pushed for Chance's assessments to find out exactly what was going on, if I had not tried the OT (out of pocket I might add), at some point someone in a school somewhere would have told me Chance was ADHD and needed to be put on medication.

So far the OTs and speech therapists that Chance sees are seeing no signs of ADHD.  It's all sensory processing disorder (SPD).

My brother was put on Ritalin when he was kid and it never seemed to do much for him.  Then as soon as he became a teenager they kept offering him different forms of antidepressants.  Looking back at everything, I think he had sensory issues and was misdiagnosed, first as ADHD, and then it was just assumed he was depressed.  (Not that depression doesn't run in my family, because it does, but not ALL of us are depressed.  I've been offered antidepressants multiple times. I'm NOT depressed.  My complaints?  Tired and having back pain.  Solution, here's an antidepressant. ??)

What's my point?  I don't know.  I have such mixed feelings about the entire medication and instant diagnoses process.  It's so complicated.  And again, I've known people who've done great on meds and needed them.  But I also personally feel there is an age that is "too young" to give drugs to little kids.  I'm not even sure we know how those drugs affect teenagers' development. 

I DO think that starting with something that doesn't use drugs, like OT, is a better first step than going instantly to medication.

I want to talk about SPD here more this year than I have.  I meant to but I always ended up discarding those posts.  However, I'm going to change that.  It seems like SPD is so unknown and yet you see it, once you know the signs, all the time.  And I feel like if I help talk about it maybe it can help other parents know their options so their kids don't get ignored or misdiagnosed. 

Honestly, I'd love it if a few of us parents dealing with SPD got us a website going.  Talking parent to parent, you know? 

               - wg


Kelly Carpenter

I totally agree that observation and patience is required in treating anyone's condition before throwing meds at them. My doctor explained to me that mental disorders are on a continuum and it is not easy to pin any one particular label on a person's condition. A person may have what could be described as a "mood disorder" (without even calling it Bipolar or clinical depression, etc.) but also may have some attention deficit or anxiety disorder (or whatever) in the mix. I happen to need to take medication, but I also journal and take walks and try to find some sun (usually requires flying somewhere this time of year) or at least go to the fake 'n' bake. I am hoping that at some point I won't have to take meds, but for sure these should never be the first option.


I've had mental illness all my life, though it didn't surface until November, 1985, when I was 19. I've been diagnosed with multiple stuff--and the only disorder I'm certain I have is OCD. I've had more psychiatrists and therapists than I can remember; been hospitalized more times than I can remember; and have definitely tried more medications than I can remember. And one thing I've learned is that psychiatry is the final frontier of medicine--thus psychiatrists are often even more clueless than their patients. It's a hit-and-miss science, at best. And the only way to understand it at all is through one's own experience. You were wise not to accept that psychiatrist's unenlightened suggestion that medication was the only option. Some people can recover without medication, some cannot. But even those who cannot can always benefit from additional treatment methods.


Can 4 year old even be accurately diagnosed with Bi-Polar? We took my step-son to a psychologist for quite some time because he was abused by his biological mother for 5 years. They said that they couldn't accurately diagnose him until he was at least 7. He has never been put on medications. Luckily for us it has just taken lots of love and encouragement. I know that there are children with certain disorders/illnesses and need meds but I think 4 is too early to start shoving pills down their throats. Just my opinion!

The Phoenix

Thanks for checking out our podcast! I remember when Chance was a baby (taking a bath in the sink). Isn't that funny?

When I realized finally what was "wrong" with my 5 yr old daughter, it was like seeing the face of Elvis in Vegas. Everything made sense. No ADHD, autism, or learning disabilities. In fact, they believe she's gifted.

Here sensitivity is a gift too, though. She can do the "Where's Waldo" books like no one I've ever seen. If I misplace something, she can recall where I put it or find it for me. Her drawings are super detailed, and she's even draing in 3-D, which is really cool.

But the downside is that she needs to get desensitized so she can cope day-to-day. Sounds you or I would not even notice sound like a buzzsaw to her. Certain clothing make her feel "itchy." Mealtime can be a battlezone when certain smells bother her.

So I'm going to OT route and hopefully we'll both learn to cope as we go along.

The Phoenix

Sorry for the typos. Sheesh, that's horrible.


I think giving pills like that to children is a dangerous game. Their brains are still developing. I think it's a little excessive to say that there are NO treatment options out of medication when you have a brain that's still forming.

Also, studies show that antidepressants in teenagers actually tend to increase the chance of suicide. Clearly young brains don't work the same way. We shouldn't be so cavalier about throwing drugs at them.

the weirdgirl

Kelly - See, I always have mixed emotions because I've known a lot of people who have done really well on meds. But I think the difference is an adult can accurately say whether a drug is helping or not. I'm just a little leery about a trend developing where they give kids pills without that slow, thoughtful process.

Scott - I absolutely agree about it being the final frontier. There's so much of the diagnoses process that's subjective and just a lot they don't know yet. I think it'll keep improving, but it's going to take a long time.

Jayme - That's my opinion too! And I worry about how accurate a diagnoses can be for a child.

The Phoenix - OT can really help. There are also some wonderful new companies coming out with clothing that is designed just for sensory sensitive kids. Check out softclothing on twitter. And I also have an SPD list I've been building there.

Carol - That's my concern, what are the drugs doing to developing minds?

Lori at Spinning Yellow

I watched this Frontline last year and also felt sick to my stomach. Where were the alternative treatment options? No mention of sensory issues or OT. I am so glad to hear that you are going to write more about SPD. Me too. And for me, OCD, b/c this is also not understood in children. It amazes me that getting medication for my son was super easy, but trying to get him OT is impossible (as you know he's had OT in the past, but at 8 yrs. old, with a diagnosis of SPD/anxiety/OCD and NOT ASD, he is not eligible for paid-for-by-insurance OT, which makes me LIVID). The Zoloft that he does take has helped him considerably, but he should have OT, and required accommodations in school, but he doesn't anymore.


My son has SPD (dyspraxia) and I would love a website for parents...get on that, will ya?! :)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)