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Debate Over Drugs for Youth

March 26, 2000

* Thank you, Hillary Clinton and Arianna Huffington (Commentary, March 21), for voicing your concerns about the increased use of drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac in children under 6. Preschoolers have short attention spans, poor impulse control and generally can't sit still for more than a few minutes at a time, which is why first grade starts at age 6. Why can't teachers and parents understand that it is inappropriate to medicate children for behavior that is perfectly normal for their age? Where are the adults willing to take the time and energy required to help young children in their journey of learning to control their own behavior?

In 12 years of directing early childhood education programs and working with over 1,000 children from every imaginable background, I have never recommended that a child be given any kind of antidepressant medication, or asked a parent to remove his or her child from my program because of behavior problems. I have, however, replaced teachers who weren't in it for the long haul when they had active children who needed extra help. We are asking the wrong question. It's not whether it is safe to give those drugs to children under age 6, but why are they being given the drugs in the first place?

LISA WILKIN, Director

L.A. County/USC Children's

Center, Los Angeles

*

* The American people will someday look back in horror at the drugging of small children by psychiatrists. It is a national disgrace and a major catastrophe in the making. Parents need to realize how much their children are at risk. And now the government is putting a study of the matter into the hands of the drug companies that are profiting from it. Once again, the wolf is in charge of the chicken coop.

TOM SOLARI

Tujunga

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