We conclude our two part series that takes a closer look at the dangers posed by learning disorder diagnoses. As we showed you last night, both the Moorefield and Scott family struggled after their sons were prescribed medication for a myriad of diagnoses. In this story, we introduce you to a doctor who doesn't believe in medicating children diagnosed with learning disorders. In fact, he thinks many doctors are too quick to diagnose kids who, he says, are just inattentive and misbehaving.
The first time Dr. David Stein met with 3-year-old Matthew Moorefield, he knew it wasn't going to be easy.
"He was diagnosed by this therapist as a mood disorder... Bi-polar... At 3...!" Dr. David Stein said.
"I was scared that he was going to be a juvenile delinquent, as you could say. I was scared that he would end up in prison. I did not ever think that i would ever see the point that he's smiling, he's happy, he's telling you he loves you," Matthew’s mother Carolyn Moorefield said.
But, Dr. Stein was determined to help Matthew's parents transform that angry, misbehaving child…without medication.
"We do not have magic. We have nothing special that we can say to the children that will make a difference. By training the parents, that's when you're really going to start seeing results," said Dr. Stein.
It's called the Caregiver Skills Program. It begins by first, teaching parents to identify basic home behaviors such as: non compliance, for example, do they listen to the first command given by the parent? Oppositional defiance...do they talk back to the parent? Sarcasm and temper tantrums…Dr. Stein also focuses on interrupting and fidgeting at times when the child shouldn't.
And, so when the child doesn't meet these behavior requirements, parents must then use a ten-minute timeout system, which is something Dr. Stein says has been widely mistaught and misused by parents.
"I give no warnings. We don't count.. 1.. 2.. because by then, the child complies, but they're not paying attention to their behavior," said Dr. Stein.
"They hate time out, really, they can not stand it. But, see, they know: you do the crime, you pay the time."
And the Scott family says the timeout system helps keep Jarrell's behavior under control.
"(How does it make you feel when you had to go to timeout?) Sad," Jarrell said.
"I would call his name, he would look at me and say, time out?? Am I supposed to go to time out?" Jarrell’s mother, Janet said.
And, finally, Dr. Stein urges parents to constantly praise their child when they're behaving.
"We use descriptive statements all of the time, but we use negative descriptive statements," Dr. Stein said.
He says the positive reinforcement gives children good self-esteem, which they're earning themselves.
"His confidence has just soared... You know, no timidness," Jarrell’s father Scottie said.
"I remember one time his brother, Desmond got off the bus and he just ran down the street saying, Jarrell had a great day today, he had a great day today."
"He's listening to what we're saying. Yes ma'am. No ma'am."
And so, once the child's behavior at home is in check, Dr. Stein then works to fix the child's problems at school.
"Sometimes I always struggle. (What happens when you struggle?) It means everything is empty. (What do you mean, empty, what's empty?) …my sheet of paper."
...and filling up that paper ... with correct answers... is Dr. Stein's mission. So, he focuses on four specific things in the classroom
"Class performance… that's the old term, now we call it attention deficit disorder...did he do his work and pay attention? The other is class conduct, can you behave yourself? That is now called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The other is test grades and homework grades,” Dr. Stein explained.
In the homework, Dr. Stein looks for three things, he calls it "CAN:” complete, accurate and neat.
"And, what happens is that by requiring this of children, all of the sudden, all of these learning disabilities disappear," Dr. Stein said.
"His teacher sent me an email one day when she first saw the change and she said, i don't know what you've been doing, but please keep doing it... His behavior has just done a 360," Janet said.
"It's a night and day difference," explains Matthew’s father, Harold.
"He’s a total different child, he's happy, he tells you that he loves you at any old time," said Carolyn.
"Matthew has been awarded child of the month…as the most improved child in the school," Dr. Stein told us.
But, despite Dr. Stein's non-medical methods, studies show that a significant amount a children diagnosed with learning disabilities are treated with medication. In fact, congressional testimony in 2000 revealed that prescriptions for Ritalin have increased by a factor of 5.
But, Dr. Stein says there's no need for drugs, he says his behavior modification techniques work.
"When I get the behaviors under control all of the symptoms disappear...completely, totally eradicated. And, you have to ask, if that happens, where's the disease? Where has it gone? You can't behaviorally treat diabetes, you can't behaviorally treat pneumonia. And, I do this without medication."
And it's important to note that Dr. Stein says he's not a fanatic when it comes to psychiatric drugs. He says that there’s an appropriate use for them, but, he stresses that these drugs do no correct chemical imbalances, which, he says, is something that’s perpetrated in the public.