Children’s Problem Behaviour can and should be managed without resorting to the Chemical Cosh

Industry: Education

Problem behaviour in children is on the rise. More and more children are being prescribed dangerous anti psychotic drugs to contain their behaviour. How ethical is this?

uk (PRUnderground) August 15th, 2012


 Two 12 year old boys in foster care, all there is between them is the Atlantic ocean and 8 months. One is taken off controversial medication, put on therapy and made better. The other is taken off therapy put on controversial medication and made worse.


Who is brave enough to speak out?

Who is strong enough to do something about it?

Eight months ago, a very brave boy faced the daunting ordeal of testifying to a US congressional subcommittee about a new, pervasive and fast growing abuse of children. Throwing that stone into a muddy legal pond sent ripples throughout the biggest growth market in a downward economy today….managing behaviour problems in education.

Behaviour problems in children have existed throughout history. Today they are an epidemic. Why?

The first story had a happy ending…..

Ke’onte, spoke of his ordeal in a Texan foster care system. He was given controversial anti psychotic drugs to manage his behaviour. Behaviour stemming from his questionable early years’ experiences. Anti psychotics are medicines that work upon chemical pathways in the brain and are most usually prescribed for types of mental distress or disorder – mainly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety or depression. Today the trend is changing as these drugs are being increasingly used in cases of autism and ADHD, which is often misdiagnosed. For Ke’onte this translated into his life as four years of “the worst thing anyone could do to foster kids,” loss of appetite, exhaustion, collapse and mental impairment.

Since his adoption he was taken off anti-psychotic drugs. His well-being has improved dramatically, since receiving therapy instead of medication: in his own words: “I’m not only more focused in school, I’m not going to the office anymore for bad behavior and I’m happy.”

Today, there is a parallel situation in the UK which does not have such a happy ending. Another 12 year old boy is in foster care, let’s call him Simon to protect his identity. A checkered history of unimaginable abuse shrouds his early years, up until being taken into care at 6 years old. Several failed foster placements later; he was farmed out to a residential home in a distant part of the country, far away from his brother and the familiarity of where he grew up. Then in 2011, at the same time as Ke’onte faced the committee, Simon came back. Due to local authority cut backs, the £20k a month placement fell apart, and he was catapulted back to the local authority from whence he came. Not however, before he was placed on the controversial medication for ADHD called Ritalin at the suggestion of a social worker, for no better reason than he stood more chance of getting a foster placement if he was medicated with a drug noted for knocking out the part of the brain that wants to play.

Of course as children, we learn through play.

If he wasn’t successfully fostered and schooled, then the cost of placing Simon in a residential educational provision could potentially rocket to around £350,000 per year. Evidently, in this situation, prescribing Ritalin provides palliative care for the local authority’s ailing public spending budget.

What about Simon?

At the moment he is not able to stand up and tell his story, so I am doing that for him:

Simon appeared in my life in September 2011  alongside an inexperienced Teaching Assistant ( we’ll call Jim), who started training with me in HET: Holistic Educational Therapy. HET is a highly successful alternative to dealing with challenging behaviours without the need for potentially damaging drugs. This programme has won many commendations over the years from OFSTED (the UK government agency for monitoring standards in education) and national awards.

It was created for and has helped many children like Simon.

At the time I first encountered Simon, he had just been placed with his current foster parents and had started to attend a specialist private educational provider.

Then, for little justification, other than Simon was only on a low dose of Ritalin for his age and size, it was proposed by the fostering agency and the social worker that the dosage should be increased. At that  point I personally stepped in to support Simon and Jim and eventually persuaded the doctor that Simon should be given an opportunity on the natural HET programme first, ‘good practice’ as defined in medical professional guidelines (NICE: National Institute of Clinical Excellence UK). The doctor agreed to a six week window of my working with Simon and his Teaching Assistant, to show an improvement in his behaviour.

A year later, through  following the HET  programme, everyone who knew Simon commented on how successful the programme was, without the need to increase the medication. Gradually many improvements were documented on the way Simon coped and got enjoyment and quality out of life. Until that is… the social workers stepped in with a popular technique used by social services called ‘life story’. This introduced Simon to the details of his life before being taken into care. Like many others who undergo this process, he couldn’t handle it. His behaviours deteriorated to distressing levels for Simon and those around him. Smearing feces, punching himself in the head and racking his memory to recall lost details of those early years. The social workers who have a ‘duty of care’ to ensure their client’s emotional health, safety and well being, failed to mention this important piece of information to the educational and medical professionals who also work alongside Simon. Without knowing this ‘life story’ process was being undertaken, Jim and I couldn’t fathom out the reason behind his emotional distress. In the UK, professional guidelines have existed since a public enquiry into a child’s tragic death, that professionals working with children like Simon need to integrate their working practice and disclose information like this to each other. Neither social services nor the fostering agency chose to follow good practice and guidelines over this matter.

To make matters worse, Jim disclosed to me that Simon, who didn’t sleep particularly well anyway (a well known side effect of the Ritalin), went for his six monthly check up with his psychiatrist. These appointments generally last a few minutes only.  When asked how he was feeling, according to his Teaching Assistant who is required to liaise closely with the family as part of his HET training, the boy replied that he was not sleeping well. This was during the period of emotional distress for Simon around his ‘life story’ process, with the turmoil of his fragmented memories churning through his thoughts at night.

When told he was not sleeping well, the psychiatrist prescribed Simon a very controversial drug – Respiridone, an anti psychotic medication to help him sleep. Similar to the ones that Ke’onte has been prescribed. This was done without any consultation with the professionals that know Simon best on a daily basis, or first exploring all aspects of  feedback from the therapy he was on. This approach should always be explored first according to NICE: (National Institute of Clinical Excellence guidelines UK). I am also told by Jim that the family saw extreme side effects of the medication play out in Simon’s behaviour as soon as he started to take it. Sadly this was over a bank holiday weekend and the foster parents are ‘duty bound’ to administer medication unless directed otherwise by the doctor or the social worker. Over that holiday period they were unable to contact either the doctor or social worker, whilst Simon’s behaviours continued to deteriorate. Eventually the foster parents contacted a duty manager social worker who dispensed a dose of common sense. He didn’t know Simon, he was not medically or holistically qualified but he said it seemed like a good idea to stop giving the medication as it was having such a severe effect on him. The foster parents then were able to do as they were told.

At a later educational review meeting which I attended in support of the hapless Teaching Assistant and more importantly Simon himself, – the sad sorrowful scene became appallingly transparent. Social workers were not implementing common sense or professional guidelines, doctors were prescribing controversial medications without any certainty of the long-term effects on children.

My position was clear: From a HET perspective, the child’s best interests and wellbeing override any other agenda. From professional guidelines the position is also clear:

“The time is right for educationalists to challenge doctors in cases where they have ethical concerns about the Emotional Wellbeing of the children with whom they work. This is supported by the Health Professionals Council (Duties as a Registrant – 2009) – “You must not do anything or allow someone else to do something that you may have good reason to believe will put the health or safety of a service user in danger.” We all therefore : ‘Have a Duty of Care to be Aware,’ of these issues in the schools where we work” – Dave Traxson et al 2010

I challenged these professionals at this meeting. The backlash from this challenge only too clearly revealed the hidden agendas that prop up the excuse for professionals not to follow their own professional guidance on good practice for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our society today.

In fact they have a vested interest in NOT following this:

Recently we heard of the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline being sued for over 3 billion dollars  for using incentives to  encourage doctors to prescribe medications  for children with problem behaviour which were either not appropriate, not licensed or not backed with appropriate research.

Foster parents who are income dependent on providing care for children like Simon would lose their livelihood should he be relocated. They chose to not ‘rock the boat’ and discontinued Simon’s access to his therapy programme. Apparently they are able to legally implement that action.

The Private Educational provider chose not to respond to the complaints that were raised against the concerns spoken in that meeting, in case he lost a valuable contract in the current economic climate.

The Teaching Assistant is fearful of losing his job in supporting Simon and as such will not challenge the system despite what is right for his charge.

The odds are heavily stacked against children like Ke’onte and Simon. At every level from getting an accurate diagnosis of their needs in a prescription incentivised profession, to accessing the ‘duty of care’ requirement that professionals are not following because of conflict of interest, through to denying them access to therapeutic support (to which that child is entitled), that eases the pain and delivers results in supporting emotional and behavioural issues.

I hope one day I can write a happy concluding paragraph to Simon’s life story. We have to wait for a ground swell movement of awareness and action to make that happen.

Doctors and other professionals can  and should be challenged in these areas. There are four basic principles of medical ethics around prescribing these drugs, not to mention the never do harm to anyone of the hypocratic oath.

Further information on this is available from:

Change will only happen with challenge!

There are many wonderful and powerful alternatives to medication available today. HET: Holistic Educational Therapy, is one of them. Medication should only EVER be prescribed as a last resort after all other approaches are exhausted and then only if the child is presenting as a danger to him/herself and others.

Researching these issues and implementing safe and natural alternatives has been a career spanning nearly 30 years for me. This research is NOW available alongside materials and resources I have developed with other leading professionals in their field.

This information is NOW available from my introductory  book: “How to manage behaviour problems in children through the HET Journey”, by Linda Porter B.A.Cert.Ed.,MIPTI, BFRP, MACTA, Dip.Phy., FMHET and a series of books representing a step by step practical programme proven to turn around undesirable behaviours in children and young people without the need for damaging medication.

This is all available and downloadable right NOW from Amazon Kindle.


I am at this time unable to do more to help Simon. The parties involved have closed ranks. All I can do is to write this article and shed light on this unacceptable abuse metered out by those who are paid to care and protect children like this. When enough people challenge this, it will change!

Please be part of writing a final paragraph as a happy ending for Simon and others in his situation.

Anyone wanting more information on this or help with dealing with behavioural challenges or have a story to add to the ‘CHALLENGE’ or who knows of someone who is one of the ‘one in five children’ around the world who are currently enduring this abuse, please contact me.

Please click below to a series of links which support the information given in this article

My book on (USA)

My book on (UK)

About HET

We are about helping children cope with their behaviour problems without having to take medication.

Press Contact

Linda Porter
44 7970 052047

Image Gallery