ADHD: What you need to know

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that affects many South Africans. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Broadly speaking, there are three main symptoms that characterise ADHD. They all affect a child’s behaviour and learning. They are over-activity, impulsiveness and inattention. There are also different presentations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There is significant variation between the symptoms of the different types of the disorder. They can range from excessive energy to a quiet, almost disorientated state of mind. Being very disorganised can also be a symptom of certain forms of ADHD.

Five percent (5%) of South African children are affected by ADHD. This means that one in twenty children in this country struggle with this disorder in some form. There are also approximately 1 million adults in South Africa who live with this daily.

America sees about eleven percent of children diagnosed with ADHD. For over 75% of people with ADHD in childhood, this will be a lifelong condition.

Wasn’t ADHD called ADD a few years ago? What’s the difference?

As more research takes place, our knowledge grows. This also means that conditions are identified and labelled with greater precision. The current official term for the disorder we are discussing is ADHD. In the 1980’s the official term was ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). 

Currently there are three recognised presentations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The first is a combined presentation, where both symptoms of impulsivity and inattention are present. Then there is the predominant presentation of inattentiveness. This is where the main symptoms displayed are inattention and disconnection. The third category is the hyperactive-impulsive presentation.

It is also recognised that an individual’s presentation can change in their lifetime.

What are the main symptoms of each presentation of ADHD?

It must be stated that the symptoms of ADHD might sound common to many people. We all might have difficulty sitting still on occasion. Everyone has struggled to pay attention to a particular subject or performance. And everyone has been impulsive at some point in their lives. But for people with ADHD these problems are pervasive. They are also incredibly persistent.

For someone with ADHD these are not just occasional scenarios. They will be so common to the person that they interfere with every aspect of their lives. ADHD becomes a problem at their work or place of learning, while at home or while socialising in public.

We will very briefly consider the symptoms of each of the main presentations of ADHD. Symptoms can change over time. This means that children might fight different presentations at different ages.

ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation

This is arguably the presentation that most people associate with ADHD. Children who present this way will intrude upon and/or interrupt others. They have difficulty taking turns. Waiting is something that they truly struggle with. They might talk excessively, even to the point where others find it difficult to get a word in. These children find it hard to wait for a question to be asked in its entirety before blurting out the answer.

They have great difficulty staying seated and will often squirm in the chair. There is a lot of fidgeting with their hands. There is excessive climbing and running about. (Adults are very restless.) Working quietly is very tough for these learners.

This presentation of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been described as if being driven by a motor. 

ADHD predominantly inattentive presentation

These children are forgetful when it comes to daily activities. They are very easily distracted. These students will lose things and have difficulty with organisation. Tasks that need sustained mental effort are disliked and maybe even avoided altogether. These learners struggle to follow instructions and appear not to listen generally. Sustained attention is very difficult. Careless mistakes are often made and close attention is almost impossible to give.

ADHD combined presentation

These children show enough of both types of presentation to be classified as combined ADHD presentation.

But my child is not hyperactive!

All forms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are labelled as such. This is the official medical term for these disorders. Even if someone is not hyperactive, they can fall within the categories described above. They will then be given the formal diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Hyper active child - ADHD

How severe can the symptoms be?

Symptoms range from mild, to moderate, to severe.

Children with mild symptoms function quite well in social and school settings. The symptoms are only prevalent enough for a diagnosis to be made.

Severe symptoms can mean a few things. There can be definite impairment in social and/or school scenarios. Several symptoms might be particularly acute. Many symptoms would be present beyond the minimal requirement to make a diagnosis.

For those with moderate symptoms, they fall between these two categories.

Is it true that children with ADHD are more likely to have other disorders as well?

Unfortunately this is very true. Over 60 percent of children with ADHD have at least one other disorder. While any condition can occur alongside Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, some seem to occur more often than others. These include learning disabilities, sleep disorders, anxiety as well as conduct and oppositional defiant disorders. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the more common co-occurring disorders.

These make emotional, academic and behavioural problems all the more complex.

Hundreds of thousands of children are not given the help they need

ADHD is often dismissed as nothing more than a behavioural problem. This means that children with the very real challenges we have seen above are saddled with unfair labels. They are often called naughty, un-teachable or lazy. Even adults with ADHD are dismissed as incompetent or lacking focus.

In a traditional classroom setting, it is very unlikely that the child with ADHD can manage. They often have not acquired the skills to cope with their own challenges to begin with. School is challenging even for children without any inherent learning complications. Coupling the intrinsic struggles that come with schooling with the issues of ADHD is a disastrous combination. These children need specific help that they are not getting.

How can these children be helped?

It is essential that the correct diagnosis be established. An effective treatment plan that takes all the symptoms and accompanying disorders into account is needed.

Japari provides the environment for children with ADHD to thrive

As we have seen, ADHD is a complex condition. Its exact causes are unknown and its presentation is widely varied. Individual children with ADHD also bring their own challenges to the equation.

These and other factors all show that learners with this condition need specialised attention. Many brilliant children with ADHD do not achieve their full potential. A traditional classroom is not equipped to address their special needs.

Japari is a school that meets the specific needs of its students. We offer a small-group teaching setting. Our teachers have the skills to effectively teach learners with ADHD and can give these students the guidance they need. Our students learn how to absorb the content of their lessons. We also equip the children themselves with the skills to navigate life and thrive.

Japari is also able to offer professional assessments. If you are concerned that your child might have ADHD, we can assist. Let a professional tell you that there is nothing to worry about. Or, we are there to help you deal with a real case of ADHD.

We offer year-round enrolment, so there is no need to delay. We would love to meet you and your children to discuss how we can help to see them grow and flourish.

Call today to arrange to meet the staff and see our facilities. Your child is wonderful and we would love to teach them.

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