Have you recently been told that your child may battle to concentrate, is easily distracted, can’t seem to sit still or listen to the teacher?   Is your first thought, “What now…?  Will he or she need medication?”   Dr Richard Matthis shares his thoughts on the subject.

There are many possible causes for this type of behaviour in primary school children.  These include anxiety, depression, central auditory processing disorder, learning disabilities.  However, ADHD, although not the most common, is often presumed to be responsible.

The first step in helping your child is to get a thorough assessment.  Any of these disorders may be responsible or even coexist.  A multi-disciplinary approach involving an educational psychologist, occupational therapist, audiologist and dietitian is therefore imperative.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder effecting 8 % of children.  The cause is often genetic and not due to poor parenting or family stress.

There are 3 clinically diagnosable sub-types: 

Predominantly inattentive (previously known as ADD); Predominantly hyperactive: and mixed.  All 3 require a holistic approach to treatment.

ADHD essentially affects the child’s ability to self-regulate.

  • The inability to inhibit unnecessary thoughts causes distraction.
  • The inability to inhibit unwanted movement causes hyperactivity.
  • The inability to inhibit a response causes impulsivity.
  • The inability to inhibit emotions causes extreme mood swings and tantrums.

Treatment involves behaviour therapy and/or medication. Behaviour therapy has two parts to it.

  1.  The first part involves implementing supportive measures to assist your child in coping with the daily challenges caused by ADHD.  These include following a daily routine which helps your child focus on what needs to be done, as well as measures taken to reduce the surrounding distractions in their work space.  Basically, supplying a scaffolding to help them accomplish what needs to be done.
  2.  The second part is encouraging more functional behaviour by implementing a system of rewards and removing privileges.

Finally, understanding ADHD will empower parents to manage it more effectively, levelling the playing fields so their child is able to prosper like their counterparts.

Dr Richard Matthis (MBChB)
T: 031 566 4520
E: richard@drmatthis.co.za

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