Creating awareness about ADHD

OFTEN mislabelled as naughty, moody and undisciplined, many children with a common neurological condition, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) filed into East London schools earlier this year.

“Many people are not aware of the condition, so ADHD is often wrongly perceived as naughtiness or moodiness, with a lack of discipline, especially in townships as the information on ADHD is not readily available, ” Afrika Tikkun’s subject matter expert in Early Childhood Development (ECD), Vanessa Mentor, said.

Founded in 1995, Afrika Tikkun is an international NGO operating in five townships in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

It has established Cradle to Career centres within these townships, with the aim of providing holistic development and empowering young people.

Part of the organisation’s Early Childhood Development programme focuses on teaching parents and teachers about ADHD by introducing occupational therapists into classrooms and equipping teachers with skills to help them detect children suffering from it.

“Teachers must be equipped with the necessary understanding and must know how to involve these children in the classroom curriculum.

“Parental support is a crucial component in any successful treatment programme.”

Although the organisation’s concern and focus on South African rural areas is substantiated, former East London educational psychologist Don Junor, says there are, of course, children with ADHD in both rural and urban areas.

“I believe that modern life, both rural and urban, does not help to inculcate children with good concentration and attention spans. Immediate gratification, impatience, lack of routines and home tasks leave so many children with a kind of ‘free range’ attitude, which complicates things when ADHD is involved,” Junor said.

Hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention (difficulty focusing and sustaining attention) are the three primary symptoms that characterise ADHD.

Junor suggests that on top of these characteristics, many children often have unstructured and low demand family dynamics, which is detrimental to any kind of improvement.

“Whether in a free and low demand family dynamic or structured, children need to acquire the ability and patience to do routine or mundane tasks.”

“Mental self-discipline goes a long way in compensating a child with ADHD, and modern life often does not allow for this.”

There are three types of ADHD: the inattentive type, impulsivity – hyperactivity type and a combination type including both.According to Mentor, structure, consistency and clear communication are crucial to treating all ADHD types.

“ADHD can be successfully managed by observant parents who regularly consult with the class teacher and who provide a supportive and structured back – up system in the home.“

Treating ADHD in children requires medical, psychological and educational intervention, as well as behavioural management. Therefore it is vital to use a team approach where both parents and teachers are dedicated to helping their children,” Mentor said.

Afrika Tikkun do not have an established programme in the Eastern Cape and plans on improving their current programmes and centres before venturing to start new ones.

The organisation is, however, willing to support any other organisations that would like to learn from their work.

Teachers or parents of children with ADHD in need of support can contact the Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Support Group of South Africa (ADHASA) at info@ADHASA.co.za. Also visit www.afrikatikkun.org

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