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How to spot the difference?...

The Deputy Head Teacher at Rossendale School in Lancashire, discusses Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and what to consider when placing a child with the condition in a school.

It’s in a child’s nature to push boundaries, especially with parents, relatives and even teachers. Misbehaving, being naughty, "playing up", having a "mad half hour" are all part of growing up and learning... but when does it go beyond this? Some children may always seem "out of control" and for a proportion of these it may be down to the mental health condition ADHD.

ADHD is the most common behavioural disorder in the UK, with approximately 2-5% of school-aged children and young people affected by the symptoms. According to the young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds, around 132,000 children and young people have severe ADHD. 

How to spot the difference

A lot of children may behave badly for a number of reasons, whether they’re "showing off" in front of friends in the classroom, feeling upset or overtired. The difference between misbehaving and ADHD  is that children with ADHD show symptoms such as aggression and frustration over a longer period of time, and this may eventually lead to problems in a child’s ability to function at school, at home and with friends. 

Parents can usually notice problems with their child’s behaviour around the ages of 3 or 4; both at home and in a social environment, such as a playgroup. 

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Fidgeting
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Lack of concentration
  • Talking a lot
  • Lack of fear
  • Difficulty staying seated for a long period of time

It is important to note that ADHD is not linked to intelligence although developmental skills may be slower than the average child. 

Is there a cure?

There is no short term fix for ADHD. It is a lifelong condition, although signs of hyperactivity may reduce over time.  It is therefore important that all parents, teachers and the young person themselves, understand how the condition can affect the way they function and respond in the classroom, playground and in the community.  The effective management of the condition is vital in enabling children and young people to cope with the demands of everyday life.

Avoiding school failure

The influence a school placement has on a child’s life is very significant, as school experiences affect the way we learn, socialise and establish pathways for the future. Children with ADHD are at increased risk of failure at school, having mental health difficulties and problems accessing further education courses or employment.

The right school placement is crucial. Parents should consider the following when looking at schools:

  • Do the management team know about and how it affects young people in school? It is important that understanding and support comes from the very top.
  • How much training do teachers in the school get on ADHD?
  • Does the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) ensure that all staff understand the needs of children with ADHD and how to manage these in the learning environment?
  • Is there strong pastoral support where young people can develop sound, trusting relationships with particular members of staff?
  • Are social skills taught within the school?
  • Does the curriculum to enable all children to develop control over responses, the awareness of individual needs and how to support those in difficulty?
  • Do the school have ‘chill out’ spaces or the awareness to allow hyperactive pupils an exercise break, without reprisal?
  • If children are on medication, do staff understand how this works?
  • Does the school have strong and regular links with parents, providing positive feedback on progress? Does this feedback discuss all aspects of progress including academic, social, emotional and behavioural?
  • Does the school provide parents with access to support groups outside the school environment?

Raising levels of achievement for young people with ADHD depends upon how the condition is managed. Effectively supporting the child so that they feel understood and motivated to engage fully in school is crucial. Focus on the positives to raise self esteem and self belief.

Where can I find more information?

The ADHD Foundation is a great source of information for professionals who work with young people with, as well as parents and young people themselves. Their website offers the latest neurological developments and methods used to help young people, parents and families live successful and happy lives.

For more details on Aspris Children's Services, please call 0118 970 8068 or click here to make an enquiry.