Updated: Apr 10
Starting a new school can be unsettling for both parents and children, so if you plan on helping your child do better at school, it’s best to get clued up early on signs of potential problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Many still believe ADHD only exists in the classroom, and this is far from the truth. ADHD doesn’t keep school hours and is only easier to notice in the classroom because this is one environment in which focus can be a struggle. This disorder requires a holistic treatment plan for long-term management. Without the correct diagnosis and treatment, ADHD can affect your child’s ability to focus severely and as a result can lead to struggling with academics and underperformance throughout your child’s school career. The knock-on effects of this underperformance can have a negative impact on the emotional and social well being of your child, far beyond school hours with lowered self-esteem and confidence issues.
Dr Rykie Liebenberg, psychiatrist and convenor of the ADHD South African Special Interest Group says that teachers should be aware of the very different ways in which ADHD presents in the classroom.
“Most people don’t know that boy and girls present in very different ways if they’re struggling with ADHD, and there is often misdiagnosis as a result,” explains Liebenberg. “Boys’ symptoms are distinctly ‘outward’, whilst girls struggling with the disorder, in contrast, have more ‘inward’ symptoms.” He describes how in a classroom situation, boys with ADHD may draw attention to themselves with rambunctious, uncontrolled behaviour, such as physical aggression, throwing things, jumping and running around. They can also show emotional dysregulation, which is a major impairment throughout life, with outburst. In contrast, girls with ADHD may be withdrawn, prone to daydreaming and even chronically fatigued. “The disruptive behaviour of a boy who might be struggling with ADHD makes it much easier for a teacher or parent to notice, and, hopefully correctly diagnose,” says Liebenberg. Undiagnosed girls with ADHD are, in contrast, often quite well behaved, they just struggle to focus and remember what they’re told.” One trait that can occur in both girls and boys with ADHD, says Liebenberg, is hyperfocus. “A child struggling with undiagnosed ADHD will typically become fixated on one subject or item, to the exclusion of all their other school work.”
Although the classroom is a key environment in which to identify the signs of ADHD, symptoms must present both at home and at school in order for your child to be diagnosed with ADHD. This means if a teacher suspects one of his or her pupils might be showing signs of undiagnosed ADHD, they should consult with the child’s parents immediately.
“The first step is to rule out other factors that could be having an effect on the child’s behaviour at school,” says Liebenberg. “This might be a divorce, abuse or even an ill sibling.” If, however, conditions at home are comparatively normal, and the child is showing similar signs of ADHD at home, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, it’s best for the parents to visit a medical professional to seek a formal diagnosis.
If ADHD is left untreated, it can be crippling for a child trying to navigate an already new, intimidating school environment, says Liebenberg. “Correctly managed, however, a child with ADHD can avoid unnecessary frustration, find focus in the classroom and reach his or her full potential.”
For more information on how boys and girls show ADHD symptoms differently visit: http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/adhd-related-issues/adhd/attention-deficit-signs-boys-girls
SOURCE: Gullan & Gullan