Focus: Understanding ADHD

5.2 million children in the US alone suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One of those many children went on to make history this month as the most-decorated Olympian ever - Michael Phelps. But behind every success story like Phelps, there are countless cases of children who never got a chance to reach their potential. With a culture of pumping medicines to address the issue - global use of medications nearly tripled from 1993 to 2003 according to US’s National Institute of Mental Health - we ask if ADHD is completely misunderstood.

Image Credit: Reuters
US swimmer Michael Phelps with his gold medal for the 4x100m medley relay at the London Olympics.
Gulf News

15:05 Gulf News: Do we even understand the condition of ADHD?

3:06 Asha Mathew: ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioural disorder among children.

3:08 Akshaya Parthasarathy: It’s a sad fact that the awareness level is very low. There may be a few who know about the condition, but on a large scale, there are many who are not familiar with it.

3:09 Apoorva Arya: According to me, no. This is because most people are not aware of what ADHD really is. Many a times, children under the age of seven display hyper-activity or less attentiveness, so people consider it to be a normal thing.

3:11: Gulf News: Do psychiatrists simply prefer pumping children with medication instead of providing proper care?

3:11 Asha Mathew: I have personally seen many children who are suffering from ADHD, but have not been diagnosed or aren’t getting proper help because of their parents’ refusal to accept.

3:11 Sumanta Kumar Banerjee: [According to a paper released by] University of Texas in Austin, their psychologist David Gilden’s research findings suggest the underlying problem doctors have diagnosing ADHD may be in recognising that it’s not an issue of attention, but rather a problem of timing. According to his research, people with ADHD have a much quicker sense of the here and now, such as the moment it takes to thread together two sentences in a classroom lecture. This timing glitch often causes them to fall out of sync with the rest of the world.

3:11 Shivshankar K.T.: It is a common practice that the children facing ADHD are medicated in order to make them sober. This is not a permanent solution. Children with such disorders should be given extra care. There should be somebody always with them and the best way is to understand them and then react. At no stage should the caretakers get irritated and the person who is handling should have enough awareness and patience to deal with this type of a condition.

3:12 Salim Mohammad: I agree. School managements should have more patience, before taking a decision that will affect the child’s future, as it may even lead to the child being rejected admission to other schools. The Ministry of Education should be involved in this and ask school managements the correct reason for rejecting admission to a child. Just because the school can’t take care of a child doesn’t mean that he should be expelled.

3:12 Sumanta Kumar Banerjee: Unfortunately, psychiatrists are often confused with psychologists and psychoanalysts. Psychiatrists are physicians who have advanced training in psychiatry. As physicians, they can prescribe medication. Psychologists have either master’s degrees or doctorates in psychology. They are not physicians and cannot prescribe drugs or perform surgery. The problem lies in the understanding and then followed by the treatment – how they perceive the problem and based on that whether they prescribe medication instead of [holistic] care, which probably might have been required more than the medication. Legendary Olympian Michel Phelps is one such example.

3:13 Akshaya Parthasarathy: A 2005 government survey done in the US found that just 11 per cent of psychiatrists provided talk therapy to patients, a share that had been falling for years and has most likely fallen more since.

3:14 Asha Mathew: Counselling parents is especially vital as they have to guide and support their children.

3:14 Anureet Kaur: I think we need more of a holistic treatment approach. Why would you keep giving a child medication? We need to remember that medication is like a temporary painkiller. It cannot cure the problem in the long run. And how long will you let a child get ‘addicted’ to medicines?

3:14 Salim Mohammad: I know people with the condition, but at times even the doctors come to wrong conclusions. Based only on some of the symptoms, they come to the conclusion that it is ADHD. Also, at times, children not only require medication but also love and affection from parents, which might help them control their behaviour to an extent.

3:15 Asha Mathew: Medical intervention ought to be the last intervention – there is behavioural therapy, counselling and classroom modification. We need to modify the surrounding, make it comfortable for the child.

3:15 Gulf News: Are governments doing enough to provide support to children who face these challenges?

3:17 Shivshankar K.T.: Governments should make available the details of all the support they are providing, so that everyone knows where to go. This is very important as I have seen people confused on what to do if their children are suffering from ADHD.

3:18 Apoorva Arya: The first important step to be taken by the government is to spread awareness. To be very honest, I myself wasn’t aware of this syndrome until this debate topic was given. Once, parents of these children are aware, they will support the treatment of their children and many more success stories can be created!

3:18 Akshaya Parthasarathy: As said in the news article (“What can athletes with ADHD, such as Michael Phelps, teach us about the condition?”, Gulf News, August 3), there are many athletes who still remain silent. I personally believe that those affected stay quiet as such a disorder is often frowned upon. Definitely if the government takes the necessary measures it will be a breakthrough for these children. They could channel the energy with their talent and it would create many more success stories.

3:19 Asha Mathew: At home there shouldn’t be comparisons, similarly at school, too. First of all, we need to understand that the child isn’t responsible for the way he or she behaves – sometimes they cannot control their emotions or actions.

3:19 Shivshankar K.T.: Schools can play a major role in supporting children who are facing this problem. They can have specially trained teachers to handle them. In schools, these children need to be monitored all the time. At the same time they will get an opportunity to mingle with other children. This will also help create a lot of awareness about ADHD among other children.

3:20 Akshaya Parthasarathy: There is actually a pre-teen book series by author Rick Riordan. It is based on mythology and the heroes in the novels are displayed to have ADHD, which the author describes to help them in reflex actions. Such a positive outlook is what society needs.

3:21 Salim Mohammad: Why always start from the government? We could start from our own houses, from the parents, teachers and elders – from person to person. If we can give them a little extra care and consideration, that would be enough.

3:22 Sumanta Kumar Banerjee: We need to take the cue from the research of American psychologist David Gilden, where he suggests that the underlying problem doctors have diagnosing ADHD may be in recognising that it’s not an issue of attention, but rather a problem of timing. According to his research, people with ADHD have a much quicker sense of the here and now, such as the moment it takes to thread together two sentences in a classroom lecture. This timing glitch often causes them to fall out of sync with the rest of the world. This really requires the earliest possible diagnosis, along with the required support apart from the medication. Probably that can bring results.

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