child looking up at tree with flowers

ADHD – misunderstood or over-diagnosed?

Currently, there is much debate within both educational and medical forums with regard to the number of children and adolescents who are being diagnosed and medicated for ADHD.

Research has shown that it has become increasingly more frequent since the Covid lockdown for children and adolescents to be diagnosed with ADHD.

The British Medical Journal defines the condition as:

“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common childhood-onset disorder characterised by inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity demonstrated across 2 or more settings (such as home and school).

Several inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive symptoms must be present prior to 12 years of age, and 60% to 70% of patients have persistent functional impairment into adulthood.

Diagnosed by clinical history, which should include information from multiple sources, including parents, caregivers, and teachers.”

It is the diagnosis, treatment and ongoing monitoring of treatment via medication that medical experts and schools have recently questioned in direct relation to the notably higher percentage of children being diagnosed and medicated.

As an experienced educationalist, it is obvious to me that children do not like to remain still, can be fidgety and unfocused at times. However, children with ADHD are notably different. One can noticeably observe in these children their hyperactivity, inability to concentrate or control their impulsivity.

Medical research has defined three types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and that an accurate diagnosis is the result of symptoms that have manifested themselves over a period of time.

ADHD research has defined that it begins in childhood under the age of 12. However, diagnosis can be at any age past this. Symptoms must have been present in more than one setting for ADHD to be diagnosed, such as occurring both at home and at school.

  • Inattentive ADHD is when it is challenging for a child to stay on task, focus or organise themselves as one would expect for their age.
  • Hyperactive ADHD is diagnosed when there are excessive continuous movements as in excessive energy, nonstop fidgeting or the inability to sit still.
  • Combined ADHD is a combination of both Inattentive and Hyperactive ADHD.

ADHD is normally diagnosed by a paediatrician with an accompanying psychiatric evaluation from a medical specialist as several other conditions can mistakenly be diagnosed as ADHD.

ADHD treatment usually involves a combination of therapy and medication. It is vital for the condition to be continuously monitored in all situations. There has been a worrying reported trend that researchers and schools have observed of medication/therapy not to be updated or for parents to administer their own dosages as doctors have been difficult to see or appointments have been cancelled.

This has resulted in erratic behaviour, highly emotional outbursts and even children being excessively drowsy both in schools and at home.

It is, therefore, vital that children receive an accurate diagnosis and carefully prescribed and monitored medication and assistance. Schools can help provide information with regard to a child’s behaviour and challenges that they face in school. However, a diagnosis must always be obtained from an expert in the field. Scientists have yet to ascertain the exact cause of ADHD, although they have found that it is genetic and can and often does affect several members in a family.

If you are concerned about certain behaviour that your child is displaying at home, speak with the school and find out if it is being repeated there. If that is the case, make an appointment to see your paediatrician. An early and accurate diagnosis will ensure that your child is given the help that is always available.

Access to a vast range of learning strategies and aids can and should be used to ensure that every child feels secure and supported in their learning journey and enabled to make positive progress.

What is essential is that experts are listened to, and the correct procedures followed by all to ensure that our children are given both the appropriate diagnosis and support.

Being different gives the world colour!

By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé