"The only true disability is the inability to accept and respect differences." Tanya Masse
Find out more about either ADHD or Autism by selecting the link below.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
ADHD is a behavioural disorder that affects up to one in twenty children. It is much more common in boys than girls.
ADHD was once called hyperactivity and more recently Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Now it is recognised that the two major problems faced by children with ADHD are:
- Not paying attention – inattentive
- Doing things without thinking – impulsive
Children with ADHD act without thinking, can be hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what’s expected of them but have trouble following through because they can’t sit still, pay attention, or attend to details.
Of course, all children act this way at times, particularly when they’re anxious or excited. But the difference with ADHD is that symptoms are present over a longer period of time and occur in different settings. They impair a child’s ability to function socially, academically, and at home.
The good news is that with proper help, children with ADHD can learn to successfully live with and manage their symptoms.
Understanding the child with ADHD
Your child with ADHD needs to work much harder than other children at paying attention, being organised, thinking slowly and sitting still. It does not mean that your child has an illness or is not intelligent. It often means that these children feel frustrated and worried about their abilities and what other children will think of them. Many children with ADHD say they do not understand why they behave in this way and sometimes feel out of control or very lonely. The condition is not your child’s fault. The exact cause is still unknown.
Children with ADHD have three main issues. They are:
- Inability to pay attention to details or a tendency to make careless errors in schoolwork or other activities.
- Apparent listening problems.
- Difficulty following instructions.
- Problems with organisation.
- Avoidance or dislike of tasks that require mental effort.
- Tendency to lose things like toys, notebooks, or homework.
- Forgetfulness in daily activities.
- Excessive talking.
- Can have a short fuse.
- Difficulty waiting for a turn or in line.
- Problems with interrupting or intruding.
- Fidgeting or squirming.
- Difficulty remaining seated.
- Excessive running or climbing.
- Difficulty playing quietly.
- Always seeming to be “on the go”.
However, it is important to remember that not all children with ADHD are overactive.
These behaviours are usually much more obvious in children with ADHD than in other children their age. They may occur with a range of other difficulties such as being clumsy and having difficulty in mixing with other children. As a result of these behaviours, children with ADHD usually have difficulty in learning and may not do well at school.
The care of children with ADHD
Because there’s no test that can determine the presence of ADHD, a diagnosis depends on a complete evaluation. The symptoms must be obvious in most areas of your child’s life. General practitioners, paediatricians, child psychologists or child psychiatrists can make this assessment or arrange a referral. There are also various teaching techniques to help your child develop concentration and social skills that can be designed by teachers, psychologists and school counsellors.
Children with ADHD need to be supported at school with an educational programme designed for their specific needs. Parents may also seek counselling for the child or family to support them in their management at home. Medication is often used with children with ADHD and in most cases is highly successful. Extensive studies have shown these medications to be safe and effective. They are not a cure for ADHD but can help your child function better at school and at home. The medication can bring out your child’s natural abilities and help them make use of other learning strategies.
Common questions about ADHD
Will ADHD have long-term effects for my child?
Children do not outgrow ADHD, although many symptoms improve with maturity.
Do certain food types make a difference?
Very few children with ADHD benefit from special restriction diets low in colourings, preservatives and salicylates. It depends very much on the individual child.
How long should medication be continued?
For as long as it remains beneficial – could be a few months or several years.
Coming Soon - “What is autism: an autistic perspective”?
What is Autism?
Autism is classed as a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and others around them. It is typically referred to as autism, autistic spectrum or an autism spectrum condition (though clinicians will often still use disorder). The word ‘spectrum’ was used because, while all autistic individuals share certain areas of difficulty, it will affect them in very different ways.
Autism is lifelong but is by no means a life sentence. It is not a disease that needs to be ‘cured’. With the right support, autistic people can live a happy and fulfilled life.
The language we use to describe autism is really important. CAAS tend to use the term ‘autistic’ rather than ‘has autism’ following research published in the Autism journal in 2015 which looked at the language used. Although there was no single preferred term across individuals, parents/carers and professionals, it found that autistic adults prefer identity-first terms like autistic. It is important for CAAS to reflect that preference in our practice.
The key areas of difference needed to be given a diagnosis of autism are:
Differences in social communication and interaction:
Examples of difficulty with social communication:
- Not being able to speak or being ‘selectively’ mute.
- Difficulty using and understanding appropriate body language/facial expressions or tone of voice.
- Echolalia or repetition of words/phrases.
- A literal understanding of language.
- Wanting to interact but struggling with initiating a conversation or small talk, preferring the conversation to focus on their interest.
Examples of difficulties with social interaction:
- Difficulty reading other people, recognising their feelings or intentions based on context.
- Social anxiety and misunderstanding of unwritten social rules.
- May find it difficult to form or maintain friendships.
Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities including sensory difficulties:
- Some autistic individuals have a strong preference for routine and sameness due to the unpredictability of the world around them. Some may find new and unfamiliar experiences stressful, threatening and confusing.
- Some autistic individuals may have special interests, which can be important for their wellbeing.
- Many autistic people experience the sensory world differently which can cause both pleasure and distress.
What causes autism?
Research suggests that a combination of factors – genetic and environmental – may account for differences in brain development.
There’s no specific test for autism. Diagnosis is based on the observation of behaviours.
There is no cure or medical treatment for autism. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Much support can be put in place to maximise a child’s potential and this is vital to a fulfilling life. Appropriate education, speech/language and occupational therapy are all important.