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Old 02-05-12, 01:28 PM
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That 'badly behaved' child may actually have disability

IT'S easy to label a child who constantly misbehaves as a problem child but the truth may be that the child can't help misbehaving, because their problem is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

The genetically-determined condition is thought to afflict around 3 to 7 per cent of school-age children, but it often remains undiagnosed. Only 1 to 2 per cent of children are diagnosed, and many of the remainder don't get appropriate support and exhibit such problem behaviour that they are excluded from school.

In fact, ADDISS, the charity that supports the families of children with ADHD, says that recently it has noticed more ADHD children than ever being excluded from school.

Children with ADHD show disruptive behaviours which can't be explained by any other psychiatric condition, and are more extreme than simple misbehaving.

They have difficulty focusing their attention to complete specific tasks, can be hyperactive and impulsive, and can suffer from mood swings and "social clumsiness".

But the condition doesn't necessarily prevent those who have it from achieving famous people who are said to have, or are thought to have had, ADHD include Mozart, Pablo Picasso, Elvis Presley, Einstein, John F Kennedy, Tom Cruise, Billy Connolly and Justin Timberlake.

"Every school will have some diagnosed children, and lots of undiagnosed children," says Holly Evans, an educational advisor for ADDISS.

She explains that it's particularly children with undiagnosed ADHD that are excluded, as those who've been diagnosed have an "official" disability and shouldn't be excluded under the Equality Act.

She says they still are excluded, but if parents contest the exclusion it's usually winnable at a disability tribunal.

"Children tend to be excluded because teachers don't understand the nature of the condition and think they're being willfully naughty, as opposed to having a disability," she explains.

ADHD is caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the parts of the brain which control impulses and concentration, and genetic and environmental factors.

Problems often arise at school with ADHD children because they're impulsive and emotionally immature.

"They'll get upset with someone, but they can't walk away and because they're impulsive they might hit them," says Evans.

They make the same mistake over and over again, so schools start to feel exasperated as they put interventions in and they look like they're not making any difference.

"They don't understand that children with ADHD need a lot longer for interventions to work."

She explains that those with ADHD don't have the inner voice that tells normally-functioning people how to control their daily life such as by getting to school/work on time, learning from the past, and understanding time periods.

Children with ADHD have a working memory deficit and can't learn from the past, or predict the future.

They may have lots more energy than other children, and while they have difficulty concentrating, they can concentrate on the things they love, a symptom of ADHD called hyper-focusing.

"If teachers understood these difficulties, then they'd change their expectations, and kids with ADHD wouldn't end up in so much hot water," stresses Evans.

She says schools need to have realistic expectations about the interventions they use, which might include specialist cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) programmes, or mentoring.

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