There is growing concern over the increasing use of Ritalin which is matched with the spiralling numbers of children diagnosed with ADHD. Ritalin is a Class 2 amphetamime and has a similar effect to cocaine. There are concerning reports that the tablets are now being traded in school playgrounds etc. As well as having the stimulant effect of other amphetamines, they are being used by girls as appetite suppressants.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Is a developmental disorder
- Is often hereditary
- Affects children at all stages of education.
- Estimates suggest it could be as common as 3-6% of the school population
- The Hyperactive-Impulsive type is more common in boys
- Can be co-morbid with other disorders
What to look out for:
It should be noted that many children show weak concentration, act without thinking or become over-excited at times. However there are some children whose difficulties are exceptional in relation to inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity. These difficulties impinge on their learning and the children themselves are often unable to control them.
Some typical manifestations of ADHD include the following:
The child doesn’t seem to be able to control his activities or attention. He/she has poor concentration, finds it hard to settle down and is always on the go. He/she is not good at organizing things, finds it hard to take part in anything requiring sustained effort and will not wait for others. He/she often acts or speaks without thinking; has difficulty following instructions or completing tasks.
The behaviour will occur in more than one situation, e.g. at home and at school. He/she may also have poor sleep patterns and difficulties interacting socially. Due to his/her inattention he/she often underachieves and reading difficulties are common, although his/her academic ability can be low, average or high.
The diagnostic criteria for ADHD are those found in DSM-IV (APA, 1994). Diagnosis depends on observation of behaviour and there is no one single test to aid with diagnosis. Often teachers, parents, educational psychologists, paediatricians, GPs and/or psychiatrists are all involved in making reports but the final diagnosis is usually made by a paediatrician or child psychiatrist.
The DSM-IV (APA, 1994) has suggested that there are three types of ADHD:
- ADHD (Inattentive type)
- ADHD (Hyperactive-Impulsive type)
- ADHD (Combined type)
1. Medication: Ritalin and Dexamphetamine are used as stimulants to increase the neurotransmitter levels in the brain. The effects only last for about fourhours and it is likely that the medication will need to be administered during the school day according to the school policy. The first dose is usually given after breakfast as these medicines tend to decrease appetite when present in the body. By waiting till after breakfast the child will not lost their appetite for an important pre-school meal. Since these are stimulants, some children will experience insomnia if they are given more than two doses per day.
Questions to consider (Post your comments below):
- In your experience is there now a greater acceptance of ADHD among teachers than in the past in NI/Rep of Ireland?
- Do some common myths about ADHD persist among some teachers/in society? (e.g. that ADHD is due to poor parenting)