The latest #DomIn60Minutes webinar, in conversation with Dr Laura Wade (a clinical psychologist specialising in ADHD), was absolutely fascinating. Parents and teachers alike had a lot of questions for us, and it was helpful to draw out some key points and clarify a few misconceptions along the way.
In this short blog I want to capture some of the key take home messages, whilst acknowledging that ADHD is a vast and complex topic, and the blog will in no way do justice to everything Laura and I talked about!
So if you have a child with a ‘busy brain’ or ‘grasshopper tendencies’, read on!
· ADHD worldwide is common and is thought to affect 5% of children, and about 2-3% of adults.
· It is a condition you are born with (‘neurodevelopmental’) but it can improve naturally with ageing, as the brain develops and changes until we are in our late twenties.
· ADHD is often associated with other issues like anxiety, mood swings, anger outbursts, and alcohol and drug problems. This may be because of the stress of the ADHD, but it’s a complex picture.
· ADHD is a diagnosis made after careful and prolonged assessment by a qualified professional, it is not something that people will be diagnosed with lightly, nor talked of in terms of being ‘a bit ADHD’ any more than someone can be ‘a bit diabetic’.
· ADHD shows itself differently for each affected person. I’m not sure if it helps but I described it as ‘you’re either a zebra (have ADHD), or you’re not a zebra (don’t have ADHD), but the pattern of the stripes will be unique for each zebra’.
· More boys have ADHD than girls, but if girls do have it, they tend towards the symptoms associated with being ‘inattentive’ such as being disorganised, careless with work, staring out of the window/ losing focus, late, forgetful, and messy. Boys can have all of these and are also more likely than girls to have the ‘hyperactive and impulsive’ type, meaning they will fidget, move around and be unable to sit still, will talk constantly or blurt out answers. ‘Busy brains’ and ‘grasshopper legs’.
· We talked about what parents can do at home whilst waiting for assessment or treatment, such as ensuring a regular daily routine (brains love predictability), prioritising sleep, and encouraging exercise.
· If parents think that their child might have ADHD and it is preventing the child from achieving the things they need or want to be doing (making friends, getting good grades, socializing) then they should go to their GP first line. (See my previous blog on Advocating for your Child or Teens Mental Health for more info)
· The key message here being don’t struggle on and please ask for help!
· Parents should also involve the school. (The SENCO is the person to ask for- Special Educational Needs Coordinator)
· Finally we touched on medication- we both agreed that whilst it is never a decision to make lightly, medication can be transformational, it is not addictive, it needs to be started at a low dose to minimise side effects, and different ones exist for minimising specific side effects, such as being an appetite suppressant if the young person also has eating issues.
· And finally, if your young person is about to transfer from children’s ADHD services to adult, do NOT stop their medication, as they might struggle to get any more during the transfer (which can take months). If they’re off to uni, make sure they take a supply with them, for similar reasons.
I hope that this is a useful summary, it was a brilliant discussion, and Laura was a wonderful guest. Watch out for my next webinar, coming soon!