A Lisburn principal fears a worrying number of children are not achieving their potential thanks to a lack of support for those affected by ADHD.
Largymore Primary School Head and one-time Ulster Teachers’ Union president, Gillian Dunlop, said that despite “a 50% rise in the use of drugs for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in six years” (as identified in England) children here were still not getting the support they needed in school.
“In 20 years,” she said, “ADHD moved from an American myth to a recognised issue, but support is still lacking.
“This rise in the use of drugs for children affected by ADHD has been cited by the Care Quality Commission in England, but there is little doubt that the situation is any different here.
“ADHD does not stop at the coast.”
The National Health Service defines ADHD as a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Common symptoms include a short attention span or being easily distracted, restlessness, constant fidgeting or overactivity and being impulsive.
Symptoms tend to be first noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child’s circumstances change, such as when they start school.
Most cases are diagnosed in children between the ages of six and 12.
Although more common in people with learning difficulties, ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability.
Ms Dunlop said the budget cuts forced upon schools impacted on their ability to support pupils affected by a condition the true extent of which might be even greater than was currently believed.
“With up to five per cent (NHS Choices) of the population affected by the condition,” she said, “ that means in a class of 30 pupils a teacher could be coping with at least one child with the specialised learning requirements of ADHD, and possibly without the help of a classroom assistant, as schools are forced to make swingeing cuts.
“However, because the main symptom in girls manifests itself as a lack of concentration, rather than hyperactivity, this may mean the true extent of the condition has in fact been under-estimated.
“A publication from the Consortium of International Scientists reported those with ADHD are 40% more likely not to complete their education, so, if these statistics are extrapolated through the school population here, then that is a worryingly high incidence of children not achieving anywhere near their potential.”