Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is misnamed, says Jill Whalan.
The problem for people with ADHD is not that they have a deficit of attention but rather too much of it – their brain is paying attention to so many things they can’t concentrate on one.
The director of CityLife Community Initiatives, Mrs Whalan helped develop ‘‘Being Me’’, a program for primary school-aged children with ADHD. Mrs Whalan has personal experience of how ADHD can affect individuals and families as one of her sons has the disorder.
CityLife ran a Being Me pilot program in the July school holidays and after positive feedback from participants will be running another program over three days next week.
Being Me aims to improve the children’s social and communication skills while helping them to understand themselves better.
‘‘Children with ADHD tend to be socially inept,’’ Mrs Whalan said.
‘‘They are usually about two or three years behind in their social development and their ability to interact with peers in an appropriate way.
‘‘One of the things that often happens is they do really silly things which means they are either picked on by their peers or are socially isolated.
‘‘We wanted to do something that would help them address who they are individually and to understand that they are still valuable and important.’’
Between 6 and 10per cent of the population has ADHD, which Mrs Whalan describes as a neurological disorder affecting the brain’s executive functions.
Children with ADHD are often seen as naughty or disruptive, but often don’t understand why they get in trouble.
‘‘They are very impulsive which is what gets them into trouble at school,’’ Mrs Whalan said.
‘‘They are yelling out in class, they are walking around. School isn’t really created for them.’’
Dapto mother Amy Williamson, whose daughter Chloe, 9, has been diagnosed with ADHD, attended the Being Me program in July and said it had been a big help to Chloe and the rest of the family.
‘‘Sometimes she can’t control emotions or gets nervous,’’ Mrs Williamson said.
‘‘She’s really bright but she forgets and just getting her to do basic things is hard.
‘‘She can only take one instruction at a time. If you tell her to brush her hair and then get her shoes on she’ll get sidetracked and neither of those things will get done.
‘‘She also has issues sleeping. Her brain is thinking too fast so she can’t calm down.’’
One of the most beneficial aspects of the program, Mrs Williamson said, was that it helped children understand themselves better.
‘‘There are lots of ADHD programs for parents but nothing for the kids.
‘‘If the children understand it themselves it means the parents can work with them better.’’
For more information on the Being Me program call 42844414 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.