Enter a kindergarten classroom and you’re likely to see a highly energetic, disruptive pre-schooler, who’s difficult to control.
When a child is inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive, there are two extremes which are generally manifested; it’s either attributed to a temporary phase in growing-up years and is ignored or the child is put on instant medication after being diagnosed of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
While there is rising concern in Western countries that childhood is being over-medicalised due to ADHD misdiagnosis, India is on the other end of the spectrum where the problem, more often than not, goes unacknowledged.
There is a middle ground, according to experts, that should be adopted – where ADHD is recognised and handled with therapy instead of drugs in milder cases, or even pre-empted by channelising the excess energy kids have.
Misdiagnosis, Medication and Therapy - the Grey Area
ADHD is a mental disorder and can be easily spotted in kids suffering from it.
If the child is very restless, fidgety and cannot concentrate on enjoyable things or on studies, that’s when doubts arise and it needs to be assessed whether the child has ADHD or not.Dr Sumant Khanna, Delhi-based consultant psychiatrist
It may be missed in very mild cases and is obvious in severe cases, he added. It’s the grey area in between where one has to be careful.
The situation may persist and today adult ADHD is also recognised, but the symptoms have to be there in early childhood and would be clear before the age of seven.
In a lot of cases, the severity isn’t that much that it requires medication and therapy would easily address the situation. But an over-diagnosis or over-assessment of ADHD can be seen in many situations which leads to unnecessary prescription of chemicals that a child doesn’t need.Dr Geet Oberoi, Special Educator
Occupational therapy, which employs a string of physical activities for the child to engage in, is the most common and effective in dealing with ADHD.
Let Kids be Kids and Channelise the Excess Energy
The children today are increasingly consuming preservatives, junk food and cold drinks which increases their sugar intake leading to excess energy.
This excess energy in kids is not being utilised, with schools and education system in India requiring kids to be confined to a desk from a very early age. We need to let kids be kids and let them be physically active to channelise that energy.Sudeshna Nath, Senior School Counsellor, DPS Ghaziabad
With kids being glued to computers, TV screens and mobile phones from an early age, they are no longer seen engaging in physical activities and running around in playgrounds.
We can reduce the current number of ADHD cases by almost half if we just let the kids channelise that energy into productive acitivities, adds Sudeshna Nath.
Ignorance Can Lead to Bigger Emotional Issues
If the problem is not addressed, ADHD can lead to other psychiatric illnesses, says Dr Khanna.
The parents and teachers need to recognise the importance of effectively dealing with the cases, otherwise the situation can escalate into bigger emotional issues.
If the child is in a scenario where the teachers or parents don’t understand them, and is reprimanded for something that they cannot help then slowly with time this might lead to depression and affect their self-esteem.Dr Geet Oberoi
There is an urgent need to bring this into conversation, change the status quo and start addressing that there is a problem in the first place.
At the same time, misdiagnosing ADHD cases and straightaway resorting to medication instead of therapies which can go a long way is also harmful.
A balance is required while keeping in mind that the way it’s dealt with affects the most crucial formative stage in a person’s life, childhood.