Final-year UKZN students in the Departments of Occupational and Speech Therapy held an Attention Deficiency Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Workshop for the community of Mariannridge near Durban.
The workshop, which targeted parents or anyone interested in ADHD and other learning disabilities, dealt with intervention strategies to assist children learn, adapt and continue with their everyday activities, in spite of ADHD or any other learning disability.
ADHD is a mental health disorder that can hamper children’s progression at school and their relationships. Children who have ADHD are usually unable to follow instructions, unable to complete tasks (at home and school), and have disruptive behaviour and their performance suffers in school and at home.
ADHD children are sometimes aggressive and may have poor social skills causing stress for their families. Due to lack of knowledge or insight into the condition, parents often handle the situation badly, sometimes leading to the affected children becoming isolated.
A sensory diet is one of the activities designed for an individual child to help modulate their “arousal” level. This is a daily routine that incorporates various calming and organising activities.
Sensory integration is the second technique used by occupational therapists to help those who have a sensory processing disorder. In this technique, the therapist helps to reorganise the child’s sensory system, by applying deep pressure, such as a massage or the use of a weighted vest or blanket. A rhythm and repetition of movements on a swing, trampoline or an exercise ball can be used.
Language-based learning disabilities are problems with age-appropriate reading, spelling, and/or writing. This disorder is not about how intelligent a person is – most of those diagnosed with learning disabilities have average to superior intelligence. The goals of speech and language treatment for the child with a reading problem target the specific aspects of reading and writing that the student is missing.
The Workshop presented the following tips for parents with ADHD children :
- Parents should partner and foster open relations with teachers who have a strong influence over the learning experience of children. This will allow discussion on how their children do, including what progress is being made and what potential problems are developing,
- Parents should become ‘creatures of habit’ by following a set daily routine. They can print a daily schedule and post it where a child can see it, and try to follow it as closely as possible thus encouraging organisational skills and positive habits in children,
- Parents should encourage their children to wear a wristwatch to help them learn to manage time and stick to a schedule, and
- Ensuring a good sleep for children is important. Parents should also be organised and lead by example.
Specific legislation has been enacted over the past several decades to provide specialised academic support and services for children with ADHD and other learning disabilities.
‘Two of those laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), entitle children to a free academic evaluation that determines whether they qualify for special support or even an individualised education programme (IEP), tailored especially for learning-disabled students,’ said Ms Chantel Christopher, the Senior Tutor at UKZN’s Department of Occupational Therapy.