Childhood ADHD – Luke’s story
In the final part of her ADHD series, Dr Sabina Dosani, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Clinical Partner London, introduces Luke, a patient she was able to help with his ADHD.
ADHD is one of the most common diagnoses for children in the UK and it is thought that 1 in 10 children will display some signs. For some children, their ADHD is severe and can have a huge impact on their ability to engage in school and to build and sustain relationships. Left untreated, evidence shows that those with ADHD are more likely to get into car accidents, engage in criminal activity and may struggle to keep a job or maintain relationships.
Luke, aged six, gets into trouble a lot at school. His mother gets called by his teacher three or four times a week for incidents of fighting, kicking and running in corridors. He is unable to finish his work and becomes quickly distracted. At home, he seems unable to sit still for any length of time, has had several falls when climbing trees and needs endless prompts to tidy his toys.
At school, he annoys his classmates by his constant interruptions, however if he has one-to-one attention from a student teacher who happens to be in his class on a placement he is able to settle and finish the work set. His father was said to have been a ‘lively’ child, then a ‘bright underachiever’ who occasionally fell foul of the law.
The school thought a visit to the GP might be a good idea. At the GP surgery, Luke ran and jumped about making animal noises. He swung on the back legs of a chair and took the batteries out of an ophthalmoscope. He was referred to a me for an assessment.
After a careful assessment, which included collecting information from school, questionnaires and observations of Luke, a diagnosis of ADHD was made. Following a discussion of the treatment options, the family decided they did not want any medication.
The first-line treatment for school‑age children and young people with severe ADHD and severe impairment is drug treatment. If the family doesn’t want to try a pharmaceutical, a psychological intervention alone is offered but drug treatment has more benefits and is superior to other treatments for children with severe ADHD.
Luke's mother was asked to list the behaviours that most concern her. She was encouraged to accept others like making noises or climbing as part of Luke’s development as long as it is safe.
Now, when Luke fights, kicks others or takes risks like running into the road he is given “time-out” which isolates him for a short time and allows him and his parents or teacher to calm down. To reduce aggression and impulsivity, Luke is taught to respond verbally rather than physically and channel energy into activities such as sports or energetic percussion playing.
Over time, Luke’s parents have become skilled at picking their battles. Home is more harmonious. They fenced their garden, fitted a childproof gate and cut some branches off a tree preventing him climbing it. His parents are concerned about Luke’s use of bad language. They have been supported to allow verbal responses as a short-term interim. Whilst these might be unacceptable in other children they are preferable to physical aggression.
At school, Luke is less aggressive, has a statement of special educational need and now works well with a classroom assistant. He has been moved to the front of the class, where the teacher can keep a close eye on him, and given one task at a time. He is given special tasks, like taking the register to the school office, so he can leave class without being expected to sit still for long periods.
Through parental training, Luke’s parents have been able to help Luke work with his challenges to better manage them. As Luke grows and develops and as he faces new challenges in life, Luke may need to revisit the efficacy of ADHD medication. His parents now feel a lot more confident in being able to help Luke and he is a happier child and more settled.