Petrina Francis, Staff Reporter
Participants attending the National Conference on Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder in deep concentration at the Jamaica Conference Centre on May 19. - JUNIOR DOWIE/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
DR. AUDREY Pottinger, consultant at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) says environmental factors such as crime and violence can exacerbate Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.
ADHD is a behavioural condition in which children have difficulties paying attention and focusing on tasks. This disorder begins in early childhood and can continue into adulthood and if not recognised and treated, can lead to problems at home, school and work and with relationships.
Dr. Pottinger noted that while properly-designed studies have not been conducted to identify the rate of ADHD in Jamaica, small samples have shown that about 15 to 25 per cent of Jamaicans are affected by ADHD.
She noted that when those figures are compared to other small samples in the United States of America, the level of ADHD in Jamaica is higher. "This is because our society is a little violent one and quite traumatic and stressful."
Speaking with The Gleaner last Friday following the second national conference on ADHD, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre downtown Kingston, Dr. Pottinger said there were three main symptoms of ADHD. These are inattentiveness, impulsivity and excess energy levels. Dr. Pottinger said these factors are likely to affect the academic achievement of children.
POLICIES AND GUIDELINES
She noted that while teachers are informed about ADHD in college, there seems to be a disconnect between having the knowledge and implementing activities to assist the ADHD child.
To this end, Dr. Pottinger is urging the Ministry of Education and Youth to develop clear policies and guidelines on how to deal with ADHD children.
Dr. Leslie Rouder, director of disability services at Barry University in Florida, told the gathering that if children with ADHD are not treated, the society will suffer in the long run.
In her remarks, Dr. Judith Lieba, paediatrician in the Ministry of Health said her ministry is moving to get ADHD medications on the National Health Fund (NHF) so more parents would be able to access the drugs for their children at a reduced rate.
Dr. Pottinger, who also has a private practice, told The Gleaner that this is an excellent idea because parents complain that the medications are too expensive.