Ecosse ADDers in Falkirk Herald
This is a copy of the article in the Falkirk Herald 29 December 2005
Support adds up
Carers turn for help from local group
NEXT time you come across a parent struggling with a disobedient child, don't judge or dismiss their parenting skills - they may be dealing with an ADHD youngster.
The acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has become ingrained in our everyday language - but many parents, carers and people with the condition find the wider community still don't understand what it all means.
It's estimated five per cent of the population - or more than 250,000 people - have ADHD, many of them undiagnosed.
The condition effects more boys than girls and is normally picked up when children enter formal education and are required to follow instructions and conform to structured lessons.
Many ADHD children find concentrating and sitting still difficult.
When that's coupled with impulsiveness to speak or act at inappropriate times, overactivity and possible mood swings, most troublesome youngsters are blamed on bad parenting.
Shieldhill's Ruth Thomson, leader of Ecosse ADDers, a Scottish support group for people with ADHD, said blaming parents didn't help people's understanding of the condition.
''The biggest challenge is the lack of acceptance that these children have a problem,'' she said.
''The majority of people see the way our children behave and think it's the parents' fault and that they can't handle their children.''
Research is beginning to find genetic links and brain damage, either at or after birth, to be primary causes while one study suggests alcohol, tobacco and cocaine abuse, along with low birth weights are common factors.
While support groups for various conditions are standard, it wasn't until recently that an ADHD group formed in Scotland - until then Ruth and her family had to learn about the condition through trial and error.
Her son Robin, now aged 11, was diagnosed with ADHD nearly six years ago.
Speaking to The Falkirk Herald, Ruth said: ''We had no support locally at all. We became members of an on-line support group (www.adders.org).''
With ADDers based in Kent, getting Scottish-specific information was hard given the different schooling and law.
''They were getting a lot of calls from people in Scotland, so I was approached to see if I wanted to be the contact person,'' Ruth said.
While based in Falkirk and normally dealing with Falkirk parents, carers and children on a day-to-day basis, Ruth is also able to offer support to people right around Scotland.
''The group holds regular support meetings and we help by giving advice and support to parents and older sufferers; that's the main focus of the group,'' she said.
Ruth also fields telephone calls from right scross the country from people looking for advice or just needing someone to talk to.
Ecosse ADDers is also considering starting a group for the siblings of children with ADHD.
''These children are often the ones on the receiving end of the ADHD behaviours,''Ruth said.
''ADHD children require a lot of input into managing their behaviours, so siblings can often be overlooked through no fault of the parents.''
In the past, diagnosis and treatment has been hit and miss with other learning disorders such as dyslexia being mistaken for ADHD, while, in the US in recent times, over-medication and Ritalin have been hot topics.
Ruth said it was important the definitive diagnosis was made by an ADHD specialist.
Locally, children are referred from their GP to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and from there they're involved in the Changing Lanes project which is specifically for ADHD people.
Children are involved in a full screening process and a family history is taken to exclude any medical problems.
Among the current treatments are two main drugs, one of which is a stimulant which can help calm a child almost immediately with effects lasting between four and 12 hours by acting on parts of the brain which control behaviour and attention.
Recently, a non-stimulant drug has become available. It takes around four weeks to kick in.
There's also anecdotal evidence that natural therapies, including fish oils, changing diets and other herbal supplements, can be effective.
Ecosse ADDers provide training and information to other parents and professionals and to keep up with the latest research members need to attend national conferences - all of which is funded from their own pockets.
The group does receive donations from parents and groups it provides ADHD information to.