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ADD/ADHD - Thanet ADDers

News From The Department for Education & Employment

Before our meeting with Roger Gale M.P. on 7th March 1997, he wrote to the DfEE, to ask what the department was doing for ADD/ADHD sufferers and the support groups. Lord Henley, as the minister responsible for special educational needs, has now responded as follows:


DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT
SANCTUARY BUILDINGS GREAT SMITH STREET
WESTMINSTER LONDON SW1P 3BT
TELEPHONE 0171 925 5000
LORD HENLEY
Minister of State

Roger Gale Esq MP
House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA

4th March 1997



Thank you for your letter dated 15 February, addressed to Gillian Shephard, which enclosed a letter dated 12 February from Mrs Sarah-Jayne Bass (formerly Caroline Hensby) writing on behalf of Thanet Adders, the support group for parents of children with Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD). Your letter asked what the Department is doing to assist ADHD children. I am replying as the Minister responsible for special educational needs.

ADHD is a condition which has implications for both the education and the health services and which is best dealt with by those services at the local level. The treatment of children with the condition, whether by the prescribing of psychostimulants, diet or behaviour therapy, is a matter for the individual child's GP, paediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist, as the case may be. In the educational sphere it is for the local education authorities (LEAs) and schools to identify and make provision for all pupils with special educational needs including those whose needs arise from ADHD. To assist them in this process the Department published the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs.

ADHD covers a spectrum of behaviour from children with severe hyperactivity to children who are withdrawn and inattentive and, in the majority of cases, the condition presents with 'comorbidities' such as dyslexia or conduct disorder. The Code, by putting the emphasis on identifying each child's particular needs, rather than seeking to label the child with a diagnosis, allows for the diversity of need which can be covered by a condition like ADHD to be provided for. Because of these considerations it would not be right for Ministers to attempt to prescribe what type of educational provision is appropriate for children with ADHD. These are matters to be decided by local professional judgement.

However, the Department is aware of the concerns that are expressed about the possible under identification of ADHD, the educational outcomes of children with the condition and the taking of psychostimulant medication by children at school. In November last year officials from the Department met the major national ADHD support groups to listen to their concerns and followed this up by discussions of the issue with colleagues from the Department of Health.

While it remains the position that we cannot intervene in individual cases, the Department can have a role in providing LEAs and schools with information and advice. To this end we intend to publicise, in a forthcoming edition of the Department's Schools Update, the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Mental Health and Growing Up: Factsheets for Parents, Teachers and Young People which includes a factsheet on 'Hyperactivity and attention deficit problems'. And, while it does not mention the psychostimulant medication for ADHD, such as Ritalin, in particular, the Department has recently issued advice to schools on the taking of medications in school in a Circular on Supporting Pupils with Medical Needs in Schools and in the accompanying good practice guide.

Finally, the Education Bill currently going through Parliament requires every LEA to produce and publish a plan setting out the full range of local provision in relation to pupils with behavioural difficulties. In drawing up those plans, LEAs will have to take account of guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The Government will be consulting widely on the content of that guidance once the legislation has been enacted. It is not intended that it will be a detailed manual for tackling each of the specific difficulties and conditions which can affect children's behaviour. But it will nonetheless contain a good deal that is relevant to provision for pupils with ADHD. The Department will ensure that the ADHD support groups that officials met in November will be included in the consultation process.

LORD HENLEY





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