Saturday, May 28

Lazy, disobedient or capricious: prejudices towards children with attention and hyperactivity disorder

When Mar Coloma entered her house, a strong smell of burning filled her nose. She is the mother of three children, she suspected that she might have something to do with her eldest son, Álvaro. She asked him directly because “he was a very impulsive boy, who was not capable of measuring” and, indeed, she told him that he had burned some papers in the wastebasket and that he almost set the room on fire. Her mother had “the fly behind her ear” for a while because Álvaro was doing “high-level” pranks. She says that one day, while she was taking a shower, she opened the sink window and pulled out the handle. “He watered the whole neighborhood,” she says. When he was very young, he surprised the family with how easy he was to learn: “When we were three years old, we would go down the street and he would tell me all the makes of the cars. He looked, asked and remembered them”. But the uphill came from the age of eight, when concentration was required when learning.

“Everyone told me that I was the typical clueless child, but I knew that it was not, that this was not normal.” So his mother, who is a nurse, took him to the pediatrician and it was Dr. José Casas Rivero who diagnosed him: Álvaro had a neuronal disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “It was very difficult for me to medicate him, he started when he was 12 years old and the pills gave him problems with sleep. He was in psychotherapy for quite a few years too, ”says the mother. Álvaro is a smart, friendly and good conversationalist boy. “When he got good grades, they joked that since he was doped…”, he laughs, “my friends didn’t understand how hyperactive I was, if they said I was rather lazy”. He assures that the pills made him “consistent, responsible and even boring” and that he felt less of himself.

It was noted that he was “somewhat absent-minded” and drew a lot during classes, but he says: “Since I didn’t have teachers who encouraged me to learn, I became abstracted.” He assures that, if he had had teachers “more involved and more on top”, he would not have needed pills. “The method was very rigid and it all seemed very impractical to me,” he says. Álvaro was quite good with numbers, but his letters were difficult for him: “Why isn’t the story explained from here to the back. I lost interest because I saw everything from afar”.

“Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a very common neurodevelopmental disorder in children and adolescents, with a higher prevalence in boys,” says neuropsychologist Suzete Montoiro. According to the Spanish Society of Outpatient Pediatrics and Primary Care, between 4.9 and 8.8% of Spanish children and adolescents have a diagnosis of ADHD.

Mar Coloma, Álvaro’s mother, contacted ANSHDA (the Madrid ADHD Association) and was trained to help her son: “There they insisted a lot that the school had to get dirty.” The mother went with all the information provided by the association, teacher by teacher. “She would ask them to make her sit in the front row or during exams to make sure she understood the sentences,” she says. The family rowed for the kid to “get his studies”, and academies and private teachers were not lacking. Álvaro got his Baccalaureate and passed the selectivity. He has studied various modules and now works himself.

Inattention and hyperactivity

Montserrat Bernardo is the director of ADEMPA, the Parla Early Care Center where Suzete Montoiro also works- “ADHD manifests itself with symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity, or a combination of both. It is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity,” she says. They ensure that it must be maintained for at least six months and occur in the development period. Some of the symptoms manifest before the age of seven.

Suzete Montoiro says that hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattention are usually more present in smaller creatures. From two to four years of age, boys and girls are very active and impulsive: they touch everything, they have no idea of ​​danger and they have difficulty remaining in the same activity for more than ten minutes. But “as they get older, hyperactivity decreases and, although attention problems remain, they are able to maintain their attention for longer,” she says. Added to these difficulties in focusing attention are problems with planning, organization, time management, working memory and difficulties in starting the task.

Álex is 10 years old and from the age of 3, his mother, Ana Sánchez, already noticed that he had problems with social relationships, as well as with tasks such as brushing his teeth or getting dressed, which cost him “much more” than his sister. “We were told that he did not play and that he did not interact with other children,” he says, so at the age of 6 he was diagnosed with “inattentive type” ADHD. “He finds it difficult to concentrate, it seems that he is in his world, but in class he brings it all out because he is a very, very smart child,” says the mother. Álex is on the limit of being considered “highly capable”, but what he finds difficult is relating to boys and girls.

“The pandemic has aggravated everything, because for two years he has been inside, so now it is again difficult for him to relate to other children and get out of himself,” says the mother. Sánchez is also a nurse and says that boys and girls with ADHD are all put in the same bag. “When I explain that he has ADHD, they tell me what it’s going to be like if he’s a very quiet child,” she says. According to the educational counselor and educational psychologist Natalia Redondo, some of the most frequent topics about ADHD are that they are a disaster and do not focus: “He is lazy and does not want to know” or “he is rude” or “he always does what he gives wins it,” he says. She works to disassemble them and says: “They are none of these. They have complications in maintaining attention and concentration in class or remembering where they have placed things”. She acknowledges that they may also have difficulty controlling impulses, “which can lead them to frequently interrupt conversations.”

Some need to constantly move, such as going to the bathroom or looking for any excuse to get up. In some centers they are allowed to go out into the corridor to have a few races. The task of counselors is, on the one hand, to inform the rest of the teaching staff about how they can work with them, since “they require methodological adaptations, such as planning and organizing their work with great care”. Redondo adds that it would also be good if the tasks were sequenced and they were allowed to deliver them in parts and that the key information was clearly marked in the statements, as well as giving them clear and simple rules.

Regarding the adaptation of children with ADHD, teacher Rubén García, a handicap at the Antonio Allué More public school in Valladolid, says: “The handicap is what kind of classroom we have for them. An education where they have to sit for five hours is a horror. For ADHD and everyone else.” This year, García has a seven-year-old boy with hyperactivity and without any adaptation problems, he has a dynamic classroom and, although he has the students sitting at tables, they can move, discover and explore. “We do a lot of schooling in nature, this is a very favorable point for all boys and girls to know how to control themselves since they need movement, and in the open air it is easier to capture their attention,” he says.