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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Born to be wild

As parents gather for a landmark conference on hyperactive children, one mother lays bare what it's like to live with the disturbing disorder.

How many parents are not, at some point or other, driven to distraction by the boundless energy of their young offspring? Yet mostly they wouldn't have it any other way.

Some parents however, hardly ever get a moment's peace. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is said to affect up to 5% of schoolchildren in the UK.

ADHD: the facts
The cause is unknown
Evidence suggests it is genetically transmitted in many cases
Thought to result from an imbalance of brain chemicals that help to regulate behaviour.
Making careless mistakes in schoolwork, fidgeting and squirming while seated, interrupting and intruding on others are all telltale signs of the condition.

And while some doctors refuse to recognise ADHD (also known as ADD) as a medical condition - they say it may simply be some children are over-boisterous - the voice of concerned parents has been growing louder.

As the first European conference on ADHD begins in London, mother Jacky Fletcher relates, through a diary, the experience of living with her son Stefan, who suffers from ADHD.

It does not matter how good Stefan is being or whereabouts he is in the house, as soon as I get on the telephone he appears from nowhere and proceeds to talk loudly, act clownishly, open cupboards and get things out or generally behave in a disruptive attention-seeking manner.

Tonight was no exception; a friend called me on the phone and true to form Stefan appeared from nowhere and began his antics. This time he decided to get my egg-slicer out of the kitchen drawer to see what he could slice up in it.

First he tried some paper, then a carrot and then his finger. I chatted to Sam, keeping a watchful eye on Stefan - suddenly he pulled down his pyjama trousers and placed a certain part of his anatomy into the egg-slicer. I quickly shouted at him to remove it and suddenly realised what I was yelling down the phone to the poor unsuspecting caller - was my face red.

Stefan was awake early on 8th August 1995. Before the rest of us were up, he found a box of matches and made himself a little fire in his bedroom basin. I could tell by this early action that we were in for one of those bad days.

The previous day he had been really good most of the time but today he was fidgety, restless and excitable. As my daughters were both out at activities, I took him to McDonald's on his own for lunch.

He ate fast and furiously as though he was about to catch a train - stuffing food into his mouth - not waiting to finish each mouthful despite my corrections.

Afterwards we had to go to the supermarket. He grabbed a trolley and whizzed up and down the aisles nearly knocking two toddlers out of their buggies and barging into people. I grabbed him as he sailed past scooting on the back of the trolley.

I severely reprimanded him and took his trolley away. Five minutes later he appeared with another trolley - I took it off him. He helped himself to a can of drink and downed it quickly. As I got to the checkout feeling utterly frazzled and weary, I noticed Stefan had disappeared yet again. A security guard came over with him in tow. What had he done this time?

Horrors. He had found a razor and tried to shave a little boy's arm in a buggy and had cut him. The mother was understandably cross. I made Stefan apologise and once also again apologised for my child's inappropriate behaviour.

Stefan went for a bike ride inside Iceland freezer shop.

Stefan covered himself with deodorant all over the outside of his clothes.

At long last, Stefan has been given a statement of special educational needs after five years of battling with the education authorities. This means that his school is allocated funding to provide extra help and classroom support for a set number of hours a week.

Today we went bowling as a family. Stefan was heard to comment to a woman bowling in the next lane "Why are you so ugly?" Later on he spotted another woman struggling to bend down and said to her "You know you would be good at bowling if you lost some weight". At which point [my husband] Vaughan decided to take a break.

Stefan stepped on a wicker shelf in his room. It collapsed. Being ever so destructive - or resourceful (I am trying to be positive) - he decided to pull out all the wicker canes and make dozens of bows and arrows. No shelf left but a wonderful array of weapons.

Jacky Fletcher

These extracts are taken from Marching to a Different Tune, by Jacky Fletcher. Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
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25 Mar 01 | Health
Hyperactivity under the spotlight
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