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Monday, April 6, 1998 Published at 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK


Disruptive or just ill?
image: [ Some experts say three in 10 children have ADHD ]
Some experts say three in 10 children have ADHD

A new report from the Children's Society says that children are missing over half-a-million days in temporary exclusions from schools because of disruptive behaviour. But is the problem really a medical one?

[ image: Ten times as many boys than girls have the disorder]
Ten times as many boys than girls have the disorder
The report called No Lessons Learnt said there were around 137,000 temporary exclusions last year. Between 1990 and 1995 there was also a 450% rise in permanent exclusions or expulsions, with numbers rising fastest in primary schools.

One of the reasons highlighted by scientists and doctors for the bad behaviour of pupils is the incidence of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties caused by a medical conditions.

The non-diagnosis of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been blamed for some of the more challenging behaviour of some pupils. ADHD in particular is a much misunderstood condition and some experts say that almost three in ten children in the UK are sufferers.

Children with ADHD display varying forms of behaviour. These include:

  • A lack of concentration in school work or play
  • The impression that the child is not listening
  • Restlessness during the day even during sleep
  • A need for almost constant attention

When a teacher has a class of 30 children and one or two children need a great deal of attention, the rest of the class could theoretically suffer.

[ image: ADHD usually starts before children reach seven]
ADHD usually starts before children reach seven
Often, children with ADHD fall behind in class and receive reprimands from teachers and parents who are unaware that the children have problems.

In the past, children who exhibited signs of ADHD were thought of as merely naughty, but recently education professionals and parents are seeing ADHD as the cause of behavioural problems.

ADHD usually develops in children before the age of seven but is most often not diagnosed until children reach 10 or 11. The result of four years of under-achievement can be devastating to a child's educational development.

Treatment for ADHD comes in three forms. The use of medications, special educational programs that help the child keep up academically, and psychotherapy.

Medication is usually effective in 70-80% of cases when properly used, but there can be side-effects including insomnia and loss of appetite.

When medication works children have longer attention spans, get on better with fellow pupils and generally feel happier.

Psychotherapy is commonly used in combination with medications, as are school and family consultation. By working with the therapist, a child can learn to cope with his or her condition and the reaction of others to it.

No single cause for ADHD is known. As with depression, scientists suspect that a combination of heredity, environment and biological problems contribute to development of the condition.

Research continues into the condition and many parents, teachers and children will hope that more can be done to help stem the flow of school exclusions.


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