Health

Friday 19 September 2014

From Jamie Oliver to Richard Branson: ADHD isn't 'just for kids'

Singer/songwriter Solange Knowles, younger sister of superstar Beyoncé, business magnate Sir Richard Branson, chef Jamie Oliver (pictured) and cycling champion Greg LeMond are just some of the celebrities diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Solange was famously diagnosed twice, because she didn't believe it the first time. "I guess I was in denial," she says.

Greg LeMond was also an adult before he discovered that he had ADHD, a diagnosis that made sense of the frustration and low self-esteem that marred his childhood. "I wish somebody had been able to tell me as a child, 'You're smart -- you just need a different way of learning'," he says.

He describes himself as the "classic kid who couldn't stand still, got up to mischief and was always having to go to the principal's office to tell someone I was sorry." It was only when he got involved in cycling that he realised he was "not dumb. Intense physical activity opened my brain to learning."

The three-time Tour de France winner will be in Dublin as special ambassador for Ireland's ADHD Awareness Week from October 7 to 14. As well as heading a cycling fundraiser in Trim, Co. Meath, he will be speaking at various events organised by the Irish Support Group, HADD.

An estimated 60,000 ADHD children in Ireland and their families will identify with his account as they experience for themselves the common symptoms of inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.

A child with ADHD typically has a short attention span, is easily distracted, fidgets, appears forgetful or disorganised, never sits still, acts without thinking, interrupts conversations, can't wait for his or her turn and has little or no sense of danger. If your child displays some combination of these symptoms, it's worth talking to your GP who may refer the child for assessment.

According to Professor Fiona McNicholas, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin and the Lucena Clinic, Rathgar, early diagnosis and intervention are crucial in helping children with ADHD to realise their true potential.

"Children with this condition are just as intelligent as the rest of the population, but they often chronically underperform, and anxiety and depression can be additional problems, so it really is important to seek help," she says.

Typically, a child is assessed from the age of five or six at one of 56 child mental health clinics throughout the country.

"It may be only when the child starts secondary school that the problem comes to light," says Prof McNicholas.

The important thing is to have your child assessed as soon as possible. Not all children diagnosed with ADHD need medication, although it can help with severe symptoms.

For further information see www.hadd.ie

Irish Independent

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