Last updated on Feb 11th, 2021 at 02:40 pm

At least one in 20 children in South Africa suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research by Cape Town-based psychiatrist Dr Renata Schoeman has revealed.

Dr Schoeman, who has a special interest in disorders affecting attention, concentration, learning and memory (such as ADHD and dementia), stresses that early detection and treatment of ADHD is vital.

This has prompted her to launch Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation with athlete and businessman Nic de Beer. The foundation will offer the country’s first non-profit ADHD screening and intervention mobile clinic in underserved communities.

ALSO SEE: Everything you need to know about ADHD

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Where will this be available?

The initiative aims to initially screen 500 children per month (of the estimated 200 000 in the Western Cape who currently have no access to such services) with plans to broaden the reach nationally.

“Many children who suffer from ADHD don’t have access to medical care, especially those in rural areas. Their symptoms go undetected, which is detrimental to the full development of the child,” says Dr Schoeman.

“Although mental health clinics exist in the public sector, children with ADHD often never reach this point of diagnosis and treatment due to a lack of awareness and knowledge in their communities. They are never screened for ADHD, and may be labelled as naughty, or stupid, or just silently fall out of the educational system and only come to our attention when absorbed in the criminal justice system,” she adds.

Long-term effects of untreated ADHD

If not treated, ADHD can cause significant personal, interpersonal and social burdens, negatively affecting overall quality of life. Children may suffer from learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, tics, Tourette’s syndrome and substance abuse.

Furthermore, ADHD can impact on a sufferer’s education. Research has shown that those diagnosed with ADHD completed on average two years less of formal schooling and attained a lesser employment status than those who don’t have the condition.

ALSO SEE: Could my grade 1 child have ADHD?

Symptoms of ADHD

  • A persistent pattern of inattention and or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning, accompanied by associated behavioural, cognitive, emotional and social problems, which can lead to school or work-related and interpersonal difficulties.
  • In ADHD, inattention manifests behaviourally as difficulty in sustaining focus, lack of persistence, paralysing procrastination, poor time management, inefficiency, and being disorganised.
  • Hyperactivity refers to excessive motor activity at inappropriate times or excessive fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness. Impulsivity refers to hasty actions that occur in the moment without forethought and that have high potential to harm the individual. This may reflect in reward dependence and a need for immediate gratification.
  • Impulsive behaviours may manifest as social intrusiveness, a low frustration tolerance, losing one’s temper, making important decisions without consideration of long-term consequences, and addiction.

“The screenings, which require consent from parents, will ensure early referral and diagnostic confirmation at public mental health clinics to ensure timely intervention and treatment,” says Dr Schoeman.

Organisations or individuals who would like to get involved in the project or assist with funding can visit www.gb4adhd.co.za.