Updated 12 July 2017

Teachers must be aware of ADHD symptoms, says DA

The DA wants teachers to play an active role in identifying potential cases of ADHD, which is one of the most common disorders that develop in children.

The DA in the Northern Cape wants the education department to ramp up measures for teachers to better understand Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD).

This followed a study published by the University of the Western Cape, which showed that many primary school teachers in the province lack an understanding of ADHD, which is a neurological condition and runs in families.

Read: ADHD in the classroom

ADHD is one of the most common disorders that develop in children and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. It characterised by three primary symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. Treatment includes medical, psychological and educational intervention as well as behavioural management.

The study, which was published in May in the SA Journal of Education, surveyed 200 teachers from primary schools in the Northern Cape to investigate their knowledge of ADHD, and its management in the classroom.

It found that only 45% of the teachers responded correctly to questions; 31% had misconceptions about ADHD; and 22% gave incorrect responses.

Read: Help for concentration & ADHD symptoms

"The  results  of  this  study  may  be  helpful  towards  investigating  undergraduate  teacher  education  programmes  and  in-service  training  for  ADHD,  so  as  to  determine  what  information  teachers  actually  receive  about  this  disorder," the study authors noted.

"Asking  teachers  what  steps  they  take when  a  child  is  exhibiting  specific  inappropriate behaviour  may  also  provide  information  regarding teachers’  knowledge,  training,  and  application  of interventions/management  techniques.  

The study suggested that it would also be  advantageous  to  have  school  psychologists  work  as  consultants  to  teachers. In this way, they might  be  able  to  observe  teachers  working  with  a  child  with  ADHD,  help  to  implement  interventions and interview them about their techniques and barriers.

Read: Breakthrough study on ADHD treatment

"It  would  be  helpful  if  the  Department  of Basic  Education  could  either  revise  their  decision of  doing  away  with  “special  needs  classes”,  or  put in place District Support Teams to assist the teachers who have to work with children with special needs.  

"Should management techniques be implemented, the academic and social outcomes for children with ADHD could improve. Children displaying symptoms of ADHD might therefore be assisted in order to function to  their full potential and support their well-being."

The authors pointed out that this could contribute to a more effective education system.

The DA in the Northern Cape said in a statement on Monday that it is important that the department of education provide teachers with the necessary training to create a good educational environment for all learners.

Read: Poor sleep linked to depression and ADHD in kids

Since teachers spend a large portion of the day with their learners, they are in an ideal position to identify possible symptoms of ADHD and to raise these concerns with parents, said DA Provincial Spokesperson on Education Safiyia Stanfley.

"Teachers must be equipped with the necessary understanding and must know how to involve these children in the classroom curriculum."

However, she added that teachers already have a full schedule and should not be overburdened. "We definitely don’t want teachers to be doctors. But we want teachers to be aware of the symptoms," said Stanfley.

"The DA believes that all children must be given a fair chance in life. We should not deny a child access to opportunities because he or she has ADHD."

Also read:

South Africa has one of the highest prescription rates for ADHD medication

Side effects of ADHD medication

Fidgeting may help children with ADHD learn

Image: ADH from Shutterstock


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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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