Updated 17 July 2017

ADHD: What now?

There is so much conflicting information nowadays on how to treat a child who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). What are the latest treatment trends?


ADHD Treatment involves dietary changes, structuring the routine at home with all the family members involved, reducing stress and confrontations, teaching the child self-regulatory skills and developing a better self-image.

Medication for ADHD plays an important role. Better concentration improves school performance and reduces behavioural problems related to hyperactivity and impulsivity. The services of an occupational therapist, remedial teacher or psychologist may be needed.

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is effective in the majority of cases. But if more than 10% of a class is treated with Ritalin, it is overprescribed to children who don’t really suffer from ADHD, warn paediatricians. If a child suddenly develops problems with concentration, it is not a sign of ADHD. It is most probably due to a mood or anxiety disorder.

Ritalin stimulates the underutilised self-control area of the brain, resulting in the hyperactive child calming down and the dreamer being activated. In both cases, concentration improves.

In the remaining cases where Ritalin is ineffective or where side-effects become problematic, alternative treatments such as Tofranil, Catapres, Aurorix or Petrofan could be used. New formulations yet to be registered for use in South Africa, include Concerta, a long-acting drug similar to Ritalin, and Strattera which works in a different way, but has proven to be effective in the treatment of ADHD.

Good results
The right medication can improve a child’s problem by 80%. Children will report that they are now able to complete tasks and no longer bring home loads of unfinished work. They develop greater confidence in their own abilities as they discover their ability to learn once they remain focused upon a task.

ADHD can persist through adolescence and into adulthood. ADHD seems to affect families and parents may recognise their own symptoms of ADHD – these might be difficulties in delaying gratification, time management and prioritising tasks. It can impair inter-personal relationships and work achievement. Medication and psychotherapy can be helpful.


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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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