SA's first free ADHD screening for children launched

MARCH 30, 2017
SA's first free ADHD screening for children launched

With at least one in 20 children in South Africa suffering from ADHD, early detection and treatment is vital and a new initiative launched will aim to reach children across the country, free of charge.

Cape Town-based psychiatrist, Dr Renata Schoeman, and businessman and top SA athlete, Nic de Beer, has launched the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation, which will offer the country’s first non-profit ADHD screening and early intervention mobile clinic in underserved communities.

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.

The funding for the project is under way and in an effort to raise funds to purchase the two small vehicles needed and to employ four sisters to start the school visits and screening, Nic and Renata completed the grueling 91km Cell C African X Trail run recently in fancy dress costume.  The foundation is now calling on business and community-based organisations to assist further in their fundraising efforts.

Dr Schoeman says many children who suffer from ADHD do not have access to medical care, especially those in rural areas and their symptoms go undetected which is detrimental to the full development of the child.

“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 labeled 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.”

ADHD, if not treated, can cause significant personal, interpersonal and social burdens, impacting negatively on overall quality of life. Children could suffer fromlearning disabilities, anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, tics/Tourette’s syndrome and substance abuse.

Furthermore, educational attainment is negatively affected by ADHD and 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 without.

Dr Schoeman says the symptoms are 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.

“Inattention manifests behaviourally in ADHD as difficulty sustaining focus, wandering off tasks, lacking persistence, paralysing procrastination, poor time management, inefficiency, and being disorganised.

“Hyperactivity refers to excessive motor activity when it is not appropriate or excessive fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness whilst impulsivity refers to hasty actions that occur in the moment without forethought and that have high potential for harm to the individual. This may reflect reward dependence and a need for immediate gratification.

“Impulsive behaviours may manifest as social intrusiveness, a low frustration tolerance, mood lability and losing one’s temper, making important decisions without consideration of long-term consequences, and addictive behaviours.”

Nurses and psychologist interns will be trained to screen the rating scales for children to identify possible symptoms of ADHD followed by a more in-depth screening to confirm probable ADHD.

Dr Schoeman says the whole purpose of these screenings, which require consent from the parents, will ensure early referral and diagnostic confirmation at public mental health clinics to ensure timely intervention and treatment. They will also embark on an extensive drive to raise awareness and educate teachers and parents on ADHD. 

Organisations or individuals who would like to get involved in the project or assist with funding can visit www.gb4adhd.co.za or send an email to [email protected]