ADHD. These four letters inspire panic in the hearts of even the most seasoned parents. ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is the most common childhood-onset behavioral disorder. Children with ADHD generally have problems with concentration, tend to be over-active and impulsive, or a combination of all these. Dr Jennifer Kiing, a Consultant at the Child Development Unit, National University Hospital, answers 10 quick questions on ADHD. For a more in-depth perspective of this disorder, do attend the Kids’ Needs On Wellness (KNOW) Public Symposium on 3 September 2011. Organised by the University Children’s Medical Institute at the National University Hospital, this is where Dr Kiing will be giving a talk on the management of attention problems in children. More details on the symposium are available at the end of this article.


SMH: What is the state of Singapore children with regard to attention problems?

Dr Kiing: Children in Singapore have primary deficits in attention similarly seen overseas.

Aren’t children meant to be inquisitive, curious, and active? When does the natural behaviour of a child become an attention problem?

Children with primary deficits of attention are likely to have difficulties with tasks which require sustained mental effort. However, a child with an attention deficit may still be able to watch TV and play computer games with good concentration as these tasks do not require sustained mental effort.

Why do kids of today have more attention problems than those in the past?

Children with heavy television and computer exposure in their preschool years are at higher risk of developing ADHD in later life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO television viewing for children under two years of age.

What are the main causes of such problems in children? Are they genetic or developed?

There are genetic and environmental factors which contribute to the development of ADHD. Environmental risk factors would include heavy television viewing in preschool years. More boys than girls have developmental disorders, including ADHD and autism.

What are the signs that my child may have attention problems?

It is often difficult to determine whether a short attention span is significant in preschool years. In primary school years, your child should be able to sit in class and pay attention during lesson time.

What is a realistic time to expect kids to be able to sit still and concentrate for?

By primary one, at seven years of age.

Does having attention problems lead to other problems in children?

Untreated ADHD can lead to increased risk of falling behind in school and school failure. ADHD can also co-exist with learning and behavioral issues i.e oppositional behaviours.

What are the best ways to teach a child to focus?

• Optimise sleep. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep as children become inattentive if they are tired.
• Reduce TV, computer, ipad and iphone time.
• Increase the amount of physical activity and outdoor playtime that your child gets.

Do attention problems last for life or do they fade away as the child grows?

Attention problems can persist into adulthood but adults are better able to manage their environment to deal with a short attention span.

What kind of treatment is available in Singapore?

Child Development Units at the National University Hospital (NUH) and the KK Women’s And Children’s Hospital (KKWCH) can assess and manage children with attention deficit problems. The Child Guidance Clinic sees school-aged children with attention problems. They also have a parent support group, the Society for the Promotion of ADHD Research and Knowledge (SPARK). Treatment is multidisciplinary and may include the use of medication, psychosocial and educational supports.

Find out more about dealing with children’s attention problems at the Kids’ Needs On Wellness (KNOW) Public Symposium organised by the University Children’s Medical Institute at the National University Hospital.

Topics

• Abnormal Night Time Behaviour
- Sleep Problems in Children (Speaker: Associate Professor Stacey Tay
Senior Consultant, Division of Paediatric Neurology, NUH)

• Sibling Rivalry (Speaker: Ms Jessie Ooh
Educational Psychologist, Child Development Unit, NUH)

• Management of Attention Problems in Children (Speaker: Dr Jennifer Kiing
Consultant, Child Development Unit, NUH)

• Promoting Healthy Language Development in Children (Speaker: Dr Chong Shang Chee
, Head & Consultant, Child Development Unit, NUH)

Date: 3 Sept 2011 (Saturday) (Start of the Sept school holidays)

Time: 2 – 5pm

Venue: Singapore Management University
Administration Building, Function Room 4.1 & 4.2, Level 4, 81, Victoria Street, Singapore 188065

Fees: $5 per person / $8 per couple (Free for “I CAN!” members, NTUC members, Staff of NUHS & NHG)

Organised by: University Children’s Medical Institute, National University Hospital

Registration: Get details here (Light refreshments will be provided and attractive goody bags can be redeemed)

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