Children labelled hyperactive really ‘just naughty’

Telegraph (UK) 03 July 2008
Teachers are misdiagnosing some children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when they are just naughty, psychiatrists have warned. Only half of children teachers suspected of having ADHD were diagnosed with the condition by a mental health expert, a study found. The results of the study carried out in East London will be presented at the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Children with ADHD cannot concentrate on school work or play and are easily distracted, forgetful or fail to follow instructions. They also unduly noisy, restless and fidget constantly and often talk excessively, butt in to other’s conversations and cannot wait in line. Estimates suggest that around 1.7 per cent of the population is affected by ADHD, mostly children and if it cannot be controlled with behavioural therapy then medication such as Ritalin is considered.

In the study, based in Tower Hamlets, 52 children were referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services team with ADHD-like symptoms over the course of one year. Of those, it was clear most did not have ADHD and 14 were observed in the classroom by the mental health team. Eventually six were diagnosed with ADHD.

The researchers said that they are unsure why teachers may be over-identifying children with possible ADHD diagnoses. Lead author Dr Benjamin Keene, said: “Naughty children may at some point present symptoms but someone with ADHD has them at all times.” They suggest that better educational resources need to be made available to teachers to help them accurately identify those children with ADHD, and that CAMHS teams should develop structured school observation tools or telephone interview schedules, so that identified children can be independently and expertly assessed in a classroom setting.