Paediatric ADHD cases spike in 2022 in Singapore

October 17, 2022
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Paediatric ADHD cases spike in 2022 in Singapore

Paediatric ADHD cases spike in 2022 in Singapor

Thomson Kids, the childcare-focused arm of Thomson Medical Group in Singapore, has noted a 60% increase in ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) cases in children, between February through to September 2022. The marked increase compared to the same period the previous year is likely due to the sudden transition to home-based learning during the pandemic, which took awhile to get accustomed to.

Healthcare Asia (HCA) spoke to Frances Yeo, who heads Thomson Kids Specialised Learning Centre in downtown Singapore, about the unexpected problem. The centre was established to help out children with learning difficulties.

HCA: What is ADHD?

Yeo: ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in childhood. It is usually diagnosed early in childhood and symptoms persist into adulthood. Individuals with ADHD struggle with sustaining a high degree of focus, controlling their actions and are impulsive and restless.

HCA: How does it develop?

Yeo: Each individual may present with a different group of symptoms. The symptoms develop when the demands in the environment exceeds a person’s capacity to cope.

HCA: What are some common misconceptions that people have about ADHD?

Yeo: [That] ADHD is caused by bad parenting, or [that] children with ADHD are naughty on purpose; are lazy and have bad attitude; and will become losers or good for nothing when they grow up because of their negative attitude.

HCA: What can other adults (besides parents) do to support children with ADHD?

Yeo: Adults first need to do some reading about the condition. There are a lot of books and online websites that have a lot of information about the condition and how it affects individuals. Once adults have a good understanding of ADHD, they have to step into the shoes of a child with ADHD. When adults see the situation through the eyes of a child, they will be able to understand the challenges and match expectations, parenting to meet the needs of the child.

At Thomson Kids, we believe that treatment for ADHD is a partnership between parents, children, schools, and healthcare professionals. We encourage parents to understand their children’s difficulties.

Children with ADHD lack skills. Sometimes I use the analogy of plants to help parents understand ADHD. Different plants need a different amount of sunlight and water to grow. I feel when parents understand that the child has a lack of skills, they can understand what they need to do to help the child and tune out the negative and catastrophic thoughts in their mind.

Children with ADHD require different kind of support or treatment, and parents need to understand their children’s strengths and weaknesses. Parents need to understand that it can take up to 10 years to help their child learn skills, in some cases; providing support and treatments over the next 10 years so their children can pick up the right skills for life to become confident and happy young adults.

HCA: What do you think of the new treatments pioneered for treating ADHD recently, like gamifying focus tasks, or using electrical stimulation, or dietary changes to affect symptoms of ADHD?

Yeo: Children with ADHD need a wide range of treatments to help them throughout their lives so that we can change the trajectory of the attention skills. Changing this trajectory takes a long time (up to 10 years).

Children with ADHD need novelty, stimulation and challenge. When we make learning activities fun filled with games, they show interest and learn better. Improving focus through games, dietary changes, medication, structuring the environment, scaffolding learning activities, a nurturing and encouraging parenting style, counselling for parents and children, smaller classroom environment, physical exercise, ensuring that children have enough sleep – these are some of the effective treatments for children with ADHD.

Many children with ADHD have co-existing conditions which also need specific treatments too. Some of the common co-existing treatments are depression, anxiety, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading, written expression and mathematics, Autism, and/or Developmental Language Disorders.

HCA: Is Thomson Medical/Thomson Kids looking to apply these new treatment methods in its practice?

Yeo: We provide specialised English and Chinese language classes for children with ADHD, Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading, written expression and mathematics, Autism, and Developmental Language Disorders. Our classes are conducted in small groups of up to 5 children. We design learning activities with games and visual support so children show interest and focus. Our lessons are scaffolded so children can learn better.

We also provide digital attention training called “Tali Train.” It’s a game-based attention training programme which has shown good results in clinical trials in Australia. Results have shown that it’s a promising non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatment for ADHD. It was developed from 25 years of research at Murdoch University.

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