Half of all children in care are considered to have some form of emotional or behavioural problem, with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) being one of them. In the UK alone, it is thought that between 2 – 5 % of school aged children have ADHD.
ADHD is a common neurological condition that affects the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves. The symptoms of ADHD are usually noticeable at an early age and tend to become more noticeable when a child’s circumstances change, such as starting school or entering care.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
The symptoms of ADHD in children and adults can be categorised into two types of behavioural problems like inattentiveness or hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Some people with ADHD will exhibit symptoms that belong predominantly to one or the other. Other people with ADHD will have what is known as a ‘combined’ presentation of ADHD, in which they show symptoms of inattentiveness and hyperactive impulsiveness simultaneously.
Examples of Inattentive symptoms include:
• Struggling to follow instructions
• Short attention span
• Difficulty finishing tasks
• Making careless mistakes
• Becoming easily confused
• Appearing to not listen when spoken to
Examples of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity symptoms include:
• Restlessness (fidgeting)
• Excessive talking
• Speaking before thinking
• Interrupting conversation
• Difficulty waiting their turn
• Little or no sense of danger
How does ADHD affect day-to-day living?
The symptoms of ADHD can be the cause of various significant challenges in a young person’s life.
One of the primary challenges that young people with ADHD face is the barrier it creates to learning and education. ADHD affects a young person’s ability to focus, sit still, filter information and think clearly – all essential skills that are required in the classroom. This often means that, without the proper support, their academic achievement suffers.
ADHD can also have a profound effect on a young person’s ability to create and maintain personal relationships. Not only are the symptoms of ADHD difficult for the person experiencing them, but they can also be difficult for the people surrounding them to deal with.
Because of the difficulties with self-control that people with ADHD can experience, many young people with the disorder tend to behave impulsively. They react to social situations without thinking about the consequences of their behaviour, and the impact their actions might have on the people around them.
As a result of challenges such as these, people with ADHD often have a lower self-esteem, as their symptoms can make them feel incapable or unable to deal with day-to-day life.
What’s it like fostering a child with ADHD?
As a foster carer, there is a chance that you may foster a child that is diagnosed with or presents the symptoms of ADHD. Its estimated that children in foster care are three times more likely to develop ADHD than other children, possibly due to the close relationship between trauma and neurological conditions.
Two of our foster carers, Mark and Nick, have first-hand experience fostering children with ADHD. Two of their foster sons, C and L, both have ADHD.
Mark could recognise the symptoms of ADHD in the two of them straight away. “I could identify straight away that both of them had ADHD. They were showing so many signs. At school, they use to bounce around and wouldn’t sit still.”
According to Nick and Mark, C and L had great difficulty at school but were frequently told by the school and by authorities that it wasn’t ADHD. They found it very challenging to get a diagnosis for C and L, and felt they had to fight to be heard.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be quite difficult achieving a diagnosis for ADHD. This is because many of the ADHD symptoms in children can be dismissed as behavioural issues, or confused with other neurological conditions, such as autism. The diagnostic process for ADHD is also intensive and involves gathering a lot of information about the presentation of symptoms.
“Nobody would listen to us. They just kept putting it down to attachment issues or challenging behaviour, saying they were just playing up.” In the end, it took Mark and Nick three years to get the diagnosis they needed to access the right support for C and L.
“They (the school) didn’t want to put them into a category, they didn’t want to label them. But it wasn’t about labelling them, it was about making sure that throughout life they get the support that they need.”
Although getting the right diagnosis was difficult in their case, Mark and Nick will have made all the difference to the lives of their foster sons, C and L. With an ADHD diagnosis, C and L will be able to access the proper support necessary to manage their symptoms. This support could include therapeutic treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, or stimulant medication.
How can I support my foster child with ADHD?
If you suspect your foster child might have ADHD, its important you get them seen by a professional to ascertain a diagnosis and treatment plan. Compass Fostering aims to support all our foster carers as much as possible throughout this process, by providing them with specialised training and the information necessary to care for their child.
That being said, caring for a child with ADHD can be challenging, and it can often be difficult to know where to start. It is important to remember that a child with ADHD cannot help their behaviour. As we established, ADHD is a neurological disorder, meaning the child is unable to supress or control their symptoms.
The NHS has some advice on supporting children with ADHD that you can find here.
Foster children with ADHD are sometimes more difficult for local authorities to place in homes, but the stability and warmth of a supportive home environment can make all the difference. While fostering a child with ADHD can be a challenge at times, it can also be incredibly rewarding if they are given the right environment within which to flourish.
If you’re interested in changing the life of a child by becoming a foster carer, you can get in touch with us here.