Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA’s) Primary Healthcare Sector has introduced specialised clinics for children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to provide quality care for children suffering from the neurobiological condition.
A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention and can cause hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Prevalence and treatment
Dr Fatma Sultan Al Olama, Consultant and Head of the Child Health Section at DHA’s Primary Healthcare Centres, said that, worldwide, ADHD is estimated to have a paediatric prevalence of 5-10 per cent and 4-5 per cent in the UAE.
She added that while the causes and risk factors of ADHD are unknown, research shows that genetics plays an important role. ADHD also often lasts into adulthood, with a 2-5 per cent prevalence in adults.
“ADHD can have a great impact on those diagnosed with it. It can cause academic limitations among children and affect their relationships with family and friends. As the child grows into adolescence, it can affect their self-esteem and cause occupational and vocational difficulties when they are adults. For this reason, we have introduced the clinics in our primary healthcare centres to provide specialised ADHD management through non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments.”
The non-pharmacological treatments provided by the clinic include behavioural intervention, parental management training, developing social skills and building a support system. Behavioural therapy should be the primary treatment for ADHD children younger than six years and may be helpful at older ages.
“Children aged 6-12 years old, who meet the DSM-5 criteria for ADHD as determined by both clinical assessment and the Vanderbilt ADHD scales, are referred to the ADHD clinics,” she said. “Any child suspected to have ADHD by their parents can visit their respected health centre and meet with a family doctor who will refer them to DHA’s ADHD clinics.”
Dr Olama explained that the DSM Diagnostic criteria includes several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms that are present before the age of 12. The symptoms also need to be present in two or more settings, such as at home and school or with friends and relatives.
She said symptoms of ADHD are unique and that they must persist for at least six months before a diagnosis is made.
Parents should consider getting their children screened for ADHD if they have inattention or distractibility issues. Distractibility can include difficulty paying attention at home or school. Hyperactivity can be exhibited through trouble sitting still in class and impulsivity is where a child tends to act without thinking of the consequences. Behavioural problems such as defiance, aggression and social immaturity could also be symptoms of the disorder.
Specialist ADHD clinics are available in Al Mizhar Primary Healthcare Centre from 7.30am to 2.30pm on Sundays, Al Barsha Primary Healthcare Centre from 2.30 to 9.30pm on Tuesdays and Nad Al Hammar Primary Healthcare Centre from 7.30am to 2.30pm on Thursdays.