ADHD in township communities

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common condition in children, but it is mostly perceived as naughtiness or moodiness, and a lack of discipline – particularly in South African townships. This is because many people are not aware about the condition. Children with ADHD have difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behaviour, and can be hyperactive.

Londi (not her real name), age 4, is a lovely young girl from Mfuleni Cape Town who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. She joined Afrika Tikkun’s Early Childhood Development Programme (ECD) earlier this year. Londi has difficulty paying attention in class and participating in the given tasks.

In the first few weeks of school she would run up and down in class, did not want to sit down and listen, especial during resting time. During creative art she preferred to scribble anything, tear up pages and make noise. She liked playing by herself and speaking to herself throughout the day and did not like it when other children engaged with her.

Occupational Therapist Ilam Hendricks from Uhambo Foundation has been working with our ECD programme to help teachers educate and support the development of children with living with disabilities and those with ADHD. “It’s always important to use the child’s name or get closer to the child and touch them to get their attention. We also advised that lessons and tasks be kept short so that it grabs and maintains the child’s focus. It is also important that teachers include physical activities as well as different mediums or items to carry out the tasks in a more engaging manner”

“We have had to be very patient and understanding of her condition and gentle with her because she would get aggressive when we tried to engage with her. We received training from an Occupational Therapist, and that has helped a lot in that we now know how to deal with Londi’s personality and help her engage with us as her teachers and her classmates” said Londi’s teacher, Vuyelwa Hotele.

Recently Londi has shown some improvements because she’s now able to listen and participate in most activities. She’s still very active but she is now showing progress in routine and participation. Her favourite activity is throwing and catching the ball with both her hands.

Diet and nutrition is also very important for children with ADHD, advises Afrika Tikkun Nutritionist Ra’eesa Kerbelker. “Nutrition for children living with this condition varies from person to person; there is no one-size fits all diet for them, because each one may react differently to different types of foods. However, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, and the healthy diet that children receive at the centres with fresh vegetables, foods high in wholegrain and low in fat, and no sugary foods has played an essential role in helping to support the management of Londi’s condition. This also includes opting for healthier snacks like fruit instead of sweets during the day.”

Raising awareness about disorders like ADHD and how parents and teachers can best support the development of children with ADHD is critical. The unique role of nutrition in each child’s body is also important to understand. All children deserve the opportunity to become the best they can be. What this means for children with ADHD is acceptance, patience and awareness of the challenges they are facing. For support in the townships where Afrika Tikkun operates contact Afrika Tikkun at [email protected]. For more information on ADHD contact the Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Support Group of South Africa (ADHASA) at [email protected]