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UAE, Dubai Special Needs: What is ADHD?

UAE, Dubai Special Needs: What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental childhood disorders. While there are the symptoms we all know well like: inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, there are more, not so usually linked to the disorder, such as:, daydreaming, under achieving and continual loss of focus.

However, it’s important to note at this point that almost all children can display these behaviours at some point in their lives. Therefore to differentiate ADHD sufferers from children merely working through a fractious period, they must display ‘extreme behaviour.’

To get a better understand what’s ‘extreme’ we asked school nurse and ADHD support group founder Rachel Jex to explain. “I always recommend parents read the NICE (UK’s National Health Service) guidelines on diagnosis. They state that before any diagnosis can be made the child’s behaviour (before the age of seven), should impact his or her learning or lifestyle in more than one setting for more than six months, while the behaviour should be consistently more severe than other children of the same age.”

If you are concerned your child might have ADHD:
Speak to your child’s school- Ask them about changes or any behaviour issues they have witnessed
Ask the school if they will help monitor your child’s behaviour
Find a recommended specialist- A paediatric psychologist, educational psychologist or paediatric neurologist will start the process
Never omit information: Tell involved in the diagnosis about ALL behaviour issues experienced
Always get a second opinion!

ADHD Diagnosis & Assessment
One of the biggest concerns consistently voiced by SEN professionals is the lack of quality assessment and diagnosis available in Dubai. While many centres here do offer parents comprehensive reporting and diagnosis, there are others who don’t. And yet, not all parents are aware of just how essential the reporting and assessment section of the diagnosis actually is for all future IEPs (Individual education plans) and interventions.

Rachel Jex, says, “I’ve seen children who have been diagnosed with ADHD in a single half an hour session!” ADHD diagnosis requires a multidisciplinary team of professionals who first rule out other medical or mental health issues, then after several weeks observing the child at play, at school and at home, make a definite diagnosis. This less than clear-cut procedure allows for less scrupulous service providers to take advantage of naïve parents.

Your child’s diagnosis/assessment should take two to six weeks and involve a team approach; usually including the child’s paediatrician, a medical educator/child psychologist/neurologist and even a speech and language therapist. If the symptoms are not straight forward, i.e. they also have depression, anxiety, OCD or they’re under six years old, it might be better advised to see a paediatric or adolescent psychiatrist.

For an accurate and comprehensive ADHD assessment, make sure the diagnosis includes:
An inspection of the child’s medical records
A thorough medical exam
ADHD standardised screening tests
Psychological/neurological tests
Observation of the child- at home, at school, at play


Ideally ADHD medication SHOULD NOT be prescribed before the child is old enough to talk about how it makes him or her feel, as there are often side effects. These include: sleep problems, loss of appetite and mood swings.

The UAE currently stocks ADHD medications: Concerta, Strattera and Ritalin. However purchasing ADHD medication is not always easy. The most commonly prescribed and easiest to source is Concerta, although it costs over 200Dhs per month. However, be aware, “During the pre-holiday periods, pharmacists literally run out,” says Rachel. “Also a prescription is only valid for 7 days, so if you can’t source it in that time, you have to return to the doctor and pay for the prescription again. Possibly the hardest to obtain though, is Ritalin, and even when it does arrive, it sells out almost instantly,” she says.

ADHD can respond well to complimentary therapies and Rachel recommends several therapists, who she has worked with before and had good results. These include: brain training, parenting classes, aromatherapy and reflexology.

The good news is many schools in Dubai already have students with ADHD, although successful inclusion of children with the disorder seems to vary from school to school. Before you accept any place, make sure the school you have chosen is not just ‘filling seats’ and has the support your child needs to flourish.

Speak to the SEN Coordinator (SENCO) and see if there are any other students with ADHD. If there are, find out what they have implemented to support these children. If not, make sure they thoroughly understand the needs of a child with ADHD.

Find out:
If the school allows for an IEP: discuss who will devise it, how it will be monitored and how feedback will be given
Do they have policy on supplying a shadow?
Does the school allow for physical movement during class time?
Can they implement visual records of achievement?
Can your child have a study buddy?
Does the school have clear routines and structures to support students with ADHD?

Rachel’s Therapy Recommendations:
The Brain Workshop: Jumeirah, Dubai, www.thebrainworkshop.com
Intense, targeted cognitive skills training designed to improve attention skills.

The Brain & Learning: Tecom 3, Dubai, www.thebrainandlearning.com
Using the latest cognitive and nuero-scientific research.

Counsellors: Wasl Rd, Umm Suqeim, Dubai, www.counsellingdubai.com
KHDA approved training centre and counseling service.

Parenting Educator: Kids First Medical Centre, Umm Suqeim, Dubai, www.parentingdubai.com
A selection of good quality parenting classes

Arabic parenting skills workshop: Parenting4good, P4G Trainers, www.facebook.com/parenting4good

The ADHD support Group meets at Dubai British School. For more information email Rachel Jex at racheljex@yahoo.co.uk


Dubai Special Educional Needs – Start Here 
UAE Special Educational Needs – School Inclusion, Is it Working?
Special Educational Needs – What are they and How to Spot Them
Dubai Special Needs – Diagnosis and Assessment
UAE, Dubai SEN: A Q and A with Diagnosis Specialists
Dubai Special Educational Needs – Occupational Therapy Q and A
Dubai Special Needs – What is ADHD?
Dubai Special Educational Needs – Behaviour Analysis
Dubai Special Educational Needs: Speech Therapy 
Dubai Special Educational Needs – Specific Learning Difficulties
Dubai Special Educational Needs – Downs Syndrome 
Dubai Special Needs: Autistic Spectrum Disorder 


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