Women at risk from alcohol: why we must catch them young

12th June 2009 at 01:00

I was pleased to see Lindy Barclay's support for primary teachers in her piece on foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in last week's TES ("Primary heroes who face a Herculean task").

However, her stereotypical description of ADHD children worries me. It is true that more socially deprived children are diagnosed with this disorder - but this is because they are the children who get referred due to other complex problems, including lack of support at home. There is no less ADHD in the general population; it is just enormously under-diagnosed.

I have taught in primary schools for 30 years, including as an advanced skills teacher and deputy head. I have always been good at teaching children with the disorder in my classes - long before the condition was recognised or understood.

I have now discovered why I empathise so well with these children. I was diagnosed with it myself two years ago, aged 50, and my life has improved beyond measure because of this understanding. I now recognise the many and varied coping strategies I have used over the years, and I am able to share them with others.

The disorder isn't all bad news. Those who have it can be hugely creative and talented. They are the risk-takers, lateral thinkers and entrepreneurs.

I now coach adults and university students who have the disorder to help them organise themselves and work with their condition. Every one of my clients is resilient, resourceful, creative and intelligent. I also run family workshops and parenting sessions. ADHD is 80 per cent hereditary, so often whole families benefit from the knowledge of how to work with this difference.

I know that my dad had it. He coped marvellously. He was an engineer, then a church minister. He is the one I have to thank for my success in life. He taught me that we are all different and every one of us has special needs, no exceptions.

My son also has it and is busy at Lancaster University completing his masters degree. He will be moving to Germany to teach in September.

There is no social deprivation whatsoever in our family, which is why it saddens me when it is assumed the disorder is caused by poor parenting and social deprivation. It isn't.

Mags Smith, Primary school teacher and ADHD coach and trainer, National Teaching and Advisory Service, Cheshire.

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