EU must help those struggling with ADHD

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder affects thousands of children across Europe and the educational system is often at a loss with how to deal with those suffering from the condition, writes Rosa Estaràs Ferragut.

By Rosa Estaràs Ferragut

27 Oct 2014

On 14 October, I had the privilege of chairing an event to launch the attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) alliance for change report called 'Real Voices'. I presented it to my colleagues in the parliament and other key stakeholders from across Europe.

'Real Voices' sheds light on the daily life of people affected by ADHD. It identifies what needs to change at a European level to enable people with the disorder to meet their full potential.

Experts present at the launch shared ideas and recommendations for policy changes that can be implemented in order to achieve this. ADHD is a disorder that is often overlooked and frequently misunderstood. It affects between three and five per cent of children in Europe.

I understand the frustrations faced by parents when they encounter an educational system that is unwilling or unable to adapt to the needs of children with the disorder. ADHD is not always an isolated condition, as nearly two thirds of the children referred to specialists for ADHD consultations have other mood and misconduct disorders.

ADHD can have serious effects during childhood. In many cases, it leads to failure in school and consequently, social exclusion. The ADHD alliance for change is trying to break this vicious cycle by calling on policymakers, educators and health professionals to lead this change across Europe.

Attendees at the launch heard from Kate Carr-Fanning, who is a lecturer at Coventry university (United Kingdom) and vice chairperson of HADD-Ireland. She spoke about her own experience of living with ADHD and the importance of involving people affected by the disorder in the policymaking process. I was particularly moved by her accounts of self-doubt that preceded her diagnosis, which was the result of stigma pervasive in the educational system and society as a whole.

"ADHD can have serious effects during childhood. In many cases, it leads to failure in school and consequently, social exclusion"

Her presentation was followed by the screening of a film highlighting the experience of three individuals affected by ADHD - a parent, educator and child - which was introduced by Fulgencio Madrid Conesa, president of the Spanish federation of ADHD supporting associations (FEAADAH). The emotional testimonials captured the desperation of those living with the disorder and the impact of simple measures to accommodate and empower young people living with ADHD.

This screening was followed by a presentation of the themes and recommendations from the report by Fintan O’Regan, a behaviour and learning consultant, which were compiled from an analysis of the 109 stories received from individuals living with ADHD across Europe.

Following the presentations, the speakers were joined by Pedro Antonio Sánchez López from the ministry of education, culture and universities for the region of Murcia (Spain) and Joanne Norris, president and education chair at ADHD, Asperger's syndrome children and learning difficulties resources (Belgium) for a panel debate. The panelists discussed measures already in place that contribute to a positive experience for those affected by the condition and advocated for their adoption across Europe.

Attendees called on the European institutions to make the provision of support to people living with ADHD a priority, ensuring that timely diagnosis, treatment and personalised support is available regardless of which member state they call home.

I believe it is necessary to implement an integrated approach within the European framework to accomplish real change for those living with ADHD. I would like to encourage my colleagues in the parliament to respond to this call for help, making a better future for those living with ADHD a reality.


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