Four out of five teachers ‘have no training in ADHD’

Conference hears a third of GPs and teachers put condition down to ‘poor parenting’

Four out of five teachers who encounter a child with the condition ADHD are likely to have no special training in the area, a conference in Dublin has heard.

The inaugural UCD child and adolescent psychiatry conference, titled ‘The ADHD Tsunami: Global Perspectives’ attracted several hundred delegates to the college on Friday.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a treatable medical condition in which the brain’s neurotransmitter chemicals do not work properly.

Symptoms may include inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity, and left undiagnosed, it can lead to poor outcomes for children.


Presenting first findings from a major national study, Dr Mimi Tatlow-Golden said prevalence of ADHD varied internationally between 1 per cent and 26 per cent.

Robust studies suggested that about one in three children who had ADHD actually had a diagnosis.

Dr Tatlow-Golden, who conducted the research along with Dr Blánaid Galvin and Prof Fiona McNicholas of the UCD Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said she was still interpreting the six sub-studies, which included the examination of attitudes to ADHD among GPs, teachers and the Probation Service.

It also included an examination of how ADHD is represented in media.

Dr Tatlow-Golden said that, alarmingly, only 4 per cent of GPs said they had training in ADHD, while 17 per cent of mainstream teachers did.


The chances were, that four out of five teachers who encountered a child with the condition during their school years, would have had no training in ADHD.

Dr Tatlow-Golden noted there was some “tension” on the question of whether it was clear to GPs and teachers what ADHD was. Nearly nine out of 10 believed ADHD was valid, but some found it difficult to say what the difference was between it and what they considered “normal childhood behaviour”.

Very few referred to it as a biological and neurological condition and a significant percentage misrepresented other symptoms as ADHD.

Small groups of GPs and teachers held some negative views about ADHD, the study found. Among GPs, 35 per cent said it was caused by poor parenting. More than one in five believed it was “a new and fashionable disorder”.

Among teachers, 30 per cent felt an ADHD diagnosis was stigmatising for a child and 30 per cent believed it was caused by poor parenting.

Anne Tansey, director of the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) in the Department of Education said there was a lot going on in schools to support such children.

“Our psychologists are working over the last few years in a very different way in schools than we had been heretofore. We are involved in delivering a lot of training to teachers and building skills amongst teachers to support not just children with ADHD, but a range of children who present with emotional and social difficulties within the school setting.”

This work included the children who were “disruptive or inattentive” and with whom it was hard to build relationshps, to look at their strengths and what could be done to support them.

Ms Tansey said a new needs-based approach to supporting children had been announced in the budget, which meant there would not be the same pressure for assessments in order to get resources.