When it comes to ADHD in children, there is an emerging concern that support and treatment is becoming increasingly inaccessible.

I am hearing almost daily now of parents unable to access paediatricians or psychiatrists for diagnosis or support of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It is not unusual to hear of parents ringing 30 or more specialist phone numbers seeking an appointment. Waiting times in the public system have blown out beyond two years in WA and some services do not accept referrals when ‘ADHD’ is mentioned.

Many paediatricians have closed their books until further notice. They are at their capacity and a crisis is emerging.

Allied health services are also experiencing similar levels of delay. One local private occupational therapy group I contacted the other day reported a waitlist of over 200 children. My experience is not in isolation and it is commonly discussed amongst GPs that this is now the norm.

ADHD is an important neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one in 20 children. I find the children I see who have ADHD to be fun, interactive, bubbly and busy children who have so much potential. I tell them it is their ‘superpower’.

There is plenty to understand below the surface of this positive exterior.

Children with ADHD either have hyperactivity – cannot sit still and are always squirming – or inattentiveness – where they daydream and tune-out – or a mixture of both.

Some are labelled as ‘naughty’ and end up repeatedly getting in trouble. They inadvertently become the centre of attention in schools. Some also lack positive reinforcement and have reduced self-esteem.

The truth is, children with ADHD have so much potential and energy that time left untreated puts them at risk of harm. The condition is also associated with an increased risk of other conditions such as anxiety, depression and conduct disorders.

It is time for general practice to step up and fill the gap

GPs have such a unique set of skills and can contribute so much to the lives of families living with neurodiversity and learning difficulty.

We can:

  • build rapport and trust with children and their families, creating a long-lasting therapeutic relationship
  • involve the whole family, seeing siblings, parents and even grandparents
  • think holistically and broadly about the ‘bio-psycho-social’ issues facing that child
  • set up and create a multi-disciplinary team to work with that child (including allied health and paediatricians)
  • follow up regularly over a long period of time to ensure those goals are being met.

These are our core values and exist across all conditions, not just ADHD.

Unfortunately, GPs are not recognised as specialists who can either diagnose or prescribe for treatment of ADHD.

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