An ADHD paradigm shift

Optus Stadium, the location of the ADHD 2023 conference. Photo: Ashlyn Forbes.

We are heading for a paradigm shift in the way we approach and diagnose ADHD, according to Professor Sven Bölte.

He was speaking at the annual ADHD WA Conference held in Perth at Optus Stadium on October 14. The conference was both in person and online, making it accessible to experts who wanted to share their research, individuals with the hyperactivity disorder and parents who have children with the diagnosis.

Professor Bölte, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Science, was a keynote speaker. He presented his research on the need for a paradigm shift in ADHD research from a diagnosis-driven system to a more universal approach, such as the one used in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health system created by the World Health Organization.

He said: “This system is looking at each individuals’ strengths and challenges, as well as barriers and facilitators, in their environment. This would have many advantages for research and practice, in how we treat and support people with ADHD and their families.”

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it tends to make sustained concentration harder, causes hyperactivity and leads to impulsive decision making.

There are three different types of ADHD, including hyperactive, inattentive and a combination of both. It is estimated, by ADHD Australia, that one in 20 Australians are affected by ADHD.

The conference aimed to provide support to those in the community who have been diagnosed with ADHD, as well as provide strategies to help with concentration, parenting a child with ADHD and much more. The conference has many key speakers and experts presenting their research and knowledge on ADHD to help better the lives of an estimated 1.2 million Australian citizens.

Psychiatrist Dr Roger Paterson, also presented at the conference. He provided information on ADHD medications across a lifespan.

He said: “Events like this are important as they disseminate up-to-date, practical and useful information about all aspects of ADHD, especially how to cope with the condition, minimising negative aspects and maximising positive aspects.”

Each year, ADHD WA, seeks to make the conference a little bit bigger and better to reach a further audience and provide more aid and information to those with the diagnosis.

Professor Bölte said: “It is very important that researchers clinicians and different stakeholders come together in real life and discuss. Especially in ADHD, where we have fast development in society regarding views and knowledge. The risk for misunderstanding is high and there are strong and controversial attitudes,”

Claudia Rowell, a student from Notre Dame, has had to change many aspects of her life since her ADHD diagnosis. She said: “Living with ADHD can feel overwhelming, overstimulating, and uncomfortable at times. It impacts my work and study routine. I utilise strategies, such as taking frequent breaks and minimising distractions, for it to not limit my ability to complete certain tasks.”