ADHD: Classroom to Courtroom

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is an internationally validated medical condition of brain dysfunction in which individuals have difficulties in controlling impulses, inhibiting appropriate behaviour and sustaining attention.

In the UK however the condition remains largely misunderstood and often overlooked which has serious long term consequences for t he individuals concerned and their families..

It is unfortunate but true that while Education has been slow to recognise the impact and importance of ADHD awareness in schools the criminal justice system has been far more proactive regarding the issue.

In 2008 the Youth Justice Board highlighted 7 main risk factors with regards to Youth Offending which were as follows:

 Temperament
 Maltreatment
 Mother has low IQ
 Child has low IQ
 Parent convicted
 ADHD diagnosis
 Low socio – economic Status

This clearly shows how seriously the Criminal Justice System views the situation .This also takes into the consideration the fact that it is a major risk factor once “an ADHD diagnosis has been made” What are the implications associated with all those individuals under the radar.

This issue was further highlighted by an ASSET data report by the YJB in 2002/03 regarding youth offending. This outlined some of the key characteristics and circumstances of offending in the UK which were listed as….

 27% had previous permanent exclusions from school
 41% were regularly truanting
 42% were rated as underachieving at school
 40% were assessed as associated with peers actively involved in criminal activity
 50% were recorded as having used cannabis
 75% were considered to be impulsive and to act without thinking
There is no doubt that this last characteristic clearly shows a link with behaviour associated with ADHD. In addition to this, when questioned, Police Officers will admit that during gang related offences they are far more likely to arrest the “followers” (i.e. the risk takers) than the leaders.

In terms of School exclusion there is also an extremely strong link with ADHD. This is due to the fact that the greatest reason for school exclusion is a term called PDB or Persistent Disruptive Behaviour.

Figures taken from the DFE in 2008 show the following.

 Of the 8,680 students who were permanently excluded in 2007/08 31.1% are said to exhibit Persistent Disruptive Behaviour or PDB.
 PDB is also the main cause of 176,030 cases of the 425,600 fixed term exclusions. This is 41.1% of all fixed term cases.
 Boys are 4 times more likely to be permanently excluded from schools and 3 times more likely to be temporary excluded

There appears to be no consistent, regional or national definition for PDB. It is used however to cover a spectrum of behaviours, from calling-out in class, annoying/distracting other students and general attention seeking. These would be classic behaviours associated with ADHD.

When you consider that the ratio of Boys to Girls with ADHD is in the 4:1 range this is also consistent with the rate of Exclusion. The overlap appears more than just an unhappy coincidence.

Obviously there will be a range of issues for School Exclusion along with a number of reasons why individuals enter the Criminal Justice System. What cannot be ignored however is that ADHD is a highly significant factor?

How many more lives are to be wasted until we begin to take the opportunity of recognising and supporting children and young people with ADHD? Keeping them in the classroom and out of the courtroom?

Fin O’Regan 7th of October 2011