ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioural disorders in both children and adolescents. Often for those diagnosed at this age, school teachers often play an important role in recognising the behavioural issue and are frequently involved in the help seeking process. Despite their position of influence and understanding of children, there are still misconceptions to be found in how some teachers would recognise and suggest treatment of ADHD. A cross-national study conducted by Sciutto et al. (2016) highlighted several specific knowledge gaps and misconceptions with teachers globally.
A common misconception held by groups of teachers was that the impact of foods such as sugar or additives, would increase the symptoms of ADHD and potentially lead to further substance problems (such as drugs or alcohol) later in a child/adolescent’s life. Thus, the belief that the elimination of these from a diet will have an effective impact. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence that such a dietary change will have any impact on any symptoms of ADHD. This could be potentially explained by the presence of other health issues around the world (such as diabetes or obesity) and thus a belief that a positive health benefit would also affect ADHD.
Similar knowledge issue found to common worldwide is the confusing a symptom of another disorder for a symptom of ADHD. Two communal beliefs held is that children/adolescents affected by ADHD would have far more problems with novel situations as opposed to familiar situations, and that they have an “inflexible adherence to specific routines and rituals”. These two behaviours are far more likely to be an indicator that a child is on the autism spectrum, as opposed to ADHD. This may be related to the negative stigma associated with ADHD, and thus the desire to lump any perceived problem behavioural traits und its label. Alternatively, it may be a lack of understanding between the boundaries of ADHD and autism.
Source: Sciutto, M., Terjesen, M., Kučerová, A., Michalová, Z., Schmiedeler, S., & Antonopoulou, K. et al. (2016). Cross-national comparisons of teachers’ knowledge and misconceptions of ADHD. International Perspectives In Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 5(1), 34-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ipp0000045