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Your ‘problem child’ may have a disorder

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th February 2010 03:00 AM

AFTER a kwanjula (introduction ceremony) I attended recently, everyone in my family vowed never to take my niece to a party again.
She was all over the place, hugged everyone and even went to the in-laws’ tent and threatened to pour soda on them.

AFTER a kwanjula (introduction ceremony) I attended recently, everyone in my family vowed never to take my niece to a party again.
She was all over the place, hugged everyone and even went to the in-laws’ tent and threatened to pour soda on them.

By Doreen Murungi

AFTER a kwanjula (introduction ceremony) I attended recently, everyone in my family vowed never to take my niece to a party again.
She was all over the place, hugged everyone and even went to the in-laws’ tent and threatened to pour soda on them.

She sang when the music was off and did all sorts of annoying things.
Even after she was spanked, she still managed to dance with tears streaming down her face.

“She is only a child,” an elderly woman said, while other women hurled insults at her, saying she was indisciplined.” Parents with hyperative children usually feel embarrassed, overwhelmed, angry and hurt, especially when the crowd begins to judge and question their parenting skills.

Countless times, we hear children described as hyperactive, but what exactly does this mean?

Jane Nalubega, a psychologist and the executive director of Child Health Advocacy International, says hyperactivity is a disorder. Medically, it is referred to as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The condition is more common in boys than girls. The disorder may vary in intensity and most children will express some of the symptoms sometimes.

Unfortunately, there are no specific tests, so a diagnosis is based on observing the child’s behaviour. Psychologists group the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as follows:

Children in this category do not give attention to detail, make careless mistakes in their school work, hardly listen to what they are told, dislike and at times avoid tasks that require sustained mental effort. They often lose materials necessary for tasks or activities such as pencils, books and toys.

Children in this category normally shout out answers before a question is finished, fidget with their hands and feet and often twist in their seats.

They find it hard to queue or wait for their turn in group situations, games and activities. It is hard to get them to keep quiet. They are always running and climbing in inappropriate situations.

The combined type
Children who fall in this category have symptoms of both the inattentive and impulsive. Don’t most normal and happy children have a lot of energy? So how do you know if one child is just excited and if the other has the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

A hyperactive child is very inattentive, impulsive, always fidgeting, hardly listens to authority and many times is branded a nuisance.

Hyperactive children are filled with energy. They find it hard to focus and hardly stay seated for long. They cannot settle down to do their tasks or play. Sometimes they fail in class not because they are dull, but because they plan many things at once.

You could tell them to do one thing and they do another. They often lag behind their classmates, mainly because they are unable to concentrate. Even during exams they tend to write quickly without giving the brain time to think.

Another good way to tell if a child is hyperactive is to observe when he or she is with agemates.

Hyperactive children have problems when it comes to relating accurately with those around them. They are normally irritable and aggressive with playmates and fight over small things.

Most people are unaware of the potential hazards that hyperactive children are exposed to. Such children may disappear for a few seconds only to be found trying to put their fingers in a saucepan of boiling water or worse still, setting a house on fire.

Hyperactive children may also barge into games and conversations they are interested in without being asked.
Many people tend to attribute such behaviour to poor parenting.

However, Nalubega says: “Poor parenting only makes the symptoms worse, but does not cause hyperactivity.

Hyperactive children are good at modelling what their parents do, so parents need to be careful with what they say and do when around their children.

Research shows that hyperactivity runs in families. If your child is hyperactive, chances are, there is a relative who has or had similar characteristics.
Some mothers wonder why their children turn out this way.

“Exposure to toxins, like lead, during pregnancy can cause hyperactivity,” says Nalubega. Junk food has, for a long time, been associated with hyperactivity. Specialists say poor nutrition plays a big role in aggravates symptoms of hyperactivity.

Tamara Nyombi, a nutritionist, says there is evidence that certain additives, particularly refined sugars and artificial food colouring found in many junk foods may trigger hyperactivity.

“Increased intake of refined sugars causes high sugar levels in the blood and triggers adrenaline which gives way to hyperactivity,” she explains.
Internet site,, points out that magnesium, zinc and iron deficiencies have been linked to the disorder.

Foods with artificial colour also worsen the symptoms, especially if a child is sensitive to a particular colour.
When hyperactive children grow up, they may be rejected in society and may end up withdrawing from associating with others.

Generally speaking, when dealing with children, hyperactivity is often considered more of a problem for schools and parents than for a child. But there are a number of cases where many hyperactive children are unhappy or even depressed.

When dealing with other peers socially, hyperactive children may exhibit behaviours that make them a target for bullying, or make it harder to relate with other children.

School work may be more difficult and hyperactive children are frequently punished for their behaviour.
If not handled with care, they may end up with delinquent behaviour as they grow.

Some parents keep saying such a child would outgrow the stage, hence do nothing about it.

However, when hyperactivity starts to become a problem for the individual or others, it can be classified as a medical disorder that requires attention.

If you have never had a child who attempts to lock himself in a refrigerator or tries to iron whatever he or she comes across, it is probably hard to comprehend. Such children are a challenge.

The first thing to do if you suspect your child is hyperactive is to do an assessment. More severe cases of hyperactivity can be very harmful if left untreated.

“Parents are advised to seek advice from psychologists or psychiatrists and medical practitioners,” Nalubega says.

Your ‘problem child’ may have a disorder

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