Komal Shah is a happy mother. In fact, the entire family is jubilant these days. The reason is her 15-year-old son Krish, who scored a whopping 90 per cent in his recently-announced class 10 ICSE exams results. But not so long ago, Krish was distracted, detached and disillusioned, his mind pushing him to do many things at once, all except studying.
“Mathematics was his nemesis,” Komal, a homemaker and a resident of Mulund near Mumbai, Maharashtra, tells indianexpress.com. Krish was eight years old when his family found out he has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. “Before his diagnosis, he seemed disturbed all the time. His answer sheets would come back blank, and he would struggle to concentrate. We would be constantly bombarded with complaints from the school that he was not completing his notes, not writing anything in class,” she says.
As a mother, Komal’s heart sank every day. Her son was made to sit separately in the class. His classmates would bully and boycott him because of his restlessness. Their parents would call her up every day to enquire if Krish had some kind of a problem. Teachers would lose their patience and give up on him, saying teaching him was beyond them. “He was a slow learner; he would take his time to grasp the concepts. He needed someone to guide him with a lot of patience, and not many teachers had that. He also came across teachers who underestimated and mocked him. He would feel hurt, naturally. And then I decided to teach him patiently at home and be by his side. I have continued that till now,” she shares. She describes how at one point Krish had started reacting with physical aggression against his classmates when they teased him, because he could not think of any other comeback.
When the film Taare Zameen Par had released, it resonated so much with Komal that she had ended up crying, she recalls. The cinematic portrayal of a child with learning disabilities had made her think about her own son, and his daily struggles at school.
Therapy and recovery
Thankfully for Krish, his parents never once doubted his abilities. Fighting every kind of stigma, they found themselves in the company of Dr Sumit Shinde, an occupational therapist and a senior child psychologist of the Child Learning Centre. “It was the school counsellor who had referred me to Dr Shinde, way back when he was in the third grade. I took Krish there for six to eight months, and then we had to stop because I had just given birth to a daughter. We tried other places, but nothing worked out. Eventually we went back to Dr Shinde when Krish was 10. For two-and-a-half years, we went to him thrice a week for Krish’s occupational therapy,” Komal says, adding Krish is just like any other child who is into sports, music and dance.
“He embraced the challenges and rose to the occasion. When he would see his classmates performing well in academics, Krish would work hard, too. We had to stop his therapy because of his busy schedule, but by then Krish had started doing much better. I would say his own determination helped a lot. He even gave up on junk food, which plays a trigger for kids who have ADHD,” she explains.
ADHD and its treatment
Dr Sumit Shinde says ADHD is a neurological disorder in which there are three major symtoms: lack of attention, presence of hyperactivity, and impulsivity. “Usually, we come to know if a child has ADHD when they are two to two-and-a-half years old and show some reflexes, and some behaviours which we can identify as moving towards ADHD. But mostly, it comes out when the child goes to a school, and does not sit at one place, pushes other kids, smashes things, or shows possessive behaviour. And it may become difficult to handle the child when in a group,” he comments.
The good news, however, is that with certain professional approaches, ADHD is completely treatable. Typically, when a child has ADHD, they may sit inside a classroom and while the teacher is talking, be distracted by the sound of the fan whirring, other children whispering, vehicles moving outside, and so on, explains Dr Shinde. As opposed to filtering out information and focusing via ‘selective attention’, a kid with ADHD will not be able to filter anything out.
“It is a matter of eight to 10 months to work on a child with hyperactivity and inattention. Sometimes parents may show wrong coping mechanisms too. So, we need to work on parenting, too, and maybe it can take one-and-a-half years to completely overcome the issue. If left untreated, it can cause personality problems in the long run,” the doctor explains.
He says ADHD need to be identified early for it to be treated more easily.