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New DECP guidance encourages the use of non-pharmacological support for children and young people with difficulties with attention, activity and impulsivity

31 May 2022

The new guidance, published by the DECP, sets out alternative approaches to medication for managing children and young people who struggle with attention, activity and impulsivity that can be implemented prior to, alongside or instead of medication, in line with NICE guidelines.

With 2020 figures from the Care Quality Commission showing a continuing increase in the number of children receiving prescriptions for medication to treat ADHD, it’s important that parents, families and schools are well equipped to understand and support these children.

Based on an earlier study by the DECP, which found educational psychologists (EPs) are rarely engaged in the assessment of attention, activity and impulsivity disorders, it details how EPs can support the formulation of individually tailored interventions based on a children’s strengths and needs, taking into consideration their developmental history and environmental factors and how their expertise should be used more regularly. 

Dr Cynthia Pinto, chair-elect of the DECP and co-author of the guidance, said:

“We have long argued that it is vital to consider children’s behaviour in the context of their life experiences to decide if patterns of behaviour might, in fact, be adaptive responses to difficult and unsafe contexts.

“We know that medication can play a role in enabling children and young people to manage their ADHD, however we believe that there needs to be a consideration of non-pharmacological approaches as well, alongside, or in some instances, instead of medication.

"When appropriate support is put in place in school settings, it can make a positive difference for those with difficulties with attention, activity and impulsivity and we hope this guidance is practical and useful and helps lead to better outcomes for children and young people.”

The guidance advocates an assess, plan, do and review approach, and offers advice on how to modify the child’s learning environment, actively engaging pupils during their learning, creating predictable schedules, and managing unstructured times such as break times. It also offers guidance on improving the social and emotional climate by developing positive teacher-pupil relationships and ways of supporting families.



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