Common sense brings science to attention

A new approach to treating attention deficit disorder

Date published: 2006-04-27 10:24:42 AM

Daniel Waschbusch, assistant professor of psychology at Dalhousie University has dedicated his life to helping some of the most misunderstood, challenging children around—those with disruptive behaviour disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). "They're a hard group of kids to understand and I find that scientifically intriguing," says Waschbusch.

His approach bridges science and common sense. "Rather than bringing the kids into the office, let's bring ourselves into the world where the kid is at. Let's deliver treatment when they're on the recess playground or playing soccer or in a classroom."

Three to five per cent of children are diagnosed with ADHD, which is characterized by varying combinations of severe inability to concentrate, impulsive behaviour and hyperactivity. Half of these children also have conduct problems, such as extreme defiance and frequent violation of the rights of others. Most take medication. ADHD does not disappear after puberty. Two-thirds of these children will face moderate to severe difficulties functioning as adults.

With funding from SSHRC, Waschbusch has designed two programs to treat children with attention deficit disorders. The Summer Treatment Program (STP) is an eight-week day camp for children with ADHD, while the Behaviour Education Support and Treatment program (BEST) is a 10-month in-school intervention for both children with and without ADHD. "Too often it's the case that the disruptive kids are the ones that are getting the recognition and the attention, so we try to switch that around to recognize the good behaviour and encourage that," explains Waschbusch.

Waschbusch looks forward to assessing the effectiveness of the two programs with a view to broadening their application.

Asked why he chose to commit himself to this challenging field of scientific inquiry, Waschbusch answers unhesitatingly: "I like science. I like kids. This is a way to combine them."

Daniel Waschbusch received a three-year SSHRC grant in 2001 to examine interventions for preventing and treating disruptive child behaviour.

Adapted with permission from the Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK) program at Dalhousie University.