Participants sought for trial of new intervention program for children with ADHD

5 May 2010

The University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences is seeking participants for a new play-based intervention program which aims to assist children with ADHD to develop their social interactions.

The Faculty's Chair of Occupational Therapy, Professor Anita Bundy said play was very often the activity and experience where children learn social competence and develop friendships.

"In a previous study involving 350 children, we discovered that the play of children with ADHD differed from that of their peers," she said.

"Their study found children with ADHD had difficulty identifying the emotional states of their playmates and taking on their perspectives.

"Perhaps the biggest problem for children with ADHD is failing to respond to the cues their playmates are giving and to recognise when they may have gone too far. Thus play becomes disrupted."

Based on these findings, the researchers have developed a play-based intervention to address the difficulties that many children with ADHD experience. The program will provide participants with assessments of social language and play skills and a play-based intervention that runs for seven weeks. The intervention will be conducted by an occupational therapist specialising in child development and play.

Children with ADHD will invite a regular playmate or sibling to participate in the intervention. The researchers will use a technique whereby children will observe videotapes of themselves in play and be helped to identify successful and unsuccessful play transactions.

Parents will also learn to help their children interact better—without the "battles" that sometimes accompany getting along.

Chief interventionist, Dr Reinie Cordier said the play-based intervention had been designed to address the particular play difficulties associated with ADHD.

"We anticipate that the intervention will assist children with ADHD to develop social skills and promote the ability to form and maintain friendships," he said.

"This is important because having a childhood friend is crucial to preventing the development of serious relationship issues, or even anti-social behaviour, in adulthood."

Participant information: The pilot program is seeking children aged 5 - 11 years, with a confirmed diagnosis of ADHD. Children can participate in the program if they have conditions commonly occurring with ADHD (e.g., learning disorders and oppositional defiant disorder) provided ADHD is the primary diagnosis. Children will not be able to participate if they have other major developmental or psychiatric disorders (e.g., autism, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy). Participants will be required to have functional English skills to participate.

Costs: Participation in the program is free and parents will be provided with parking vouchers.

Media contact: Rachel Gleeson, University of Sydney Media Officer on 0403 067 342 or 9351 4312

Program contact: Dr Reinie Cordier, Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences, 02 9351 9216