Support for autism and ADHD

Chrissie Fitch attends ‘CAMHS around the Campfire’ virtual journal club on ‘ADHD in children and young people with autism, and pharmacological treatment’.

My research interests are in attachment parenting, body image, eating behaviour, child-focused interventions, self-compassion and special educational needs (Fitch et al., 2020). With the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit, I am investigating the feeding practices and problems of children aged 5-12 with and without a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I was therefore interested in this online event by the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) as part of their free monthly CAMHS around the Campfire series. In each one-hour session a recently published research article is disseminated, key terminology is defined, audience questions are answered, and networking opportunities are provided.

The article disseminated in May was a systematic review and meta-analysis on the pharmacological treatment of attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and youth with ASD (Rodrigues et al., 2020). Overwhelmingly, a third of those on the autism spectrum also have a diagnosis of ADHD. The article highlights that inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and comorbidities with ASD and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and psychosis affect sleep and food habits, general quality of life, and may lead to suicide ideation.

While there is a large body of evidence of the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment for these disorder(s), they are often controversial. I always argue that medication should not be the first choice of treatment, so was pleased that the researchers addressed standardised pathways in the form of an eight-week behavioural intervention of measured-based care to alleviate the symptoms and struggles of those with ADHD and ASD. These include strategies for parents and teachers in providing one-to-one support, ‘chunking’ teaching, sessions on yoga, mindfulness and self-compassion and adaptations to the environment such as specialist equipment to reduce loud background noises and bright lights and so on (see Fitch et al., 2021). This resonated with my own work within the special education sector and a motion for change in mainstream schools. 

The session was attended by clinical and educational psychologists, child psychiatrists, other professionals as well as parents, students and early career researchers like me. The panel included a young man who shared his experience of a diagnosis of ADHD with ASD symptoms. His thoughts on a lack of awareness and the type of support required was enlightening. It reminded me that whilst we may be on the right track, the discipline is ever evolving, and we still have a lot of work to do. I’m looking forward to the next event!

- For more information on CAMHS around the Campfire conference series, see https://www.acamh.org/category/freeview/

- Chrissie Fitch MSc, London; Visiting Research Associate (Nutrition and Behaviour Unit, University of Bristol); Freelance Distance Learning Assessor in Child and Educational Psychology (Oxbridge Home Learning); Ad hoc Learning Support Assistant (City Education); and an Associate Editor for the Culture section. E: [email protected]; T: @fitchychris. 

References

Fitch, C., Provencher, J.P., Bowler, I. et al. (2020). Do I look fat in this? When self-image, intuitive eating and childhood parenting practices merge across gender. BPS Health Psychology Update, 29(1), 37-48. 

Fitch, C., Susilo, D.K., Provencher, J.P. et al. (2021). Who taught you how to hate yourself so much? A brief literature review on body image in children and adolescents and the case for mindful eating habits and self-compassion. BPS DECP Debate, 178(1), 7-14. 

Rodrigues, R., Lai, M.C., Beswick, A. et al. (2020). Practitioner Review: Pharmacological treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in children and youth with autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 62(6), 680-700. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13305

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