DUBAI // He has just aced several exams a year early.
But seven years ago, Robert Jex had not started on any curriculum because of what teachers deemed as disruptive behaviour.
Robert has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that meant, until his condition was diagnosed at the age of 8, he found it difficult to concentrate in class, was often bored and struggled to control his behaviour.
These traits were often misinterpreted as him being unruly.
His mother, Rachel Jex, a school nurse at Jumeira Baccalaureate school in Dubai, said when Robert was a child she noticed that he struggled to stay focused and tried alternative therapies, changing his diet and encouraging activities such as football to help her son, but with little success.
When teachers began reporting disruptive behaviour in the classroom, Mrs Jex decided to take her son for tests.
“He found it difficult to pay attention and stay on track,” Mrs Jex said.
“He would then disrupt the other child. Because he had tuned out or was not listening he would fail to hear assignments and would often not turn in his homework.
“He was never a naughty boy but it was frustrating to watch his behaviour.”
After ruling out dyslexia or dysgraphia, which can often have the same characteristics of boredom or inability to focus, an educational psychologist, who spent time observing Robert’s behaviour in the classroom, concluded that he had ADHD.
Mrs Jex, 44, said when ADHD was finally diagnosed it came as an enormous relief.
“As a parent you blame yourself and you feel any mistake is your fault,” the English expatriate said.
“The diagnosis meant it was not his fault, but it was not mine either.”
There are different types of ADHD and Robert displayed signs of one of the primary characteristics, inattention.
He began a course of concerta, a form of the drug ritalin, which is one of the most popular forms of medication for ADHD, and the change has been remarkable, said Mrs Jex, who praised the actions of staff at the Dubai British School where Robert is a pupil.
Robert, now 15, recently got A* grades in physics, biology and chemistry, something that Mrs Jex did not think was possible until her son’s condition was diagnosed and treated. Mrs Jex founded the ADHD Support Group in 2007 to provide a lifeline for other parents like her.
Mrs Jex believes a lack of awareness and a stigma about ADHD in the UAE means many parents are still ashamed about having a child with the hyperactivity disorder.
“I think we need more awareness,” she said. “A lot of parents still do not want to admit their child has ADHD. I have had families request to meet me for help in private in the most bizarre places so they will not be seen. It is a real issue.”
A problem for ADHD parents is the cost of medication, she said. ADHD is not recognised by most insurance companies and last month alone Mrs Jex shelled out Dh1,000 on drugs and therapies for Robert.
For more information on the ADHD Support Group email email@example.com or visit www.taaleem.ae/adhd-support-group-dubai.