First local children's book on ADHD launched

14 November 2019 - 12:53 By Linda Christensen
Prof Renata Schoeman and David Griessel with SA’s first book on ADHD for children.
Prof Renata Schoeman and David Griessel with SA’s first book on ADHD for children.
Image: Claire Greenspan Photography

One in 20 South African children and an estimated million adults suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Aimed at creating awareness for early detection and intervention, All of these things are important to me is the first fictional book on ADHD to be launched in the country.

Illustrated by David Griessel, the book is co-written by psychiatrist Prof Renata Schoeman, co-author of SA management guidelines for ADHD, and celebrated author Refiloe Moahloli.

All of these things are important to me explores the adventurous life of Zee in a short and colourful narrative in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho, and through its captivating storytelling explains how a child with ADHD perceives and lives in the world.

The second part of the book offers a simple but accurate explanation of ADHD: what it is, how it is diagnosed and how it is managed. It offers valuable advice for parents, educators and health-care professionals in understanding and managing ADHD.

Prof Schoeman says the condition is often misdiagnosed and is plagued by myths and misunderstandings, particularly with regard to treatment.

“When undiagnosed or not effectively treated, ADHD often sees children being unfairly labelled as naughty, delinquent and unteachable, and, as adults, as lazy or incompetent. It’s important to talk about ADHD and how it hampers educational performance, self-esteem, relationships and productivity.

"We also need to create awareness about other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse, which can sometimes surface when ADHD is either mistreated or goes undetected.”

Schoeman says the playful narrative of the book is intentional to ensure that children are entertained, while parents use the scientific content as a resource to answer children's or even their own questions about ADHD.

“We wanted to create a resource that would be accessible to as many South Africans as possible in native languages and in the voice of a child with which both children, parents and teachers could resonate.”

The manner in which ADHD is talked about with a child can have an enormous impact on their perception of their value in the world, Schowman says.

"The right books can help and in South Africa there are no resources available to guide parents, teachers and carers. Parenting a child with ADHD can be challenging if one is not equipped, but if you seek the right knowledge you can untap the potential of your children and help them to cope with their symptoms better.”

Proceeds from the book will be donated to the Goldilocks and the Bear Foundation, founded by Prof Schoeman and athlete Nic de Beer in 2017. It funds and manages the screening of children in underprivileged areas, not only for the early detection and intervention of ADHD, but also other mental health conditions and learning difficulties which are barriers to education.

The foundation trains teachers and caregivers, and upskills NGOs in the early detection of ADHD and other mental health disorders. To date, it has offered free mental health services to 21,781 children in the Western Cape and opened an ADHD screening centre at Cape Town's Tygerberg Hospital this year.

The foundation has expanded to Gauteng, where it launched in October 2019 and plans to be operational from early 2020.

The book is available for R100 from the foundation ( Sponsorships will be donated to schools and public libraries to broaden the reach and awareness.

Prof Renata Schoeman is a psychiatrist with special interests in cognition (disorders affecting attention, concentration, learning and memory, such as ADHD), eating, mood and anxiety disorders. She is an associate professor in leadership at the University of Stellenbosch’s Business School (USB) and convener of the SA Society of Psychiatrists' (Sasop's) special interest group for ADHD.

Refiloe Moahloli is a children’s book author. Her best-selling debut, How Many Ways Can You Say Hello?, was published in 2017 by Penguin Random House and has been incorporated into the Gauteng department of education’s catalogue. She has a commerce background and experience in sales, marketing and bid management.

David Griessel holds a BA in fine arts from the University of the Free State and is a full-time artist and picture book illustrator. He lives a freelance lifestyle in Cape Town, where he regularly exhibits. He has exhibited at many galleries in SA. He also did so in France, during an art residency at Draw International in Caylus.