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New Loudoun Group Pays Attention to AD/HD

Baseball catches the attention of 12-year-old Matthew Slaughter when nothing else will.

The Leesburg boy came to the county in 2000 with a behavior file showing him to be the "devil incarnate," but his mother Katrina Slaughter urged the school principal to come to a baseball game to see "the real Matthew."

"He has trouble with group work, but on a baseball team, he excels. That's his element," Slaughter said. "He cooperates with team members. He focuses on hitting and catching the ball. ... His head is in the game all six innings."

Matthew Slaughter was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder when he was in the first grade. The disorder causes him to process stimuli around him all at once and makes it difficult for him to focus on any one thing, so he becomes disorganized and frustrated.

"You have to set routines and boundaries, and that's what we have done for Matt," said Slaughter, chapter coordinator of the Loudoun chapter of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).

The chapter, scheduled to meet for the first time Feb. 26, will provide education and support for children and adults who have attention deficit and, in some cases, hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), along with providing support for educators and medical professionals.

AD/HD is a neurological disorder that affects 3-5 percent of children and 2-4 percent of adults, according to statistics from the national headquarters.

"You can read a book on handling a child [with AD/HD]. Lots of times, it's easier to talk to another Mom who's been through it," Slaughter said. "You want to get parents and teachers together to make sure children suffering with AD/HD are getting the best new ways to teach them to succeed."

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS will be provided by speakers every two to three months on anything from helping AD/HD students with their homework to dealing with AD/HD in the work environment. AD/HD can be managed by breaking larger tasks into smaller tasks, writing things down to provide focus and using checklists.

Adults and children with AD/HD can have trouble working in groups and can become angry, frustrated and self-defensive, Slaughter said. They may have low self-esteem, frustrated they cannot complete a task due to a lack of focus. They can bounce from one task to another, not completing any one task. Adults can have problems focusing on driving, managing their finances and not completing work assignments. Children can have trouble paying attention in the classroom, finishing their homework and making friends.

CHADD offers educational programs for families and professionals locally and at the national level, while raising awareness and understanding of AD/HD. The national CHADD funds research and provides legislative advocacy.

"They can be treated. They can learn to do things. They are not in a hopeless situation," Slaughter said. "It may take some time. It may take some counseling."

CHADD advocates a multi-modal approach to treating AD/HD, including behavior management, educational programs, individual and family counseling, and medication when required, said Peg Nichols, director of communications and media relations for CHADD’s national headquarters, located in Landover, Md.

The Loudoun CHADD will provide programs to help local educators teach children with AD/HD, along with compiling resources for parents and adults with the disorder. The Loudoun CHADD will not act as a counseling organization nor support any particular treatments for the disorders, such as medication and behavior modification, but will act more as a support group.

CHADD has 225 chapters nationwide with 22,000 members. Seven chapters are located in Virginia, including chapters in Fairfax and Prince William counties. The national headquarters are in Landover, Md.