Sook Huey believes ADHD can be turned into an asset

Lee Sook Huey, clinical psychologist at Kin & Kids Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Center.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a growing concern for parents worldwide. Malaysia is no different. Children with ADHD may be hyperactive and unable to control their impulses or have trouble paying attention. ADHD affects children and teens and can continue into adulthood.

As a clinical psychologist at Kin & Kids Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Center, Lee Sook Huey’s work includes conducting psychological assessments for various issues, including ADHD. Here, she shares with Thots n Tots how we can transform the disorder into an asset.

Where did you study?

I completed my master’s degree in clinical psychology at HELP University.

How long have you been a clinical psychologist and what do you do?

This is my fifth year as a clinical psychologist. At Kin & Kids, I work with children and adults with social-emotional and behavioural difficulties.

I also provide parenting consultation and conduct psychological assessment for children and adults, which includes evaluation for ADHD, learning disorders, intellectual disability, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

How did you get into it? Who or what influenced this decision?

Interestingly, I became aware of the existence of this field through movies and dramas. I figured that understanding human minds would be something I wouldn’t grow bored of. This still holds true! People never fail to amaze me!

How do we know a child has ADHD or if he just has a lot of energy?

If having a lot of energy is like owning a race car, then having ADHD is like driving a race car that has bad brakes. Children with ADHD show excessive and disabling traits of distractibility and/or impulsivity and hyperactivity.

It is also possible for children with ADHD to experience inattention issues predominantly, meaning their minds keep wandering but they do not show high levels of activity. When in doubt, having a proper evaluation is helpful to get the full picture. An accurate diagnosis is the first step to managing the condition better. As you understand it better, you can learn to transform the disorder into an asset.

For example, children with ADHD can be guided to intentionally utilise their adventurous spirit and ability to hyper-focus on things that interest them to create meaningful school projects. Some use their high level of energy in sports or their creative imagination and non-linear thinking in composing brilliant artwork.

How can family members help the ADHD child?

Get support and be resourceful! Involve a team of parents, teachers, therapists, coaches and friends to help the child. Work hard to identify and develop the child’s talents and strengths. Help the child to create structures and systems around your home to maintain good enough organisational skills in daily life. Most importantly, stay hopeful. Cut back on the shouting and punishment, and celebrate progress with a fun reward.

What expertise do you need as a psychologist to deal with ADHD?

Generally, most clinical psychologists would have training in assessing ADHD and would be able to help with attention coaching, behavioural therapy and parenting coaching.

Child psychiatrists and developmental paediatricians would be the experts in the medication management of ADHD. Occupational therapists, counsellors, teachers, parents and other adults can play an essential role to provide support, teach skills and create helpful structures in the child’s life. As mentioned, a team of support would be the best.

What is the hardest part about your job?

It can be emotionally draining at times but luckily the nature of private practice allows quite a bit of flexibility in scheduling my time. Ensuring time for self-care helps.

Tell us about the latest developments or research findings in ADHD.

Currently, ADHD is understood as developmental impairment in the brain’s executive functions system, or the parts of the brain that help us manage our behaviours, motivation and attention to complete tasks. This impairment leads to a high level of inconsistency in the performance of individuals with ADHD.

Recent research also reveals that having a positive social connection with family and peers contributes to a better outcome in ADHD interventions, meaning it is important for the child to have a strong feeling of connectedness and a sense of belonging.

Lastly, more studies are showing that excessive playing of video games exacerbates the symptoms of ADHD.

How do you relax?

I enjoy reading, travelling, singing and practising relaxation exercises.

If you could invent something child-related, what would it be and why?

A memory device that would automatically keep each child’s fondest family memories and can be played back as holograms whenever needed. Just because family time is precious!