MEET: WEST COAST ADHD SUPPORT GROUP. Jaco Swart, School Counsellor and Jessica Cheesman, Educational Psychologist:. " ADHD and the essential need for support"

ADHD and the essential need for support

Written by Jessica Cheesman (Educational Psychologist) and Jaco Swart (School Counsellor at Table View Primary School)

"The value of an idea lies in using it: Thomas Edison"

The West Coast ADHD support group was founded by Jessica and Jaco in early 2019 when Jessica was completing her Educational Psychology internship and Jaco was one of her supervisors. Their unique qualities of vision, passion, creativity and a desire to support others resulted in the perfect combination to ensure that this support group came to be. The group meets every second Saturday of the month at Table View Primary School from 9-10am. They provide this free service primarily to the greater West Coast community. The group is aimed at adults with ADHD, parents of children with ADHD, or other individuals who have a loved one with ADHD. Sessions involve a check-in session and discussions around the challenges and triumphs of the month. In this way, not only are attendees able to express themselves in a non-judgemental environment, but knowledge from personal experiences is shared. Speakers are sometimes included in sessions, for example Dr Carew joined a session in March to discuss ADHD through the lifespan.

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much: Helen Keller"

The Oxford dictionary defines "support" in terms of building, and construction as "to hold something in position; to prevent something from falling". We see the ADHD West Coast support group as the scaffolding on which such support can be provided to the individuals and families in our community who are facing challenges related to ADHD. On the 13th of April 2019 we held our first support group meeting. We weren't sure what the response would be, or how many sessions we would have. A year later, the world is a very different place. Our 1 year group celebration is on hold due to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown. However, this milestone is to be celebrated within our group, and highlights the need for ongoing support. We have frequent regulars to our group who have attended all sessions, and we often have friendly new faces pop in and out of sessions throughout the year.

"Professionals have a responsibility to be ADHD advocates: Jessica Cheesman"

Having completed two Masters theses into ADHD within South Africa, I was overcome by the immense stress these families face related to raising their children with ADHD, along with family and societal stigma. My research into the stress levels of families of children with ADHD highlighted that parents of children with ADHD are significantly more stressed than parents of neurotypically developing children. Furthermore, 90% of the mothers of children with ADHD in my research experienced clinically significant stress levels related to their children's behaviour or characteristics. Depression rates were higher than parents of typically developing children, and stigma was seen as one of the biggest contributing factors towards stress. It made me realise that these families were vulnerable due to the lack of general knowledge within society regarding ADHD. My aim through all of my ventures with ADHD has been to be an ADHD ally and advocate. We are slowly chipping away at the stigma surrounding ADHD while also providing support to those who need it most. 

"The power of empowering parents: Jaco Swart"

As the school counsellor I saw a need for our parents to be empowered through this journey. For many this is a new and scary road full of judgement, stigma and fear. I hoped that a space where parents could share with each other and unburden themselves for a little while would be beneficial. What I found is a great wisdom in our groups that transcends my initial hopes to include encouragement, perseverance, laughter and a real thirst for knowledge, tips and strategies. I feel that this group could not have reached the family status that it currently enjoys if it wasn't for the expertise and guidance from Jessica. She helped realise my vision and made it a reality. Working with her and our lovely ADHD families has really helped me understand the struggles and triumphs of ADHD individuals and those who care for and love them. I hope now that we can just attract more teachers to come share their voices and perhaps gain a better understanding of the ADHD journey from the parental perspective, leading to a potentially more empathetic approach to ADHD in the classroom. 

"Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Dr Seuss"

Feedback from some of our support group members as we reflect on the past year:

"As a mother of two children diagnosed with ADHD, I can honestly say the road we travel with our children is hard and can seem long and endless with little light at the end of the tunnel. Then, there's the blame and guilt; we bear from others. It is those that are usually closest to us, who judge us to be bad parents who "permit and encourage" our children's behaviours. Being part of the ADHD support group has given me a renewed sense of hope, help and support. Mothers and Fathers can come together without the worry of judgement and blame. We share our very relatable stories, with a 'nod' of understanding, an air of humour and recognition. Knowing that we are experiencing these similar issues gives us the strength to know that there is no failing in a mother's love". - Hannah

"We were referred to the ADHD Support group by Dr L Carew. At first I was sceptical and nervous. As parents we receive so much judgement from society about our kiddies and our parenting skills. I did not feel like another group where we were going to be judged. At my first meeting I realized that this is a place of safety. No judgement at all. We all have very different challenges but at group we get to laugh about it, cry about it. Celebrate all milestones, find solutions for problems. Unload and uplift. I love hearing how different advice was implemented and success was reached. I realized that I am not alone in this, there are so many families going through the same and the more we chat about it the more we will help each other to understand it." - Alita

If you would like to join our support group or gain more information about the group and Jessica's research in ADHD in South Africa please email 



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Dr Lesley Carew is a registered Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist practising at the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town with a satellite sessional room on Thursday afternoons at the Akeso Milnerton.


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