The New Forest Parenting Programme began life as a parenting course for the parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This remains it’s primary function but, with the assistance of NHS Innovations South East, NFPP have more recently developed a range of additional resources for parents, teachers and those working with children with ADHD. These include a self-help manual and a DVD entitled ‘Living with ADHD’. Developed in Southampton, the NFPP programme is now available throughout the UK and is being trialled in the United States.
ADHD is a condition affecting children and adolescents. Characterized by extreme and debilitating inattention, over-activity and impulsiveness, it affects around one in twenty 5 to 15 year-olds – or around 400,000 children in the UK. The consequences can be lasting and serious. During their school years, children with ADHD are more likely than their peers to experience educational underachievement and social isolation and to engage in antisocial behaviour. Among those with ‘early onset’ (ie whose problems manifest themselves in their preschool years) ADHD is more likely to persist into adulthood and is then associated with a significantly increased risk of unemployment, marital breakdown, self-harm and / or antisocial or criminal behaviour.
Clearly, then, it is of the utmost importance that the parents of a child – especially a young child - with ADHD are helped to manage their child’s behaviour effectively. That is what the New Forest Parenting Programme sets out to do. Developed jointly by a team from Southampton Community Healthcare (the provider-arm of NHS Southampton City) and the School of Psychology at the University of Southampton the 8-week course provides training for parents on how to best manage and modify their child’s behaviour. The programme can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to drug therapy (psychostimulants being the common treatment for ADHD).
Research into the New Forest Parenting Programme has so far chiefly focused on the programme’s work with the parents of very young children (aged 3 to 5 years), with three separate studies showing positive outcomes for children and finding that families showing an increase in parental competency also show an improvement in family relationships and a reduction in the child’s ADHD symptoms. In spite of that necessary emphasis on children with early onset ADHD, however, the programme is used clinically up to the age of 12, whilst the principles of the programme are used with parents throughout their child’s teenage years. Expected outcomes for parents participating in the programme include:
• Increase in parental understanding of ADHD
• Improved parent-child relationship
• Improved parental skills in behaviour-management
• learning how to act as their child’s trainer, thereby improving their attention and concentration
• learning how to promote their child’s social skills and encourage pro-social behaviour, by encouraging self regulation and expression of feelings.
It would be hard to exaggerate the potential benefits of the New Forest Parenting Programme. Properly applied by concerned parents, it has the potential to transform young lives for the better; in the process generating huge savings for the public purse – and not just in the NHS. The programme has now been validated by the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners and included in it’s “Commissioning Toolkit of Parenting Programmes”. It is also being trialled in New York, with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, USA.