The European Network of ADHD Conference took place this year in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 19th – 21st. It seemed like a good opportunity to present the results of my PhD pilot feasibility study assessing the effectiveness of treatment by homeopaths and nutritional therapists for children with ADHD, so I applied, and was accepted to do a poster presentation.
I was thrilled, but somewhat intimidated to then be asked to do an oral presentation in the non-pharmacological intervention symposium at the conference. The speaker list was littered with academics referenced in my thesis and I think I was the only non-doctor on the list. On my request, my ‘Dr’ prefix was removed from the programme, but it had crept back by the time the conference started.
As one of the co-authors, Professor David Daley from Nottingham University (who was chair of the trial steering committee) put it: you are speaking amongst giants. My nervousness increased further when the symposium was moved from a small, cosy setting to the enormous hall where the plenary lectures took place, due to the popularity of the topic.
The title of my presentation was Rethinking ADHD Intervention Trials: Feasibility Testing of Two Treatments (Nutritional Therapy and Homeopathic Treatment). During the presentation I discussed the importance of pragmatic trials to assess whether interventions might improve the long term negative outcomes associated with ADHD. I also presented the pilot findings regarding the effectiveness of the two treatments tested using the Trials Within Cohorts (TWiCs) methodology developed by my supervisor, Clare Relton.
The majority of attendees were clinicians: psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychologists. They told me that they appreciated the pragmatic nature of the design and assessment of the two interventions, since they attended the conference to receive practical information which might be helpful to their patients. I found myself unusual amongst the presenters in taking a more ‘public health’ approach to trials. The vast majority of ADHD research is conducted within Psychology departments, where pragmatic trials are rare, and more explanatory approaches the norm.
It is a significant tenet of my thesis that there is an unmet need for pragmatic trials of main and non-mainstream interventions for ADHD, to answer important questions as to whether treatments might improve long-term, negative outcomes. It was gratifying that clinicians agreed with me, and their enthusiasm is fueling my post-doc aspirations. But first I need to submit that thesis, and get through that viva………….