Sunday, January 22, 2012

Interview with psychologist Dr. Pearnel Bell on ADHD

        A few years ago, I was asked to help a boy with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) with preparation for the Grade Six Achievement Test. At his initial interview with me in the presence of his mother, he appeared quite normal. He was able to read a story silently and answer questions about it. When he came for class, we decided to look at his homework. I left the room to get a reference book, and when I came back, he had disappeared! I found him hiding in a cupboard! This was not out of fear, but was a practical joke on his part. He was testing my reactions. I learnt that I had to have everything prepared before he came, to include practical activities and not to spend too long on any one activity.
       This boy had made great strides before I met him, and continued to improve, especially with the help of his speech therapist, Winsome Stewart. He was fortunate in being diagnosed and treated early, but there are many who are not so lucky. Having this condition can be a reason why a child doesn’t learn to read, so I asked Dr. Bell to answer some questions about it. I was excited to learn that she has written a book entitled A Teacher Guide to Understanding the Disruptive Behaviour Disorders which will soon be available in books stores in the USA.

Dr. Pearnel Bell

Dr. Pearnel Bell is a practicing psychologist in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She works with children, adolescents, and adults. She is also affiliated to Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI). Her book entitled Words Once Unspoken: Poetry Inspired by Friendship, a book of therapeutic poems, is in books stores in the USA and on

Helen: What is ADHD?
Dr. Bell: ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that results in impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention.

Helen: How is ADHD diagnosed and can it be misdiagnosed?
Dr. Bell: Sometimes a child may present with predominantly inattentive type or hyperactive. When the disorder manifest as inattention, the ADD diagnosis is given. Several other medical problems can present with symptoms of ADHD and so it can be misdiagnosed.

Helen: What is the prevalence of ADHD Jamaica?
Dr. Bell: Dr. Audrey Pottinger, consultant clinical psychologist at the University of the West Indies, reported that it is as high as 25% of the population.
Helen: That sounds awefully high.

Helen: I believe you have done some research on ADHD with children in Jamaican schools. Were principals and teachers receptive to your enquiries?
Dr. Bell: Yes they were –I have now published a book entitled “ A Teacher Guide to Understanding the Disruptive behaviour Disorders”.

Helen: What was the outcome of your research?
Dr. Bell: The research indicates that there is a high incident of ADHD in schools and teachers were unprepared to deal with the disorder.

Helen: What is the best approach for teachers to take with children with ADHD?
Dr. Bell: It is a multi-disciplinary approach that should be taken but teachers must become aware of the diagnosis and recognize it as a disorder and develop strategies that are covered in my book.

Helen: What is the best approach for parents to take with children with ADHD?
Dr. Bell: Understand what it is and help to regulate the child’s behaviour with a variety of techniques that involve showing unconditional positive regards, behaviour modification strategies that have to be taught to them by a professional

Helen: Are there any foods or drinks which exacerbate ADHD?
Dr. Bell: No- There is a widely held myth that sugar increases hyperactivity this is not true.

Helen: What is your opinion on drug treatment for children with ADHD?
Dr. Bell: Drug treatment is an important part of the treatment because of the neurobiological causation of the disorder. In my book I have a chapter that speaks to drug therapy.

Helen: What alternatives are there to drug treatment?
Dr. Bell: There are computer based programs- One called the Sharper Brain Program that help with the child concentration. There is also biofeedback that helps the child to regulate activity level.

Helen: Do you think that Jamaican schools provide enough outlets for normal children’s need for free movement?
Dr. Bell: Recess, lunch time are seen as play time. Physical education - other than that I cannot say if they get free movement. For the ADHD student, teachers need to provide this outlet.

Helen: Is there anything else which you think parents and teachers should know about ADHD?
Dr. Bell: Please let them know about my book as it addresses all the questions you have raised.

Helen: Thank you Dr. Bell. I look forward to reading your book, and hope it will soon be available in Jamaica.


db said...

Has the book been published and how may I get a copy. Also is there a contact number for Dr. Bell?

Helen said...

db Looking into your query. I will get back to it ASAP.

Iman Shaw said...

Hello im a 17year old girl i want to become a successful psychologist here in Jamaica like Dr Bell is the an email i can contact her by? If so i would apeciate this so much.

Helen said...

Hi Iman. You can email me at with your request and contact details and I will forward it to her.

Extraordinary Promotions said...

hi is there a contact number for Dr. Bell?

Helen said...

Her email address is

JAY said...

I am a 42 year old man. As a child I could not pay attention in class, because I was either day-dreaming or distracted by other things in my surroundings. I often forgot instructions, so it affected my educational development. Fast-forward to the present, things got worst. I misunderstand what people say sometimes and I have terrible organization skills, social skills, and problems expressing myself clearly. What's even worst is I have problems prioritizing things in my life, so everything around me is falling apart. I'm in and out of a job constantly and my wife feels I neglect her.

If this is ADD or ADHD, is it too m 42 late to be treated. Where could I get the right kind of help?

I have seen a psychologist before, but I felt that He didn't understand what I was going through and the medication he prescribed led to severe depression.

Is there hope for me here in Jamaica or do I need to find a specialist in the United States?

Helen said...

I have copied your comment to Dr. Bell in an email. I hope she will have some helpful suggestions.