ADHD_academic.interventionsHigh school students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) receive a lot of support at school, a new study reports. However, most of the services adolescents with ADHD receive are not evidence-based. The study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) finds that high school students with ADHD perform worse than their peers in academics, despite high levels of support. Students with ADHD often have problems completing work and that they have a much higher high school dropout rate than their peers. According to researchers for the new study, using evidence-based interventions could ameliorate these problems.

The researchers drew data from a nationally-representative survey, the Mutli-Modal Treatment Outcome Study for ADHD. This survey included data from over 500 students whose progress was tracked since early childhood. The researchers analyzed what type of school services the students received and the students’ academic outcomes.

Overall, students with ADHD performed worse academically than their peers. The students with ADHD had lower test scores and grade point averages than other students. Additionally, teachers rated students with ADHD as more aggressive and less academically successful than their peers.

Most of the services and accommodations that the students with ADHD received were prescribed by their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) as part of the schools’ special education programs. One of the most common accommodations found in the IEPs was allowing students extra time on tests. The researchers report that there is no evidence that extra time improves academic performance. They also found that only half of the students with an IEP received behavioral support or help with learning strategies.

“Although school procedures for identifying academic impairment in this population appear to be working for the most part, our results also suggest that 20 to 30 percent of students with academic impairment and ADHD have fallen through the cracks. There is a need for greater or more effective academic supports for a substantial minority of the students in our sample,” stated Desiree W. Murray, FPG scientist and lead author.

The researchers call for more effective, evidence-based interventions for students with ADHD. They recommend that students with ADHD be taught skills like self-advocacy, self-management, and organizational skills. These interventions could help more students with ADHD to achieve academically and graduate high school.

This research is published in the journal School Mental Health.

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