A significant portion of students with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) receive no school services despite experiencing significant academic and social impairment, according to a new study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders. This was particularly common among students from non-English-speaking and/or lower-income families.
“We found that although the majority of students were currently receiving one or more school services, only a minority received support to manage their behavior, and at least one out of five students did not receive any school support despite experiencing significant educational impairment,” said lead author Dr. George DuPaul, professor of school psychology and associate dean for research in the College of Education at Lehigh University.
“The gap between impairment and service receipt was particularly evident for adolescents with ADHD and for youth with ADHD from non-English speaking and/or low-income families.”
School services included school-based educational support, intervention or accommodation (such as tutoring, extra help from a teacher, preferential seating, extra time to complete work, or being enrolled in special education) and classroom management (such as reward systems, behavioral modification or a daily report card). Parents were also asked if their child had an individualized education program (IEP) or educational accommodations under the federal disability civil rights code (504 plan).
Students with ADHD are at greater risk for grade retention, underachievement, identification for special education services, and school dropout. The scope and severity of functional impairment experienced by youth with ADHD in academic and social situations often makes school-based intervention and services necessary, the researchers said.
For the study, researchers from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania analyzed data on 2,495 children and teens with ADHD ages 4 to 17 years from across the United States, collected through the National Survey of the Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome.
The findings show that around one in three students with ADHD received no school-based interventions and two of three received no classroom management, representing a major gap in addressing chronic impairment related to ADHD symptoms.
In addition, one in five students with ADHD who experience significant academic and social difficulties — those most in need of services — received no school intervention. Nearly one in four students had repeated a grade and one in six had been expelled from school.
The study also found that middle and high school students with ADHD were significantly less likely than elementary school students to receive any type of school service (except 504 plans), despite generally similar, if not worse, impairment and greater risk for academic failure and expulsion.
“We expected that most students with ADHD would be receiving some form of support, but were surprised that so few were receiving services to manage their behavior (the latter being the primary difficulty that students with this disorder experience),” DuPaul said.
“We expected that there would be disparities in service receipt based on age (ie. teens received less support) and race/ethnicity; however we were surprised with the extent to which these gaps were evident and the magnitude of the disparities.”
The findings have direct implications for educational policy and practices and should be of interest to parents and individuals with ADHD, teachers and other educational professionals, mental health professionals and policy makers, the researchers said.
DuPaul co-authored the study with Dr. Andrea Chronis-Tuscano of the University of Maryland (College Park); and Melissa Danielson, M.S.P.H.; and Susanna Visser, M.S., Dr.Ph., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: Lehigh University