Researchers found that at least one fifth of ADHD students do not receive school services, despite having significant academic and social impairments. This gap is especially evident for adolescents and young people from lower-income families.
The new findings were based on data collected by the National Survey of the Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome. This survey, which is the largest ever conducted by parents of ADHD youth, records the extent to care for their children, what services they receive, and what factors may influence the type of services they receive.
“We found that while the majority of students received one or more school services, only some students received support to manage their behavior. At least one in five students did not receive any school assistance despite having significant educational impairment,” said George DuPaul, associate dean for research at Lehigh University College of Education. “The gap in service receipt and impairment was particularly apparent for ADHD teens and those from low-income, non-English speaking families.”
The research is published in Journal of Attention DisordersThe article “Predictors of Reception of School Services in A National Sample of Youth With ADHD” was co-authored by DuPaul and Andrea Chronis–Tuscano of University of Maryland College Park, Melissa Danielson, and Susanna Visser of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ADHD and academic impairment
Attention Deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), occurs in 2 to 15% percent of young children. In the United States, 11% of children have been diagnosed with ADHD at one time or another. This chronic condition can last through adulthood and often causes persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
ADHD students are at greater risk for grades retention, underachievement and identification for special educational services. They also have a higher risk of learning difficulties and school dropout. ADHD students also experience academic performance difficulties due to lower rates of work completion and on-task behavior. ADHD adolescents are more likely to have difficulties with spelling, reading, and math than their peers. ADHD can also be associated with social impairments, such as difficulty interacting and building friendships with peers and adults authority figures and higher rates of peer rejection.
According to the researchers, ADHD youth often have severe functional impairments in academic and social areas. This makes school-based services and interventions necessary. Studies have shown school-based interventions increase academic performance and classroom behavior. Students with ADHD might also be eligible for individualized instruction or related special education services through an individualized educational program (IEP), or educational accommodations as per the federal disability civil right code (504 plan).
Few studies have looked at the extent to which ADHD students receive school-based support services and intervention services. This is the first national study to examine these issues across elementary, middle, and high school students.
School services were defined as school-based educational support, intervention, accommodation, and school-based educational assistance. This could include tutoring, extra help from teachers, preferential seating, extra work time, or enrollment in special education. Classroom management can also be included such as reward systems, behavioral modification, or daily reports. Parents were also asked to confirm if their child has an IEP or 504 plan.
1 in 3 students do not receive any school-based intervention
The study revealed that one-third of ADHD students received no school-based intervention and two thirds received no classroom management. This is a significant gap in the treatment of chronic ADHD symptoms. One-fifth, or one-fifth, of ADHD students with severe academic and/or sociological impairments received no school intervention. Nearly one-fourth of students with ADHD had failed to repeat a grade, and one-in-six had been expelled. High school and middle school students diagnosed with ADHD were significantly more likely than elementary school students not to receive any school service (except 504 plans), despite having similar impairments and higher risk of academic failure or expulsion.
DuPaul stated that while we expected that most ADHD students would be receiving some type of support, we were surprised to find that so few students were receiving services to manage their behavior. (The latter being the primary difficulty students with this disorder experience). “We expected there to be differences in service receipt based upon age (ie. Teens received less support than their peers, but we were shocked at the extent of these gaps and the magnitude of the inequalities.
DuPaul stated that the gap between services and impairment is a serious problem as these students are more likely to drop out of school or have lower academic achievement. DuPaul said that it was clear that ADHD-afflicted youth from nonEnglish-speaking households are less likely than English-speaking youth to have a 504 educational assistance plan. This is why educators need to advocate for and assist English-speaking families to obtain the necessary school services.
These findings have direct implications on educational policy and practices. They should be of interest to parents, individuals with ADHD, teachers, and other mental health professionals as well as policy makers.
They concluded that “Children with ADHD might benefit from initiatives to proactively detect students with the disorder and target their specific impairments through evidence-based interventions approaches.” “Families of secondary school students and youth from low socioeconomic status and non-English speaking backgrounds may benefit from bilingual mental healthcare professionals working to increase awareness about and access to effective school supports.