February 18, 2018
A study among high-school students with ADHD found that many are receiving services—just not the type that improve academic performance.
According to a report in Education Week, the study, published in the School Journal of Mental Health, showed that more than half of 543 high school students surveyed had IEPs or Section 504 plans. Their plans included objectives to address their “specific learning disability” or “other health impairment,” terms often used to provide services for children with ADHD because that condition is not covered under the IDEA.
But in most cases, the supports were not evidence-based practices known to help students with ADHD. Instead they were accommodations such as extended time for test taking or homework—neither of which has been found to improve academic outcomes for students with ADHD.
Of particular concern, the report authors said, is that only about a quarter of students reported receiving school services that have been shown to support students with the disorder. For example, helping students with learning strategies or study skills is evidence-based, but only about a third of the students who received supports got that type of help. Another evidence-based support—facilitating postsecondary transition and employment through teaching work-related, self-advocacy and self-management skills—was provided to only about a quarter of the students receiving ADHD-related supports.
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Desiree Murray, lead author of the study, noted that evidence-based interventions for older students with ADHD are limited, “But there are some simple things schools can do such as teaching learning strategies, not just sending students to study hall.” In her opinion, parents should advocate for services that provide actual tools, rather than modifications of assignments or “case management,” both of which have little impact on improving grades.