High school students with ADHD need academic support

Studies have found that slightly more than half of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) high school students are receiving some form of formal school services, but many low achievers with ADHD do not receive the academic support they need.

One of the most debilitating difficulties that students with ADHD often encounter is their long-term academic poor performance relative to their intellectual abilities. For struggling students with ADHD, high school is particularly challenging. Compared with students without ADHD, adolescents with ADHD tend to experience a greater degree of academic disability, have lower grade points, be placed in lower-level classes (for example, tuition and honors), and fail more courses . Compared with peers, the dropout rate of high school students with ADHD is also significantly higher.

To complicate the problem, the difficulties faced by adolescents with ADHD in concentrating and completing tasks and exerting their abilities are often seen as deliberate lack of motivation, rather than related to academic disabilities. Long-term poor grades in high school may have negative long-term consequences that affect adulthood.

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Obviously, more effective educational interventions are needed for ADHD students of this age group. Compared with the resources available to young students with ADHD, there are relatively few evidence-based interventions for high school ADHD.Research published in journals School mental health (June 2014) Aims to deepen our understanding by examining the prevalence and characteristics of school-based interventions offered to this age group.

Participants in the study were longitudinal follow-ups of a multimodal treatment study of children with and without ADHD (MTA) from seven locations. The researchers examined a wide range of detailed services for the 543 high school students who participated in the study. Using data collected directly from the school, the school service rate of high school students with and without a history of ADHD was analyzed. Services include special education and other convenient and school-based mental health-related interventions.

Research result

The study found that more than half of students with a history of ADHD received services through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, which is six times higher than the comparison sample of students without ADHD.

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The average number of interventions for students with ADHD and the IEP/504 program is five. Common adaptation measures include extending time, modifying homework, testing or grading standards, and slow-paced teaching, as well as support such as progress monitoring, behavior management plans, learning skills or learning strategy guidance, and self-advocacy training. Almost all received at least one academic intervention, while only half received any behavioral intervention or learning strategy. There are very few services provided to students who do not have a formal IEP or 504 plan (except for tutoring).

“Although the school’s process of identifying the academic disability of this population seems to work to a large extent, our research results also show that 20% to 30% of students with academic disability and ADHD are already in trouble,” said Dr. Desiree W. Murray. D., the main author of the study. “The few students in our sample need more or more effective academic support.”

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Murray and her colleagues also found that only about a quarter of interventions in the literature support ADHD. According to the study authors, the most commonly used support—extended testing and assignment time, progress monitoring, and case management—has not reported evidence that improves the performance of ADHD students.

Improve academic services

The study identified specific areas where services can be improved for high school students with ADHD, such as teaching self-advocacy and self-management strategies and specific learning/organizational skills. These types of strategies may be more helpful in reducing the performance gap between students with and without ADHD.

“An evidence-based approach can help improve long-term outcomes for high school students with ADHD,” Murray said. “Providing effective services may help increase graduation rates and a successful transition to adult life.”