Does ADHD Medication Translate to a Better Education?

Brooke Zwick - Teen Aspect - July 31st, 2022
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Almost 10% of American children have been diagnosed with ADHD and 62% of them take ADHD medication(i). The common thought that medication improves academics is being questioned by psychologists in recent studies.

One such study was “ The Effect of Stimulant Medication on the lLearning of Academic Curricula in Children with ADHD: A Randomized Crossover Study” (ii). The psychologists who conducted the study had 173 children diagnosed with ADHD, between the ages of 7-12. Students participated in a summer camp teaching students academic subjects such as math, science, history, and reading. The study was organized into 2 phases: In the first phase, all students would take OROS-MPH (an ADHD medication). They would first take a pre-test, then have 12 days of instruction before completing a post-test. There would be a 4-day break before students would take a placebo, repeating the process of the first phase. This study was designed to be triple blinded, which meant that teachers, students, and parents were unaware of when the placebo was administered. Student behavior was also observed by the teachers, who recorded violations of rules on the roster.


The difference between the scores on the vocabulary section of the pretest to post-test was not found to be significant. While the scores improved, the children’s content knowledge did not increase when taking OROS-MPH versus the placebo. However, the students behaved better on OROS-MPH, committing 53% fewer rule violations.


The results conclude that the medication improved both productivity and behavior with students but failed to show a significant improvement in learning new material.


With that conclusion of results, many would be left to wonder what other treatment options may help students to improve academically. The psychologists in the study point towards cognitive behavioral therapy and support from teachers and parents. This therapy is more specific to the child and their needs and can help teach them coping mechanisms. While combining both medication and cognitive behavioral therapy can be useful, prioritizing therapy may improve the child’s academic skills by teaching them long-term tools like organizational skills, planning, and problem-solving (iii).


Support from teachers can also prove useful to children with ADHD. Using reward systems and teaching their students organizational skills within their classroom is a great way to implement cognitive tools to help students with ADHD. The school providing accommodations to students like extra time for tests and tailoring the classroom experience to the child makes all the difference in teaching them and helping them improve academically (iv).


In conclusion, using ADHD medication alone to help a child with their education doesn’t appear to improve academic performance. However, the support from schools, teachers, and parents to help use effective tools and communicate with the child to understand their specific needs can optimize the school experience for them.


References

(i) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 23). Data and statistics about ADHD. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

(ii) Pelham, W. E., Altszuler, A. R., Merrill, B. M., Raiker, J. S., Macphee, F. L., Ramos, M., Gnagy, E. M., Greiner, A. R., Coles, E. K., Connor, C. M., Lonigan, C. J., Burger, L., Morrow, A. S., Zhao, X., Swanson, J. M., Waxmonsky, J. G., & Pelham, W. E. (2022). The effect of stimulant medication on the learning of academic curricula in children with ADHD: A randomized crossover study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 90(5), 367–380. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000725

(iii) Editors, A. D. D., & Chris Zeigler Dendy, M. S. (2022, July 13). Teaching strategies for students with ADHD: Ideas to help every child shine. ADDitude. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.additudemag.com/teaching-strategies-for-students-with-adhd/

(iv) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 19). ADHD in the classroom. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/school-success.html


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