photo of a kid holding a pencil between his nose and his upper lipConcerned about your child’s behavior at school?  Think he might have ADHD?  Looking for help from the school’s special education program?  A new study reveals that when two groups of primary school children are matched in terms of identical behavioral issues, but one group is diagnosed with ADHD and the other is not, the kids with the ADHD diagnosis received lower behavioral ratings from teachers in fifth grade compared with similar children who were undiagnosed.  An earlier study found the diagnosed children had worse reading scores in eighth grade than the undiagnosed. Both medicated and unmedicated children with mild forms of diagnosed ADHD had lower teacher ratings and reading scores than similar undiagnosed children.

I’ve warned teachers and parents for decades that adding an ADHD diagnosis to your child’s identity does little to help them, and may in fact make things worse (as these studies suggest).  These studies don’t go as far as I do (I believe that we should stop using the ADHD diagnosis entirely), but they point out the real problems with having an ADHD diagnosis:  kids feel like there’s something wrong with them, they lose ”cred’ with their peers, and they’re looked at as less able by their teachers and parents.

Jayanti Owens, who conducted the first study cited above, commented:  ”Oftentimes educated parents from high social class backgrounds assume that more services for their kids are better than fewer services.  And in those subset of instances, where it’s not a clear-cut diagnosis, this research is showing  that the stigma of being labeled as ADHD can outweigh the benefits of the services.”

Even in instances where the ADHD symptoms are more severe, I believe that a concerted use of appropriate medications closely supervised by a responsible physician, coupled with the kinds of non-drug alternatives that I describe in my book The Myth of the ADHD Child, Revised Edition: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion, can do as much good as a similarly medicated child who undergoes the typical interventions used in schools (e.g. assignments are written out, student sits closer to the teacher’s desk, clear classroom rules and schedules, frequent feedback etc.).  So if your child presents with ADHD symptoms, try other things first (including close home-school communication), because an ADHD diagnosis may be just another obstacle in your child’s/student’s pathway to success in school.


For more information on instructional strategies for ADHD-diagnosed students in school settings, see my book ADD/ADHD Alternatives in the Classroom

cover of book ADD/ADHD Alternatives in the Classroom

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I’m the author of 20 books including my latest, a novel called Childless, which you can order from Amazon.

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2 Responses
  1. “The evidence is there to show that the association between lifestyle and physical health exists. Now it seems that these same recommendations also protect children from developing ADHD. The more factors they comply with, the less likely they are to develop ADHD. To date, no other study has really considered all these lifestyle factors simultaneously.”

    This was an observational study.

    Physical exercise has no significant impact on those diagnosed with ADHD other than to improve one’s overall health. There is no double-blind, controlled study which proves otherwise.

    You know what bothers me? There is an entire industry selling books and “research” that minimizes the impact of ADHD. They have a theme they repeat. Big Pharma. Big money. Selling speed to kids.

    Not one piece of research conducted using the controlled, double-blind testing protocol, the best testing approach, has ever shown any thing helps an ADHD person concentrate like meds.

    If your vision is severely compromised, wear glasses. Jumping jacks will not improve your eyesight.

  2. Double-blind placebo-control studies work very well for meds because you can ”blind” the pills. This is much more difficult with complex behaviors such as physical exercise (how do you ”blind” physical exercise?). Anyway, my books on ADHD get into far more than ”Big Pharma. Big money. Selling speed to kids.” I’m not into sensationalizing. I’m into getting people to think more deeply about the issues.

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