About 6 million kids in the U.S. are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Of those diagnosed, 90% are prescribed stimulant medications to help with their academic performance. But a new study reveals some surprising findings about these drugs’ effectiveness.
Trouble focusing, unable to sit still, problems with paying attention. The symptoms of ADHD can affect a child’s ability to learn in the classroom. Medication has long been thought by some experts to help children with ADHD and their academic performance, but not everyone agrees.
“Medication is not the silver bullet or it’s ineffective,” explains Sabrina Schuck, Executive Director of Child Development Center University of California.
Now new research from Florida International University shows that they may be right. In a study on kids with ADHD between the ages of 7 and 12, researchers found the students learned the same amount of content whether they were taking medication or a placebo. They also found medication slightly improved test scores if it was taken the day of the test, but not enough to boost grades. This research suggests that there may be cheaper and more effective methods to try first, such as behavioral therapy or even focusing on improving sleep.
“Teens with ADHD have two to three times more difficulties with sleep problems,” says Stephen Becker, Clinical Psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
And poor sleep is linked to poor school performance.
“You’re probably going to do less well in school the next day. You’re going to retain less information. You might struggle more during a test,” Becker explains.
Experts say it may be beneficial for kids with ADHD to create a bedtime routine such as brushing teeth, putting on white noise, and keeping phones out of the bedroom.
The researchers in the study did find that the medication helped students with ADHD complete more seatwork and improved their classroom behavior.