The Need for Evidence Based Interventions for High School Students with ADHD

Health Writer

We have come a long way in identifying students with ADHD and putting services in place to help them succeed in school. But it seems there is still a long way to go. Researchers at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that while more than half of the students in their study were receiving supports, mostly through Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs), students with ADHD still scored lower on achievement tests, are more likely to repeat a grade, take lower level classes, fail classes more often and are more likely to drop out of school. Teachers are more likely to see students with ADHD as more aggressive and less academically successful.

The researchers looked at information on 500 high school students based on the Multi-Modal Treatment Outcome Study for ADHD, which is considered to be a nationally representative sample. All of the teens had been followed since childhood. Desiree W. Murray, lead author of the study was encouraged because "Identifying academic impairment in this population seems to be working for the most part," however she also voice concerns because "our results also suggest that 20 to 30 percent of students with academic impairment and ADHD have fallen through the cracks."

One of Murray's concerns is that many of the interventions and supports are not evidence-based. She explains that a very common intervention is to provide extra time for taking tests, however, there isn't any research to show that this type of intervention works or improves academic performance.

Murray recommends implementing more programs that have been proven to work. Schools can put into place programs that would teach:

Research has shown that these types of programs work, Murray says and she believes students with ADHD would improve long-term outcomes and possibly increase graduation rates among students with ADHD.

When developing interventions and classroom strategies for high school students with ADHD, it is important to remember that each student is unique. While it is easier to employ strategies for general characteristics of ADHD, each student should be seen as an individual, with unique strengths and weaknesses. Matching interventions to the student will allow for greater success.

Vincenza American High School, located on an American military base in Italy is trying to do just that. The school provides teachers with a list of "areas of concern" along with specific classroom strategies targeting the behavior or academic struggles. Teachers are expected to use "those interventions and strategies that will allow the student the best chance of success." Their interventions begin at creating a positive teacher/student match - finding a "good fit between student's learning style and teacher's style."

Other suggestions include:

  • Use token systems
  • Increasing frequency of rewards and fines
  • Allowing students five minutes at end of class to organize books, papers, etc.
  • Provide examples and specific steps to accomplish task
  • Define requirements of a completed activity
  • Use both oral and written instructions
  • Post priority model and refer to it often
  • Create structured environment with predictable routines
  • Provide outline of important points from reading material
  • Teach study skills specific to subject

These are only a few of the strategies that can be implemented in the classroom. You can refer to the entire list at: Vincenza American High School.