Do School-Based Interventions Help Children with ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) can affect numerous domains of functioning for children and adults. For school-aged children, academic performance, peer relationships, and behavior can all be impaired as a direct result of ADHD. Although psychotropic medication has been widely used as a remedy for symptoms associated with ADHD, it has not been shown to improve academic performance or particular behaviors related to school productivity. Therefore, various school-based interventions have been designed to address these problems.

In a recent study, George J. DuPaul of the College of Education at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania examined the effectiveness of three types of ADHD interventions including cognitive behavioral, academic, and contingency management. He reviewed 60 separate studies and found that school-based treatments did result in positive outcomes on both academic and behavioral measures. Specifically, the interventions that blended contingency management and academic elements had the strongest impact on academic performance, regardless of the school setting and type of research. Cognitive behavioral and contingency approaches were more effective at modifying disruptive behavior. Additionally, private school or summer programs resulted in better behavior outcomes, while public school environments resulted in more academic improvements.

Although this research does provide substantial evidence for the validation of school-based approaches for ADHD, none of the studies DuPaul examined contained any follow-up measures of academic performance. This is an important limitation because children with ADHD may respond well in the short-term, but long-term improvement is necessary for academic success. Future work should address this void in data. Until then, these results demonstrate that various types of school-based interventions can be quite effective at helping children overcome barriers to school and social success. Also, these approaches can be delivered to even the youngest of children. “School psychologists should consider academic, contingency management, and self-regulation interventions first-line treatment strategies when addressing the educational and behavioral needs of students with ADHD,” said DuPaul.

DuPaul, George J., Tanya L. Eckert, and Brigid Vilardo. The effects of school-based interventions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A meta-analysis. 1996-2010. School Psychology Review 41.4 (2012): 387-412. Print.

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  • Tori


    January 8th, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    ADHD can come in the way of not just behavior but also academic pursuit.If these methods work well to help in both academics and in behavior then that is wonderful!Because both the domains need equal attention when it comes to kids with ADHD.Also,having the methods delivered at school means the child absorbs the same in a social setting and would thereby be in a better position to implement the same with regard to behavior in a social setting.

  • Morgan


    January 9th, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    ADHD is a disorder that needs more than an intervention. This is something that you have to learn to cope with for life, not just as a one time kind of intervention. This is about learning to embrace your differences and do well despite those differences, and not feel like this is your excuse for doing poorly. I don’t think that there are a lot of people who do this though, because typically all the chatter I hear is about how to fix those with ADHD and to get them to fit into a more traditional classroom mold. How about the classroom meeting their needs for once instead of always expecting them to be the ones who need to change?

  • fran


    January 9th, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    I would rather see us try anything over just putting more and more kids on medications that really show far too little in the way of positive results.

  • Mak Smith

    Mak Smith

    January 9th, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    This is a technique that more you care to child and help them better to get success in all the activities.

  • Grace


    January 9th, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Although this sounds good I have a concern here :

    wouldn’t delivering these interventions at school make these children prone top being discriminated against by peers?what about confidentiality?I would hate to see these children being made fun of because they are a part of the “intervention class”…!

  • rick


    January 10th, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    although school based programs seem like they hold promise we should not ignore the role of parents here..the children may spend a few hours at school but they spend the vast majority of their day at home and with parents..the parents thus need to be aware of and trained to help the children cope and get over their issues.with parents being involved,it also provides the children with a sense of moral support and recovery could come early.

  • opal


    January 10th, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    So where would parents go to see the behavioral benefits that come from the private school settings and the academic improvements that seem to be realized in the public school settings? Any parent is going to want to see improvements in both areas, and it doesn’t seem fair to have to choose one over the other. Surely there are programs out there available to these families which will address all of their child’s needs in a way that helps but does not stigmatize. I would love to hear about some programs which have been successful in both veins.

  • tylor


    January 10th, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    @rick:yeah very important to keep parents in the loop.they need to be taking the parents’ views and concerns into account n also they need to keep the parents involved and as a part of the entire process.the help gained from such a program can then be much higher.same investments more returns!

  • Valerie Wallace

    Valerie Wallace

    January 11th, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    I’m interested in what you do specifically at home re: bio/neurofeedback. I am aware of using biofeedback machines but not what specifically could be used at home. Would you mind giving more information on what you do at home that is helpful?
    Thank you.

  • Jean Nystrom

    Jean Nystrom

    January 10th, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    As a parent I felt an obligation to further my daughters progress with ADHD. I turned to neurofeedback/edufeedback which we use at home and before she goes to school. I have seen great, immediate results in both areas and also have seen superb progress in her social skills. I just feel as a parent we must be not only our child’s strongest advocate but also a teacher and best friend.

  • Jean Nystrom

    Jean Nystrom

    January 11th, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Hi Valerie,
    I use a computer program (actually two) called Play Attention and ADHD Nanny. My daughter is (8). It is wireless. Play Attention is based on neurofeedback which we use for staying focused, paying attention during homework and staying calm. Through neurogeedback it actually shapes her behavior. It also comes with a wet erase tablet that we can BOTH write on to see our progress (she is very tactile) and like to write now. When I stepped outside the box and really observed her behavior I saw she was functioning on a younger child’s level. After really doing my homework, I now believe that ADD/ADHD (that is what she has) is an immaturity of the brain which can be what I call “jump started.” This different nature can be treated and cured successfully, I can attest to it. She now has friends and sleep overs and is doing great in school. I use the ADHD Nanny program to keep everybody on task. She has her own room using this computer program and she logs in after school and is reminded of the chores, homework, goals etc. that she needs to do. It’s based on positive reinforcement so when she accomplishes the behavior that is appropriate she can decorate her room or receive a coupon which I make up based on what her interests are. Usually a sleep over or a trip to the mall, I use these mostly when she accomplishes a goal. It also has post-its and a scheduler and also a journal that she can write in of which she can share thoughts with me. I find if she uses the journal close to bedtime it calms her and she goes to sleep faster and sleeps better. Can’t say enough about it. I watched the webinar before finally selecting this program which I think you should do to, it’s free and they have a payment plan as well.

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