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Non-drug interventions for ADHD reviewed

Date: 03 July 2015

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be successfully supported in classrooms through strategies that do not involve drugs, finds research published in Health Technology Assessment

The study, led by the University of Exeter Medical School, reviewed existing evidence on simple classroom measures that could reduce the impact of ADHD, and help improve outcomes such as performance in standardised tests.

Children with ADHD are typically restless, act without thinking and struggle to concentrate, which causes particular problems for them and for others in school.

The team examined the following different areas that are important to supporting children with ADHD in schools: the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of school-based interventions for children with or at risk of ADHD; research investigating the attitudes and experiences of children, teachers, parents and others using ADHD interventions in school settings; and the experience of ADHD in school among pupils, their parents and teachers more generally.

The team, which involved collaborators from Kings College London and the Hong Kong Institute for Education, concluded that education of school staff as well as the public around ADHD would help to break down preconceptions and stigma, and that classroom / school culture as well as individualised support for children with ADHD may make the support offered more or less effective.

Professor Tamsin Ford, who led the study said: “There is strong evidence for the effectiveness of drugs for children with ADHD, but not all children can tolerate them or want to take them. ADHD can be disruptive to affected children as well as the classroom overall, but our study shows that effective psychological and behavioural management may make a significant improvement to children’s ability to cope with school. While this is encouraging, it’s not possible to give definitive guidance on what works because of variations between the strategies tested, and the design and analysis of the studies that we found. We now need more rigorous evaluation, with a focus on what works for whom, and in which contexts. Gaps in current research present opportunities to develop and test standardised interventions and research tools, and agree on gold standard outcome measures to provide answers to both schools and families.”

The full results have published in Health Technology Assessment, Volume 19, issue 45.