ADHD and Homework: Skip the Stimulants in Favor of Behavioral Interventions

ADHD and Homework: Skip the Stimulants in Favor of Behavioral Interventions
Boy doing homework at home

Behavioral interventions are better than stimulant medication in helping children with ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) with completing homework.

Researchers enrolled 75 children with ADHD who took part in an 8-week summer school session. The children ranged in age from 5 to 12 years old. The students were given either a long-acting stimulant or a behavioral intervention that included both report cards for kids and training for parents on how to help their kids with homework.

In the stimulant group, physicians took about 2 weeks to determine the correct drug dose to give them. After that, for another 3 weeks, those students were given either a stimulant or placebo. For the last 3 weeks, those who were on a stimulant switched to a placebo, and vice versa. The stimulant given was methylphenidate, which is known under the brand names Ritalin, Daytrana and Concerta.

In the behavioral therapy group, students took part in six 2-hour group sessions for the first 2 weeks, and then individual sessions lasting 30 minutes over the following 2 weeks.

Children who received behavioral treatment were able to finish between 10% and 13% more homework and assignments, and the work was also 8% more accurate than that of the children who received a stimulant only, the researchers reported in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Medication had no significant impact on homework performance.

The authors note this translates to children who received behavioral treatment getting an average grade of C compared to an average grade of F for those who didn’t get the intervention.

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