Long Term Success

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that treatment with prescription stimulants contributes to the long term academic success of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study, carried out over an 18 year period, studied population-based data as a continuation of another Mayo Clinic study. In the earlier study, it was seen that ADHD children tend to have low reading scores, a high rate of absenteeism, often repeat a grade, and may even drop out of school altogether.

The two studies appeared in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics.

One per Classroom

The background for this study is rooted in the fact that more and more children are being diagnosed with ADHD. Almost 2 million American children have the disorder which is 3-5% of all United States school-aged children. ADHD keeps kids from paying attention and from controlling their impulses. So prevalent is this learning disability that almost every American classroom contains at least one child who has been diagnosed with ADHD.

Better Outcomes

Lead author of the two reports, William Barbaresi, M.D., a Mayo Clinic pediatrician reported that childhood treatment for ADHD with stimulants was associated with better long-term academic outcomes.

Barbaresi and his team analyzed data on more than 5000 children dating from their births until they reached 18 years. 370 children were identified as suffering from ADHD. Out of the 370 children, 277 were boys and 93 of them girls. Researchers matched these children to 740 other children without ADHD by both age and gender. The study focused on how various factors affected the children's long-term academic records. Ritalin was just one of the factors looked at by the researchers. Other factors investigated by the scientists included maternal age, special education, and socioeconomic background.

Typical treatment with Ritalin began in elementary school with children taking the medication for an average of 30.4 months.

Some of the results of the study:

Boys and girls with ADHD were both as likely to have a less than optimal academic outcome and girls were found to be at risk for undiagnosed ADHD so that they were often left untreated.

ADHD children on stimulants had improved reading scores by the age of 13.

Longer term treatment with medication led to a decrease in absenteeism.

ADHD children on stimulants were 1.8 less likely to be held back than the untreated children with the disorder.

Dr. Barbaresi says, "The finding that treatment with stimulant medications is associated with long-term improvement in school outcomes is significant. Previously, there was evidence that treatment with stimulant medications improved short-term academic performance, but there was no good evidence that long-term outcomes are better with stimulant treatment."