Accommodations for ADHD: Are They Effective in Reducing the Impact of the Disorder?

Principal Investigator: Alison Pritchard

One of the most important functions served by a pediatric neuropsychological assessment is the provision of evidence-based recommendations and resources designed to reduce symptoms and improve function and quality of life for youth and their families. In spite of its importance, research into the effectiveness of commonly recommended academic accommodations for students with neurodevelopmental disorders is radically underdeveloped. In particular, this body of research is almost nonexistent with respect to children and adolescents with ADHD, though this disorder represents the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric condition of childhood, affecting nearly 10 percent of American children, and has been linked to substantial negative outcomes for both the individual and society as a whole. Given the present emphases on accountability in both behavioral health and educational domains, it is even more surprising that this area of research has been almost entirely neglected.

The goal of the proposed study is to initiate and build an evidence base for the effectiveness of academic accommodations commonly recommended following neuropsychological assessment of youth with ADHD. This project will compare two groups of middle school students with ADHD (n=200) -- those who have received accommodations on statewide standardized testing, and those who have not -- in terms of performance on this standardized measure of reading and math skills. These comparisons will be achieved by collecting data from schools (with parents' permission) to include: the individualized educational plans (IEPs) of students with ADHD (from which mandated accommodations, as well as scores on previous academic testing, will be gathered), as well as score reports from statewide standardized testing. Additionally, parents will be interviewed briefly regarding their child's treatment history and will be asked to complete an ADHD symptom rating, as well as a validated screening measure of learning disabilities.

Using these data points, the proposed study will provide a preliminary evaluation of:

  1. Whether provision of accommodations on standardized testing is effective in boosting the performance of children with ADHD
  2. Which accommodations are most effective in improving the test scores of students with ADHD
  3. Whether co-occurring learning disabilities affect the relationship between receipt of accommodations and standardized test scores for children with ADHD

This research will offer a substantial step towards the goal of utilizing evidence-based practices within clinical neuropsychology by providing neuropsychologists with data on which to base their academic recommendations for children with ADHD.