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Ed Week: 14 percent of kids have ADHD; only 1 percent outgrow it

Aug 23, 2021, Education Week: Attention Deficit Rates Skyrocket in High School. Mentoring Could Prevent an Academic Freefall

Most children with attention deficits don’t just grow out of them, new research suggests, but early supports in high school may help them avoid long-term academic problems. While prior studies have suggested at least half of students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder no longer have symptoms as adults, a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry finds the real picture is more complicated. Researchers as part of an ongoing federal study tracked children diagnosed with ADHD from around age 7 into their early 20s. Nearly a third of children went through periods with no attention problems, but researchers found fewer than 1 in 10 children truly “grew out” of their symptoms permanently. SEE ALSO SOCIAL STUDIESNew National Civics Guidelines Carve a Middle Path for Teachers in a Polarized Climate “After a period of full remission, recurrent ADHD symptoms were the rule, rather than the exception,” concluded Margaret Sibley, an associate professor in behavioral medicine and psychiatry at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the lead author, in the study. “Overall, the results suggest that over 90 percent of individuals with childhood ADHD will continue to struggle with residual, although sometimes fluctuating, symptoms and impairments through at least young adulthood.” All adolescents, including those with attention deficits, improve their self-regulation compared to elementary-age children, so children with ADHD do often become less impulsive and able to pay attention for longer periods of time. But, “kids with ADHD may be developmentally improving in those areas, but they’re still at a relative disadvantage [compared] to their peers,” said George DuPaul, an associate dean for research in the school psychology program at Lehigh University’s college of education, who was not part of the longitudinal study. “There’s been a sense that ADHD was primarily a problem of childhood that went away in adolescence, although that myth has been debunked many times over,” DuPaul said. Separate new federal data finds nearly twice as many students are identified with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or similar learning disorders as teenagers than as elementary age students, and the disparities in identification for poor students and students of color are wider in secondary school than in lower grades. Who's Developing Attention Problems? New federal data suggest as students age, racial and income gaps in the students identified with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities widen. Nearly 14 percent of all children ages 3-17 had been identified as having an attention or learning disability in 2016-18. Students in high school were nearly twice as likely to be labeled as having ADHD as those in elementary school, yet adolescents are often less likely to be provided services to accommodate attention problems....

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