Focusing on Behavior to Help Children with ADHD Complete Homework

OCTOBER 25, 2016
Rachel Lutz
ADHD, neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, behavioral medicine, educationChildren with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) benefit from behavioral treatment focused on their homework, especially in terms of completion and accuracy, which can make the difference between passing and failing, according to findings published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Researchers from Florida International University observed 75 children with ADHD aged 5 to 12 years in order examine the effects of behavioral, psychostimulant, and combined treatments on homework problems. The investigators noted that these treatments have been demonstrated to predict academic performance longitudinally, although much more evidence points to the observation that children with ADHD experience acute and prolonged academic difficulties. Often, they wrote, these children underachieve and have difficulty completing their homework.

The children and their families were assigned to either a behavioral treatment (a homework focused parent training and a daily report card) or a waitlist control group. At the same time, the children participated in a psychostimulant crossover trial conducted in a summer program. The researchers measured the children's homework completeness and accuracy, while their parents reported on their children's homework behaviors and parenting skills.

The homework was assigned by the teachers for an age appropriate demographic and was required to be 80 percent complete, but 100 percent accurate, the study's lead author Brittany M. Merrill, MS, explained to media. The parents evaluated their children's homework and returned their note with the homework in a folder to the teacher the following morning. Children also received small rewards in the classroom, based on completion at home, as well as rewards at home for finishing their homework, Merrill added.

Behavioral treatment impacted the children's homework completion and accuracy, the researchers found. They also determined that unimodal medication and incremental combined treatment benefits had no significant effect on homework completion or accuracy.

"Behavioral treatment focused on homework problems results in clear benefits for children's homework completion and accuracy (the difference between passing and failing, on average), whereas long-acting stimulant medication resulted in limited and largely nonsignificant acute effects on homework performance," the authors concluded.

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