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Volume 14, Number 3
May/June 1998

Paying Attention to ADHD

Successful classroom management means training teachers to better serve students with ADHD


Over the past decade, the number of U.S. schoolchildren diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and its related form, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), has increased dramatically. At the same time, recent changes in federal laws mandate that schools provide extra support to ADHD students in both regular and special education classes.

Much debate has focused on whether society has been too quick to overdiagnose and medicate children, most commonly with a stimulant called Ritalin. Many educators "are not really aware of the condition and how to diagnose it," says Edward Hallowell, an instructor in psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. "There are places where half the class has been diagnosed with ADD, or school systems where it's looked upon as the plague and no one is diagnosed with it."

Some educators worry that the sharp upswing in diagnoses is due to overeagerness by health-care professionals to apply the ADHD label to children deemed unruly or disruptive. For example, Thomas Armstrong, an education consultant and former special-education teacher, fears that schools and parents sometimes put children on drugs instead of examining whether changes in classroom management and curriculum might improve their behavior and performance. "Are so-called ADD kids abnormal because they have trouble concentrating in a linear, monotonous, stimulus-poor, assembly-line classroom?" Armstrong asks.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

T. Armstrong. The Myth of the ADD Child. New York: Dutton, 1995.

R. Barkley. Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents. New York: Guilford, 1995.

B. G. Burcham and L. B. Carlson. "Attention Deficit Disorder: School-Based Practice." Federal Resource Center, University of Kentucky, 1997.

Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD), 499 Northwest 70th Avenue, Suite 101, Plantation, FL 33317.

G. DuPaul, K. McGoey, and T. Eckert. "Interventions for Students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: One Size Does Not Fit All." School Psychology Review 26, no. 3 (1997): 369-381.

E. Hallowell and J. Ratey. Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood. New York: Pantheon, 1994.

E. K. McEwan. The Principal's Guide to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 1998.

The Merrow Report. "Attention Deficit Disorder: A Dubious Diagnosis." PBS Documentary, 1995.

National Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), PO Box 972, Mentor, OH 44061-0972.

L. Pfiffner. All About ADHD: The Complete Practical Guide for Classroom Teachers. New York: Scholastic, 1996.

S. Rief. How to Reach and Teach ADD/ADHD Children. West Nyack, NY: Center for Applied Research in Education, 1993.