Life can be confusing for parents of children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) when trying to navigate between the mental health and school systems.

“ADHD falls between two institutions, mental health and education. And there is a great divide,” says Rosemary Tannock who delivered the Jackson Lecture at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

According to Tannock, the mental health and education systems understand ADHD differently. The mental health field recognizes ADHD as a neurodevelopmental problem caused by genetic, metabolic or other biological issues while the education system understands and treats the disorder as a behavioral problem. This has a negative effect on children with ADHD. Tannock says it’s time to bridge the gap.

“These institutions are funded separately, and rarely communicate directly,” said Tannock. “If you have a child with ADHD or if you are a person with ADHD, life can be difficult right from the start because you’re having to deal with so many organizations and politics and policies.”

The Problem in Schools

  • ADHD occurs in 5% of school-age children.
  • There is a potential for long-term negative effects if teachers are ill-equipped to teach students with ADHD.
  • In a study that tracks students over a 4 year period, academic test scores of students with ADHD decline 8-10% if their condition is left untreated.
  • Still, there is a myth that ADHD is a behavioral issue, which leads to treating only the behavioral issue by prescribing Ritalin or through psychological treatments.
  • In the end, the issue of poor academic scores is left untreated.

Solutions for Treating ADHD in Schools

  • Bridge the mental health, medical health and education fields.
  • Incorporate and apply neuroscience information in schools.
  • Increase emphasis on teaching and learning process for students with ADHD.
  • Use evidence-based practices taught by well-trained and well-supported teachers.

For an ADHD primer, click here.

For more on "ADHD in Schools: Problems and Solutions", click here.