Teachers’ pivotal role in identifying ADHD in children

Symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are perhaps the most discernible among school-going children since it often results in classroom disruptions or bad performance. Given that teachers spend a considerable time of the day with children, they are often the best suited to identify ADHD in children before the symptoms become worse. Recognizing this potentially important role of teachers, a group of Spanish researchers undertook a study to develop a short screening tool which can assist teachers in recognizing the signs of ADHD in students. Results of the study have been published in the journal Psicothema.

The aim of the researchers was to develop a brief, school-based ADHD screening scale that can be easily used by teachers. The screening tool (HIDEA scale) is in the form of a questionnaire comprising five basic questions to measure the three dimensions of ADHD: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. During the process, teachers are required to evaluate a child’s behavior over a period of six months. Based on their analysis, teachers rate the frequency of occurrence of the following behaviors using the parameters “never or rarely,” “sometimes,” “often” or “very often.”

  • Easily distracted
  • Loses concentration to extraneous stimuli, even insignificant ones
  • Fails to give close attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes in schoolwork because of difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Doesn’t think about the consequences of actions

Criticality of early detection of mental health problems in children

ADHD is characterized by continuous patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that hampers performance or development. Symptoms can strike children between the ages of three and six and can persist during adolescence and adulthood. ADHD symptoms often tend to be mistaken for disciplinary problems or be completely overlooked in quiet, well-behaved children, resulting in delayed diagnosis. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) estimates that 5 percent of children have ADHD; however, other studies have reported higher estimates based on methodologies and community samples.

Compared to non-ADHD peers, children with ADHD have a lower academic performance, higher rates of grade repetition and higher school dropout rates. If ADHD is detected early in childhood, it may potentially reduce the adverse academic and psychosocial impacts for affected children and their families. Over the longer term, early intervention methods may result in improving not only academic performance but also in decreasing risks associated with ADHD during adulthood such as low self-esteem, impaired social functioning, and drug or alcohol addiction.

The researchers allude to the “wait-to-fail” approach followed by most current educational systems for the detection of educational difficulties. The outcome is that many times, the detection and intervention of special educational needs occurs after students’ difficulties have worsened. To identify students who are vulnerable to future academic or behavioral problems, screening scales are recommended to be included in an inclusive school assessment system. Early detection of mental health problems is effective in diagnosing the underlying problem and getting the right treatment at the right time.

Recovery road map

The researchers emphasize that although school is one of the most important settings, it is necessary to evaluate ADHD symptoms by collecting ratings of behavior in multiple settings. A school-based screening scale with ratings from teachers cannot be considered sufficient by itself for ADHD diagnosis. Quite often, there will be discrepancies between ADHD ratings given by parents and teachers, with parents inclined to report a higher magnitude of symptoms. The researchers also acknowledge the limitations of the study, the most important one being lack of information from parents related to parameters such as child behavior, co-occurring diseases and pharmacology.

Children with ADHD have a higher probability of poor academic performance and quality of life. White River Academy is one of the best boarding schools for children with ADHD that provides help to teen boys in the age group of 12 to 17 years who struggle with ADHD and other mental illnesses. It offers treatment for ADHD by focusing on developing life skills and altering problematic behavior in young boys. You may contact our 24/7 helpline number for more information.

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