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Do Laws Limiting School Involvement in ADHD Do More Harm Than Good?


Citing a 1999 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, Ross says that a proper diagnosis of ADHD requires a comprehensive and complete examination by a trained professional. "This is not something you do in one session," he says, noting that the doctor needs to be able to identify a pattern of behaviors that are repeated over time to accurately diagnose ADHD.

The American Academy of Pediatrics shares Lieberman's views that teachers may have a role to play in the management of ADHD. The AAP plans to release guidelines in October helping doctors determine the best way to treat ADHD, and one component of the guidelines will point out the importance of "teachers working with parents not only to diagnose the condition but to help treat it," a source at AAP tells WebMD.

This is because appropriate treatment of this condition should involve not only medication, such as the commonly prescribed Ritalin or Adderall, but behavioral and educational therapy. So schools can play a role in ensuring that ADHD children receive appropriate educational intervention, the AAP source says.

Another issue is whether schools pushing Ritalin is a widespread problem or a matter of a few isolated cases. Despite reports in the media of parents being pressed by school officials to place their children on ADHD medication, no formal surveys have ever been done to assess the extent of the problem. So "whether we have a few cases or a lot remains to be seen," Lieberman says.

But Lieberman says he has not had any of his patients complain about it, and Ross says no incidence like this has been reported by CHADD members. Ross, whose son has ADHD, adds that he doesn't really believe it's a problem across the country.

Even the Connecticut law was based on anecdotal evidence of parents complaining that schools were pressuring them, says David Wilkins, spokesman for Rep. Lenny Wilkins, who authored the legislation. No formal, scientific evaluations of the problem were ever done, Wilkins tells WebMD.

Ross notes that similar legislation has not been proposed at the federal level, and he doubts that it ever will be. This is because the federal government funds less than 10% of elementary and secondary schools, so the issue of ADHD drugs in these schools remains largely the purview of state and local governments, he says.


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