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ADHD in Children Health Center

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


He fears that legislation may discourage teachers from taking action when they know there's a problem for fear of being punished under the law. Then "parents would never hear about what's happening in school [with their children]."

In some cases, a child with ADHD could go undiagnosed, Lieberman says. This is because the condition can sometimes only become apparent "in highly structured situations," such as school, and the parents may not pick up on the symptoms at home.

And when it comes to diagnosing the condition, even doctors can have difficulty. Some doctors are not familiar with proper guidelines for diagnosing ADHD and hence some underdiagnose the condition and others overdiagnose it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

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.

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