Children with attention deficit problems make bigger academic gains if they are taking stimulant medications compared to similar kids who aren’t receiving drug therapy, a new study shows.
The findings, from a five year study of nearly 600 schoolchildren from across the country, are believed to be the first to offer an objective measure of the effect of drug therapy on a child’s long-term academic achievement. Earlier studies have shown that children who receive medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder behave better in class and can complete more homework. But it hasn’t been clear whether treating A.D.H.D. results in any measurable improvement in long-term academic gains.
The latest study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and published in Pediatrics, tracked standardized math and reading scores among a nationally-representative sample of 600 children from kindergarten through the fifth grade, all of whom had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. The researchers compared the scores of the students who were on A.D.H.D. medications with similarly diagnosed students who weren’t receiving drug therapy. In the study, taking A.D.H.D. medication was associated with gains in math scores that equated to about a fifth of a school year in extra learning. In reading, the gains were even greater, equating to progress of about a third of a school year.