Skip to Content
Researchers seek how to best treat kids with ADHD in schools

Researchers seek how to best treat kids with ADHD in schools

May 13, 2019 at 4:16pm

Story by Rosanna Castro

Researchers at FIU’s Center for Children and Families (CCF) are evaluating the most effective classroom interventions for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through a $3.3 million grant from the Institute for Education Sciences.

The Adaptive Supports Provided in Regular Education Settings (ASPIRES) study, led by FIU researchers William E. Pelham, Jr.Nicole Schatz and Amy Altszuler, is a three-year study seeking to recruit 300 elementary-aged students who have either been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD or are at-risk of being diagnosed due to distractibility, difficulties completing school work and frequent classroom rule violations. Enrollment for the ASPIRES study is currently open for the 2019-2020 school year for children entering first through fifth grade.

The majority of students with ADHD are educated in general education settings; however, most students with ADHD require additional support to keep up with their peers. Schools currently use a problem-solving process known as Response to Intervention (RTI) to identify and intervene with students who require additional support in general education settings. RTI is a tiered treatment approach in which support increases in intensity based on the student’s individual needs, prior to providing a referral to special education.

“While RTI may seem like a great approach, it has not been well studied to address the particular needs of students with ADHD,” added Pelham. “This study takes evidence-based classroom interventions for ADHD, including behavioral approaches and stimulant medication, and places them within an RTI framework to understand how to best treat students with ADHD in general education settings and whether starting with low-level behavioral interventions can prevent the need for more intensive services, including special education referrals.”

Eligible students are randomly assigned to be monitored throughout the school year in the classroom without any additional intervention or to receive RTI classroom interventions during the school year. A behavioral consultant works with teachers of children that are randomly assigned to receive intervention to implement classroom-wide behavior management strategies such as establishing good classroom rules, praising well-behaving students, and setting up and maintaining a class-wide reward system.

If the child does not improve with the low-level tier one intervention, the behavioral consultant works with the child’s teacher to set up a Daily Report Card, a tool that establishes individualized classroom goals for the child to target areas such as completing assignments and following classroom rules. The consultant also works with the child’s parents to set up a home reward system to provide and/or restrict privileges at home based on school behavior. If that intervention is not enough, they are randomized to receive either a more intensive behavioral intervention or stimulant medication, before being referred to special education.

Parents who would like to learn more or find out if their child is eligible to participate, may call 305-348-1026.  Students that currently have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) related to ADD/ADHD or who are already taking medication for ADD/ADHD are not eligible to participate.

The Center for Children and Families is collaborating with Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Family Support Services to recruit participants and implement the program.