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Researchers look for strategies to support English Language Learners at risk for ADHD

Researchers look for strategies to support English Language Learners at risk for ADHD

September 1, 2021 at 9:00am

Researchers at FIU’s Center for Children and Families (CCF) have been awarded a $3.8 million grant by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to find effective interventions for English Language Learners (ELLs) at risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Across the United States, approximately 10 percent of students are ELLs – a rapidly growing group in public schools. In Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the fourth largest public school district in the nation, that figure is more than double at 24 percent.

These students are disproportionately at risk for poor academic outcomes with nearly 15 percent identified as students with disabilities. ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, affecting approximately 11 percent of children 4 to17 years old. Although researchers expect the prevalence of ADHD to be no different among ELL students, they believe this group is more likely to go undiagnosed.

“There is substantial support for language development and reading interventions to aid young children in the acquisition of language skills, but there is a significant lack of research addressing interventions for ELLs with disabilities, particularly behavior disorders such as ADHD,” said Nicole Schatz, research assistant professor and principal investigator of the study.

Classroom behavioral interventions like daily report cards work well for many students with ADHD and reading and language interventions help English Language Learners improve English language proficiency. This study will determine whether those learners at risk for ADHD have better academic outcomes following a language learning intervention, a behavioral intervention, or the combination of the two.
“This study will help bring us one step closer to creating culturally tailored mental health interventions that support the needs of our South Florida community and across the nation,” said William E. Pelham, Jr., distinguished university professor, director at CCF and co-investigator of the study. “We are thankful to the IES for funding such an important project and for M-DCPS’ continued support.”

Researchers plan to recruit 300 children in grades K–1 in M-DCPS who are in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) levels 1–4 and are identified as at-risk for ADHD based on parent and teacher ratings of behaviors.

The Center for Children and Families will conduct the study in partnership with Christopher Lonigan, distinguished research professor and associate director of the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University.