Sunday, November 18, 2007

Study Sheds Light on Why Kids Grow Out of ADHD

Well, you've probably seen it in the news by now. When I first heard it I thought, "That can't be right. Up to half of AD/HD kids grow out of it by the time they reach adulthood? AD/HD is just a developmental delay? I Googled it and even NPR has a story about it, complete with a video illustrating brain development. NPR? It must be true!

Well, it may not be so easy to sort out what this study really means. As you can read here, "the lead author of the school study was somewhat mystified that his research ... was being discussed in the same breath with ADHD at all. The study, he said, wasn’t “about clinical levels of attention problems.”

Now that the story has made the rounds, and stories have been written about the stories about it, it may have set the AD/HD community back by several years. Many people will feel even less entitled to seek treatment since the "leap" that many people will make is that there's a good chance that ADHD will just clear up on its own.

But, hey, I say we keep it because it's a good headline. Nobody likes a headline that reads, "AD/HD? Study Says Your Kids Will Probably Have it 'Till the Day They Die." (Snarky humor is my #1 coping skill. You should see what I delete before I post!)

I admit, it's not very hopeful to keep the opinion that, basically, AD/HD does not (usually) go away. As fun as it sounds to grow out of having AD/HD, you should definitely want to take care to note the difference between hope and, you know, gullibility. This is soft data and more research needs to be done in order to link the initial findings with outcomes. So for now, it changes nothing. Except, perhaps, people's perceptions about seeking treatment.


Anonymous Gina said...

Hi there,

I, too, was chagrined--no, pretty dang angry--when NIH so recklessly mispresented that cortical-growth data. I guess science has its hot dogs, too.

Obviously, cortical growth maturation is only one factor; development of the brain's circuitry is dependent on so much more than that.

The Washington Post gave the most balanced coverage, I thought. And there's this, below, from Education Week.

Gina Pera, journalist
author, Is It You, Me, Or Adult ADD? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love has Attention Deficit Disorder (spring 2008)
Dec. 3, 2007
ADHD Experts Fear Brain-Growth Study Being Misconstrued
By Debra Viadero

Educators sat up and took notice last month when researchers published the results of a groundbreaking brain-imaging study suggesting that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder stems from delayed brain maturation.

National education and advocacy groups put the news on their Web sites, and The New York Times featured findings from that and another study in a front-page article. Implicit in some of the coverage was the hopeful idea that many-even most-children eventually grow out of the disorder.

But that's not exactly true, according to the researcher who led the brain-imaging study and other experts.

"I think there's been a bit of overinterpreting going on," said Russell A. Barkley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, an ADHD expert who was not connected with the brain-imaging study. His own research, based on longitudinal surveys and behavioral observations, has long suggested that only 14 percent to 35 percent of children with ADHD fully overcome the symptoms by age 27.

Experts fear that potential misinformation about the disorder will cause clinicians, parents, and educators to take a wait-and-see approach with students who have ADHD, rather than tackle the problem head-on.

"I just hope people don't say these kids don't need treatment or that they don't need medicine, because then our kids will develop gaps in learning," said Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, a former special educator and school psychologist who is the author of books on teaching students with ADHD. All three of her adult children have a form of the condition.

Nationwide, an estimated 3 percent to 5 percent of children are diagnosed with ADHD, which is often marked by difficulties in paying attention, planning, organizing, and controlling activity levels, among other areas. Experts say the condition actually comes in three forms: a hyperactive type, marked by children who are restless or fidgety; an inattentive form, which produces children who are more daydreamers than behavior problems; or a combination of the two.


10:53 PM, January 07, 2008  

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