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The Impact of Screening and Advice on Inattentive, Hyperactive and Impulsive Children

July 2006

Peter Tymms, Christine Merrell


This randomized experiment analyzes the effect of in-school ADHD screenings. 2,040 schools in England were randomly assigned to conduct ADHD screenings on pupils. Schools were separated into three separate treatment groups: one was provided with a list of children who exhibited ADHD-like behavior, a second treatment group was simply provided evidence-based advice on how to better educate students with ADHD, and a third treatment was provided both a list of children with ADHD behaviors, as well as evidence on how to better educate them. Results show that simply identifying students with ADHD-like behavior and providing no advice on how to educate them had no effects. Providing advice on educating ADHD students without identifying which students had it provided benefits to behaviors and attitudes of the students, as well to the quality of life of the teachers. Finally, providing both advice and a list of students exhibiting ADHD-like behavior improved reading scores of the schools as-a-whole (children with and without ADHD), but actually decreased reading and mathematics scores of children with ADHD-like behavior.

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Policy Implications

These results suggest that a program identifying children with ADHD and providing information to teachers on how to better educate them would not lead to better outcomes for those children. Rather, the only treatment that had an all positive effect was simply providing teachers with advice on how to educate students with ADHD, without actually identifying those students. The authors note that this practice was incredibly cheap, and therefore a cost-effective measure of improving the behavior and attitudes of children with ADHD-like behavior, while simultaneously improving the life of teachers.

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