Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Longitudinal Effects of ADHD in Children with Learning Disabilities or Emotional Disturbances

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Longitudinal Effects of ADHD in Children with Learning Disabilities or Emotional Disturbances

Article excerpt

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental neuropsychiatric disorder with a variety of symptoms ranging from attentional impairments, impulsivity, and motor overactivity (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). It is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders (Barkley, 1998), affecting an estimated two million school-age children (For ness& Kavale, 2002). Often, ADHD causes significant problems with the academic and social experiences of school-age children (Barbaresi, Katusic, Colligan, Weaver, & Jacobsen, 2007; McGee, Prior, Williams, Smart, & Sanson, 2003), so it is not surprising that this disorder is commonly associated with learning disabilities (LD) and emotional disturbance (ED; Dietz & Montague, 2006). Specifically, studies estimate that the prevalence of ADHD among children with LD ranges from 16% (Bussing, Zima, Belin, & Forness, 1998), to 20% (Schnoes, Reid, Wagner, & Marder, 2006), to 31% (Lopez, Forness, MacMillan, Bocian, & Gresham, 1996), and is even higher among children with ED, ranging from 25% (Duncan, Forness, & Hartsough, 1995), to 44% (McConaughy, Mattison, & Peterson, 1994), to 52% (Reid, Maag, Vasa, & Wright, 1994), to 56% (Schnoes et al., 2006).

When considering the cognitive functioning and academic and behavioral outcomes for children with ADHD alone compared to students without disabilities, studies have demonstrated poorer visuo-spatial tasks, often resulting in difficulty integrating multiple cognitive operations, such as planning, organizing, or sustaining attention (Grodzinsky & Diamond, 1992), as well as difficulties with listening comprehension and working memory (McInnes, Humphries, Hogg-Johnson, & Tannock, 2003). Gross and fine motor skills also appear to be impacted in children with ADHD, as they are physically more active but less able to control their gross motor movements (Kalff et al., 2003) and less coordinated in fine-motor tasks (Barkley, 1997) than children with no disabilities. Deficits in language skills also typically exist, particularly in terms of using language to accomplish social action. For instance, children with ADHD frequently switch conversation topics or provide responses not related to questions (Heyer, 1995), which may cause communication difficulties, in turn resulting in social problems. Finally, children with ADHD often lack the ability to organize their thoughts in a logical sequence (Heyer, 1995) and have difficulty recalling facts in a causal, sequential order (Lorch et al., 2000).

Studies that have examined children identified with both ADHD and LD reveal that rather than one being a result of the other, many children with comorbid ADHD and LD are actually afflicted with two distinct conditions, representing a subtype of individuals who possess both disorders (Pisecco, Baker, Silva, & Brooke, 1996). When ADHD co-occurs with LD, results suggest more severe learning problems than in a child with either ADHD or LD alone (Faraone, Biederman, Monuteaux, Doyle, & Seidman, 2001; Jensen, Martin, & Cantwell, 1997; Mayes, Calhoun, & Crowell, 2000; Smith & Adams, 2006).

Behavior problems, both internalizing and externalizing, also are witnessed in children with comorbid ADHD and LD; such children have been shown to have aggressive and withdrawn behaviors stemming from lack of self-esteem and frustration over poor school performance (Pisecco et al., 1996). Furthermore, the presence of ADHD in children with LD is associated with greater problems with attention, suggesting that the presence of LD intensifies attention problems in children with ADHD (Mayes et al., 2000). Evidence also suggests that memory problems are exacerbated in children with both ADHD and LD, compared to children with only one of these disorders (Webster, Hall, Brown, & Bolen, 1996). Despite the higher prevalence of children exhibiting comorbid ED with ADHD, there are actually fewer studies in the special education literature that focus on the effects of these two conditions relative to the volume of studies that consider the impact of comorbid LD with ADHD. …

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