Using Activity Schedules to Increase On-Task Behavior in Children at Risk for Attention-Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder

By Cirelli, Christe A.; Sidener, Tina M. et al. | Education & Treatment of Children, August 2016 | Go to article overview

Using Activity Schedules to Increase On-Task Behavior in Children at Risk for Attention-Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder


Cirelli, Christe A., Sidener, Tina M., Reeve, Kenneth F., Reeve, Sharon A., Education & Treatment of Children


Abstract

The effects of activity schedules on on-task and on-schedule behavior were assessed with two boys at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and referred by their public school teachers as having difficulty during independent work time. On-task behavior increased for both participants after two training sessions. Teachers, peers, and participants reported high acceptability of the use and outcomes of the activity schedules. These findings replicate previous research with activity schedules with individuals with developmental disabilities and provide a novel classroom intervention for teachers of students at risk for and/or diagnosed with ADHD. Future research on activity schedules with these populations is discussed.

Keywords: activity schedules, on-task behavior, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, public school

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavior disorders, with 5.4 million (9.5%) of children 4-17 years of age diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2013). In addition to high levels of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity, children with ADHD often demonstrate substantial academic difficulties as well as persistent behavioral and social difficulties that adversely affect their school performance (Bloom, Cohen, & Freeman, 2010; Jitendra, DuPaul, Someki, & Tresco, 2008). Specifically, children with ADHD exhibit higher rates of off-task behavior relative to their peers not diagnosed ADHD and display low rates of on-task behavior during passive classroom activities (e.g., listening to the teacher, completing independent work) (Vile Junod, DuPaul, Jitendra, Volpe, & Cleary, 2006).

Behavioral interventions shown to be effective in increasing on-task behavior in children with ADHD include choice making (e.g., Dunlap et al., 1994), token systems (e.g., DuPaul & Eckert, 1997; Pelham, Wheeler, & Chronis, 1998; Pfiffner, Rosen, & O'Leary, 1985), and response cost (e.g., DuPaul, Guevremont, & Barkley, 1992; Rapport, Murphy, & Bailey, 1982). A potential limitation shared by these interventions is that the high level of teacher attention and monitoring required may be challenging for a teacher who does not have additional support staff. According to data collected for the 2010-2011 school year, the average pupil/teacher ratio in New Jersey public school classrooms (the setting of the current study) was 12.73:1, and the U.S. average was 15.97:1 (U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, 2013). Such ratios may make these interventions prohibitive in some public school classrooms.

Activity schedules, commonly used with individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism, may be a promising alternative for students with ADHD who display low on-task behavior during independent class work time. An activity schedule is "a set of pictures or words that cue a person to engage in a sequence of activities" (McClannahan & Krantz, 1999, p. 3), thereby allowing a student to complete an activity without the direct prompting or guidance of an adult. Research with individuals with developmental disabilities has shown the effectiveness of activity schedules in teaching independence with a variety of skills, including on-task behavior (e.g., MacDuff, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1993), social interactions (e.g., Krantz, MacDuff, & McClannahan, 1993; MacDuff et al., 1993), vocational and daily living skills (e.g., Pierce & Schreibman, 1994; Wacker, Berg, Berrie & Swatta, 1985), as well as decreases in disruptive behavior (e.g., Krantz et al., 1993; Pierce & Schreibman, 1994). Activity schedules may be a promising intervention for increasing on-task behavior with children with ADHD in the classroom; however, there is limited research evaluating the effectiveness of activity schedules with this population. …

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