Thomas Powers, Ph.D., presented today on “Family-School Success: A Psychosocial Intervention for Students With ADHD” When I saw this workshop advertised, I first thought “Oh no, another talk about medication effects on ADHD Symptoms”. I was right and I was wrong. Mostly wrong!
Dr. Powers’ presentation did talk about medications and improvement of ADHD symptoms for children. He also said that there is limited evidence that medication alone can help students gain academic skills over time, despite reduced symptoms. That woke me up! Everyone knows that psycho-stimulants reduce ADHD symptoms in 75% of children with this disorder. Everyone assumes that learning improves if ADHD symptoms are reduced. Dr. Powers presented research that suggests “everyone” is not correct. In short, reduction of ADHD symptoms does not always improve academic learning or life success.
Dr. Powers did a nice job of providing a brief overview of ADHD – genetic vulnerability and environmental interaction, and the current medical/behavioral treatments for this problem. In answer to a question from a participant, he acknowledged that the prevalence of ADHD has increased in the past 10-20 years. He suggested that improved survival rates for low-birth weight infants, increased expectations/standards of pre-school programs, and increased exposure to “environmental toxins” (stress) for young children contribute to the increased diagnostic prevalence for ADHD. He was also careful to acknowledge the impact of “co-morbid” conditions such as anxiety, oppositional defiance, learning disabilities, and other diagnoses, serve as complications for cause and treatment of ADHD.
Getting back to the title of the presentation, Dr. Powers presented a recent study that showed the importance of the parent-child relationship, the parent – teacher relationship and child-teacher relationship to decrease ADHD symptoms and to improve learning and peer relationships. Dr. Powers Presented results from the Family-School Success (FSS) study that was recently concluded. This study was supported, in part by the National Institute for Mental Health. Specifically, this study compares children receiving a traditional treatment for ADHD with Children receiving the FSS model of treatment. Parents were given the option of medication or no medication in both treatments. In short, the results indicate that the FSS model helps the student with ADHD improve in parent-child relationships, parent-teacher relationships, student teacher relationships, reduced ADHD symptoms and improved academic learning. Life success has not yet been measured.
In general, the scientist-practitioner model was supported in this workshop. Both a researcher and a clinician, Dr. Power was quick to point out that research, although important, took a back-seat to the clinical needs of the kids. He rejected or eliminated many children from the results of the study due to their clinical needs. During the presentation, Dr. Power provided succinct answers to questions from the quiet and attentive audience. He managed questions well to stay within the time allowed for the workshop. He also freely acknowledged limitations of the study, and was excited about the future of this research. I enjoyed his presentation.
PS: the last FCP Workshop on “Attachment Based Family Therapy” talked about the importance of relationship and bonding with the parent or caregiver. I suspect that the behavioral health field has returned to the importance of “rapport” as a necessary ingredient regardless of technique in parent training, psychotherapy, and education. Am I overstepping boundaries here? Please let me know!