By age 13, those taking medication had improved reading scores compared with children with ADHD who didn't receive the drugs, the researchers found. Furthermore, those children taking the highest doses had the most improved reading scores, Barbaresi's group added.
Children treated with medication also were less likely to be absent from school, and the longer they took the drugs, the less absenteeism was seen. In addition, children with ADHD who received stimulants were 1.8 times less likely to be held back a grade than children with ADHD who were not receiving the treatment.
In the second study, Barbaresi's team found that school outcomes for the average child with ADHD were significantly worse compared with children without the condition.
"Reading tests among children with ADHD are almost 30 points lower, children with ADHD are absent for a significantly greater number of days, and children with ADHD are almost three times more likely to drop out of school and be retained a grade," Barbaresi said.
These poor outcomes were equally likely for boys and girls with ADHD, Barbaresi said.
"We can't simply focus on the symptoms of ADHD," Barbaresi said. "We really need to be focusing on the risk for poor outcomes in school and in other aspects of the child's life," he said. "That's why we have to recognize these children and make sure they get appropriate treatment."
The studies were funded by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic, and McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals, maker of the ADHD stimulant Concerta.
One expert hailed the findings.
"This study reinforces the value and long-term benefit of treatment with stimulant medication," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children's Hospital in New York Ci
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