ADHD News & Research

Research: Students with ADHD Benefit Most from One-to-One Support for Self-Regulation

A new study finds that individualized interventions focused on teaching students how to manage their emotions and behavior most significantly improves academic outcomes for students with ADHD; daily report cards also show promise.

January 22, 2019

In a new paper, U.K. researchers contend that one-on-one interventions focused explicitly on self-regulation best help students with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) to stay more focused and control impulses in school. Their findings, published in the October issue of the journal Review of Education, showed that the biggest improvements in academic outcomes and ADHD symptoms reduction occur when children engage in one-on-one therapy sessions focused on self-regulation.

Investigators at the University of Exeter and University College London analyzed 28 randomized control trials with more than 1,800 children involving eight types of non-drug interventions used to support children with ADHD in schools. They investigated the different components of the interventions to determine which method was most effective on a range of different ADHD symptoms and academic outcomes.

According to the study, self-regulation, or the ability to manage your emotions and behavior in accordance with the demands of the situation, is difficult for impulsive, unfocused children. To self-regulate, children must first identify how they are feeling, note (and avoid) potential triggers, then pause to think before responding. These tasks are comparatively difficult for kids with ADHD, but they are skills that can be taught and learned, the authors noted.

“Children with ADHD are, of course, all unique. It’s a complex issue and there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” said Tamsin Ford, in a University of Exeter news release. “However, our research gives the strongest evidence to date that non-drug interventions in schools can support children to meet their potential in terms of academic and other outcomes.”

The research also reveals preliminary support for daily report cards, which set daily targets for behavior and performance. Progress toward those targets are reviewed and charted daily by teachers, caregivers, and other professionals; children may earn rewards for meeting targets. Additional studies are necessary, but using a daily report card is an inexpensive, relatively straightforward way to encourage home-school collaboration, the authors say.

“More and better quality research is needed, but in the meantime, schools should try to use daily report cards and to increase children’s ability to regulate their emotions,” Ford noted. “These approaches may work best for children with ADHD by one-to-one delivery.”

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South West Peninsula – or PenCLAHRC.