Persistent school dysfunction: Unrecognized comorbidity and suboptimal therapy

David A. Kube, Bruce K. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


To determine reasons for continued school dysfunction in children previously diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or enrolled in a special education program (spec. ed.), a retrospective chart review of patients referred for interdisciplinary evaluations at a tertiary center for hyperactivity and learning problems was completed. Interdisciplinary clinical recommendations were used to define reasons for treatment failure in 116 children with a prior diagnosis of ADHD or spec. ed. placement. Results showed 45% of children enrolled in spec. ed. had previously undiagnosed ADHD. Thirty-one percent of those with ADHD, 55% of those in spec. ed., and 55% of those diagnosed with ADHD and in spec. ed. (Both) received a new educationally handicapping diagnosis. Psychiatric comorbidity was present in 28% of those with ADHD, 18% of those in spec. ed., and 23% of Both subjects. Thirteen percent of those in spec. ed. lead significant coexisting medical conditions. Special education services were insufficient in 55% of children in spec. ed. and 55% of Both subjects. A significant difference (P<0.01) in medication use was noted between tim groups with 56% of the ADHD group, 55% of the Both group, and none of the spec. ed. group treated with medication. Of all subjects with ADHD, 76% were receiving insufficient or no medication. This review suggests the following: (1) Comorbidity in children with school dysfunction is frequently not recognized. (2) Educational therapy alone may not be sufficient treatment for school dysfunction, and in cases where the treatment program is failing, the appropriateness of the program should be reviewed. (3) ADHD is commonly seen in conjunction with other educationally handicapping conditions. Therefore, in cases of continuing school dysfunction, children previously diagnosed as having ADHD should be assessed for other educationally handicapping conditions; those previously diagnosed as educationally handicapped should be assessed for ADHD. (4) Suboptimal medication use may be associated with treatment failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-576
Number of pages6
JournalClinical pediatrics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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