Featured News Teachers question ADHD diagnosis

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Wed, 29 Jan 2020

Teachers question ADHD diagnosis

Image: Feliphe Schiarolli

New research reveals many school teachers still think ADHD is nothing more than bad behaviour by children, despite compelling evidence that the disorder is a medical condition.

Associate Professor Helen Boon from James Cook University’s College of Arts, Society & Education said the science was clear on ADHD.

“I looked at 174 neuroimaging studies involving MRI and fMRI scans that compared the brain function of people diagnosed with ADHD against a control group. The ADHD group was found to have significant neural anatomical and processing differences,” she said.

Dr Boon said the studies were unanimous. “The brain circuitry in someone with ADHD is different from someone without - no question.”

But she said there was still some resistance among teachers to recognising the condition and some still believed ADHD symptoms were simply children being naughty.

“Researchers around the world have repeatedly found a widespread belief that ADHD diagnosis is subjective. Australian parents in particular have reported that teachers have inadequate understanding of ADHD,” said Dr Boon.

She said a review of teachers’ perceptions of ADHD showed they were inconsistent, founded on inaccurate knowledge and representing deep cultural values associated with family discipline and upbringing.

“How ADHD is understood by teachers, teacher educators and policy makers is critical because it informs teacher education and practice,” said Dr Boon.

She said teachers are also instrumental in identifying ADHD and can influence its diagnosis.

“It’s therefore imperative that teacher educators, education departments and local jurisdictions provide up-to-date education and professional learning for teachers about ADHD.”

Dr Boon recommended students with ADHD be granted access to targeted funding under the Disabilities Act – in common with other children who have disabilities such as hearing or vision impairment.

“The good news is that we now know a lot about that specific areas of the brain are related to specific effects of ADHD - and we know how to manage these effects in the classroom for the specific needs of individual students. With the right training for teachers it is definitely possible to plan successful educational support for those with ADHD,” she said.

Link to the paper here.


Dr Helen Boon
T: 07 4781 6030
E: Helen.boon@jcu.edu.au