Teacher Perspectives on Student ADHD Medication Use

Qualitative study examines patterns in teacher attitudes and knowledge related to medication of students for ADHD-type behaviors.

Sadie Cathcart
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Teachers are on the frontlines of the debates surrounding Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) identification and classification. New research, from an interinstitutional team of researchers from Sweden and the Netherlands, analyzed interview data to assess teacher thought processes regarding ADHD overall, and attitudes towards medication prescription associated with ADHD.

Thirty teachers were interviewed, most of whom had some experience working with students with prescriptions for ADHD medication. Results from thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews suggested that teachers harbored overall “ambivalent” perspectives regarding medication for ADHD-type behaviors, but that they reported perceptions of more positive outcomes associated with ADHD medication among their students than negative symptoms.

The researchers, Maruschka N. Sluiter, Albert W. Wienen, Ernst D. Thoutenhoofd, Jeannette M. Doornenbal and Laura Batstra, concluded that many teacher perspectives regarding medication for ADHD had been informed by anecdotal experience instead of empirically-supported information, revealing a need for teacher “-access to verified and up‐to‐date information on ADHD and medication.”

“Over the past decades, a large and controversial increase in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication use by children has been observed in many studies worldwide,” they write.

“This corpus of evidence can be divided into (a) empirical research about the efficacy of medication— sometimes studied in comparison to other interventions—on for example symptom severity or social and school‐based outcomes and (b) more general critique of the benefits of medication use.”

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While prevalence estimates vary, and there has been much debate regarding the validity and parameters of ADHD in general, the authors suggest that 8.4% of children in the US received stimulant medication for ADHD in 2016. Similar trends are visible in many other countries throughout Europe.

Many experts and researchers on a global scale have raised concerns that typical childhood behaviors, such as restlessness and inattention, have been pathologized based on incompatibility with externally imposed expectations (e.g., educational standards and structures).

As in the research arena, variability in perspective (and knowledge) can be seen across families, teachers, and counselors regarding the function and treatment of ADHD-type behaviors. One recent US-based study highlighted that teacher perceptions of the value of ADHD treatment varied as a function of teacher race and school socioeconomic status (SES), with less skepticism among white teachers in higher SES school communities compared to African American educators and those in lower SES communities. Due to the study’s small sample size, the need for continued research was indicated. Research has also shed light on common misconceptions assumed by school personnel regarding ADHD.

Sluiter and colleagues work, evaluating interviews that occurred with teachers in the Netherlands, contributes to a growing body of research associated with school personnel attitudes surrounding student ADHD diagnosis.

This publication reflects explicitly the results of a post-hoc reanalysis inspired by a first review of the data suggesting that “-teachers that were interviewed about ADHD spontaneously associated ADHD with medication.” The inclination to link the occurrence of ADHD-type behaviors with medication prompted a more thorough dissection of teachers’ concepts of this link.

Thirty interviews (one per primary school-level teacher participant) were examined using a qualitative, grounded theory approach to thematic analysis. Responses to four interview questions related to medication for ADHD were pulled for analysis in this study, resulting in a systematic review of 218 total relevant interview fragments.

The findings are consolidated in the following summary by authors:

“Many of the teachers link ADHD to medication. They sometimes even make this association immediately or talk about ADHD and medication as if inseparable, two sides of a single coin. In some cases, they are actively involved in the process of distributing medication.”

“Furthermore, while the teachers’ talk seems overall ambivalent towards medication, individual respondents mainly report positive effects of it. Finally, the teachers’ talk suggests that they access many different sources for their knowledge about medication, including their own experiences, others’ experiences and media.”

Of note, Sluiter and team emphasize that in none of the interviews did teachers mention seeking research-based resources regarding ADHD medication. As observations and suggestions by teachers often prompt evaluation processes for ADHD and teachers are sometimes entrusted with medication administration, a lack of training and knowledge-base in this area could be interpreted as a cause for concern.

“The findings from this study suggest that teachers should be better educated in relation to ADHD, ADHD medication and its effects on the short and long term and be more knowledgeable about alternative approaches and interventions for hyperactive and unruly behavior, especially those that are directly relevant to pedagogy. This training should be based on scientific evidence that adequately reflects scholarly agreements and disagreements on the topic.”

“If teachers are made aware of [some of the] negative effects [of medication] and of effective alternatives to achieve the goals and know how to administer them, they may be more inclined to consider what optimal balance may be obtained between medical and nonmedical, perhaps also more pedagogical, alternatives to medication.”

 

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Sluiter, M. N., Wienen, A. W., Thoutenhoofd, E. D., Doornenbal, J. M., & Batstra, L. (2019). Teachers’ role and attitudes concerning ADHD medication: A qualitative analysis. Psychology in the Schools. (Link)

15 COMMENTS

  1. ADHD does not exist, just like all of the other slurs in the DSM. A better use of research time and dollars would be spent. Research and reporting like this reinforces the idea that ADHD is a thing that teachers need to be educated about.

    The right to a childhood is not guaranteed in the modern pursuit of wage slaves for capitalism. Children are in forced education camps and made to earn funding for their respective schools, whether it be voluntary or after they are medicated into compliance with the dominant paradigm. If that doesn’t work, they can be declared disabled and put in special ed where they no longer have to perform for dollars because the expectations are lowered. Kids who can’t comply with this system are screwed.

    This breaks my heart. Why aren’t more people standing up against this relentless assault on American childhood? Please read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Almost all of us are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder as we pave paradise and forget we are animals.

    RIP humanity.

    • This breaks my heart too. I was a teenager who was drugged/”medicated” by adults. If any of them lived my life they would never never drug the kids. To answer your question, why are people not standing up against this… My experience has been that here is the lovely land of America known for all our money, everyone is too busy making money and not caring for children properly. Listen to this.. I told an ex friend that Johnson and Johnson paid a million to a MD to tie Risperadol to ADHD. She did not ask one question said huh. Then I got to go to work. She has two houses many trips to Europe, countless bags, shoes etc. But she did not take 5 min to listen to info about what she is drugging her son with. Also, for this boy organic expensive everything that’s fine but why keep chemicals out of his diet if you are going to drug his brain with them. I truly believe this problem will be fixed ( maybe not in my life time), but lobotomy went, insulin coma went. I just have hope. And if we all keep doing whatever part we can big or small, we will prevail for the children. One more thing drugging children to sit in American schools to learn 95% of useless stuff- HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE.

  2. Forced psychiatric treatment is torture, all children are forced to take their “meds.”

    https://www.narpa.org/reference/un-forced-psychiatric-treatment-is-torture

    And it is downright evil to force children to take amphetamines and methylphenidate, a drug chemically similar to cocaine.

    We should be decreasing class sizes, adding more recess if need be, funding art programs in schools, not mass force drugging the children. Upside down and backwards, America. Stop drugging the children.

  3. Teachers are the touts of psychiatry. No wonder psychiatrists say they need to be better indoctrinated.

    There is no factual difference between the state and the mafia, only a difference of legitimacy. Both organize their small society through violence, drug trafficking, and even sexual venality (marriage and prostitution).

    For both official servants and mafiosi, radical repression is fine.

  4. To point out the horrible ridiculousness of drugging children to conform… A young adult I know is now making a good living in musical theater. She was diagnosised with ADHD. Her parents were smart enough not to drug her. For all you people involved in drugging children.. think about this “case study”. She was told she had a memory and an auditory processing problem. She remembers every single line to her plays and her pitch and tone in the singing is perfect. How did this child have a memory problem and auditory processing problem? Easy, no multi thousand dollars studies needed.. she did not!! She remembers and hears what she wants to, things that interest her. What is so bad about that?? STOP DRUGGING KIDS AND TELLING THEM THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THEM PLEASE!!! It lead to a life of medicated induced internal torture for me.

  5. How about if they are informed of the multiple long-term studies showing that stimulants do not improve ANY long-term outcomes for “medicated” vs. “unmedicated” students, including academic test scores, high school graduation, college enrollment, grades passed, delinquency rates, teen pregnancy rates, social skills, or even self-esteem ratings? Why is this rarely if ever mentioned in critiques of stimulant drugs for “ADHD”-diagnosed children? If long-term outcomes are not improved (or in some studies, made worse), what is the purpose of drugging these kids, even if one accepts the concept that “ADHD” exists as a disease state (which I do not)?

  6. Steve,
    It is always helpful to see you write about the knowledge you have. My only knowledge on this junk is from the extreme harm that was done to me by being drugged as a child. The purpose of it in my life was simple to shut up and not have a problem, we dont have time for that, and go along with everything, which included drugs that decreased my brain power that would have allowed me to question the ridiculousness/abuse of adults.
    Thank you again for your knowledge. The knowledge I was first told that there is something wrong with me and I need “medicine” for the rest of my life has turned out to be horrifically wrong.

      • I could not agree more with that diagnosis. I read one in Mindfreedom that fit me ” My affluent parents and teachers dont understand me disorder.” In the 80’s the label that seemed more popular was Bipolar. I can not stress enough how internally torturous the so called Bipolar meds are. You told me Steve that now the ADHD meds induce psychosis so now young children are labeled Bipolar. There really is this much evil in the world that we allow children to be drugged to the point that their brain cant function and we call them mentally disabled? Maybe the stupid teachers get them to sit for school but after graduation a life on unnecessary mind altering drugs and parents who dont understand you was a living hell for me. I am having such a hard time accepting this.

  7. Here is more perspective… If the adults dont drug the child for “ADHD” the other “treatment” is more time or what the school system calls services. I have ex friends who have been arguing with the school district to get their child “services”. It really does not take a person like a speech therapist or occupational therapist who has 6 years of post secondary education to teach a child how to spell and do basic adding. Why dont the parents slow down and take the what is viewed as extra time with their children?

  8. Unless and until these pharma handmaidens are held accountable for their complicity in the fraud and stop hiding behind their ignorance and indoctrination into the thought cult, business as usual will continue. The fact that they are willing to do this to the children in their care, speaks volumes.
    Considering the very real risks to parents who attempt to protect their kids from this cartel, it is possible that ‘teachers” are under some threat as well.
    See: Medically Kidnapped.

    • This is so awful. I am afraid to read medically kidnapped. I am so new to the truth. When my stomach stops turning I will read that topic. Is it true that the pharma companies get away with this bc they have so much money they just buy the government? That sounds like a very naive question huh? If this is our world as it appears to be I do not blame any one for getting out of here through suicide. And the “help” you get to cope in this awful world is a SSRI that a main side effect is suicidal ideation. They called me the crazy Bipolar one. I know better now!!!

  9. The researchers lost me at “thirty teachers were interviewed”. Seems infinitely insignificant compared to the amount of school age children using medications. I’d like to see this unfortunate trend (at medication) hit with a power swing not a swat.