Article Review – Longitudinal effects of ADHD in children with learning disabilities or emotional disturbances by Wei, Yu, and Shaver (2014)


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Article Review – Longitudinal effects of ADHD in children with learning disabilities or emotional disturbances by Wei, Yu, and Shaver (2014)


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition affecting close to eleven percent of school going children (4-17 years old) in the USA. As mentioned by DuPaul et al. (2012), such affected children are characterized by difficulty in their socializing, poor academic performance, disruptive behavior, and a high unlikeliness of proceeding with higher education. Muehl (2015), mentions that one of the greatest challenges and frustrations facing teachers in conventional classrooms is handling children with ADHD or more generally children with challenging nature. Garner (2016), in his study that was aimed at determining the most critical themes for teachers handling kids with ADHD, uncovered that themes such as teachers attitude, flexibility and creativity, and a teacher’s self-reflection were some of the most critical themes that any teacher should focus on ensuring that any of his/her kids especially with ADHD are comfortable in class and that they are able to gainfully involve themselves in class and in the academic world. 

The subject of ADHD has in previous studies been conducted but this has not come without limitations. Teacher knowledge on children with ADHD has been in most cases left untouched since all the attention has been channeled towards the children themselves. As mentioned by Muehl (2015), teachers might have higher knowledge of disabilities but, on the other hand, lack the confidence of working with the same students. Research has not uncovered why the same happens and how it can be rectified. Inaccuracy and beliefs of teachers is something that teachers are deficient in. Research has identified that limited knowledge on strategies that can best be applied when serving children with ADHD is a limitation in itself (Muehl, 2015). Limited establishment of the relationship between ADHD suffering children and the long term effects of the condition especially their interaction with substance abuse and other mental disabilities exists among the research community. 

The study “Longitudinal effects of ADHD in children with learning disabilities or emotional disturbances” by Wei et al. (2014) was aimed at addressing some research gaps on the subject. First, Wei et al. (2015), identifies that the majority of the studies exhibit limited generalizability due to the use of small sample sizes which are not nationally representative especially with the Comorbid ADHD+LD and ADHD+LD in comparison to ADHD alone. Second, the study identified that other studies related to academic, behavioral, or social functioning of ADHD children refer to the ADHD comorbid with diagnosis of psychiatric nature for instance ODD and CD. Wei et al. (2014) affirmatively mentions that none of the studies they looked at identified students with ED further and beyond the existing estimates of ADHD+ED which is a considerable shortcoming in this specific field of research. Long term implications of comorbid ADHD+LD (especially reading disabilities) had limited longitudinal studies and the same for ADHD+ED even after considering both conditions as deleterious and with long term effects.

The study relied on data that was derived from Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS) conducted in 2000. The SEEL study was conducted with the objective of bringing into life a comprehensive picture of experiences, characteristics, and eventualities of students with disabilities as well as tracking changes in the students’ life when it comes to aspects such as academic progress, social interactions, and problems related to behaviors. 

The dependent variable in the study was the disability category and ADHD status. To collect data on this, student data was accessed from special school roasters and school districts for the first wave of students drawn in 1999. It included twelve disability classes as described under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2006). Identification of students included those with primary disabilities such as LD and ED. To extract a diagnosis of the students with ADHD, interviews with the children’s guardians or parents were conducted with the determining question asking whether the child had previously been diagnosed with ADHD or ADD.

The independent variables included academic achievement, social skills, and a record of problem behaviors.  In the academic achievement variable, a student’s performance was determined based on standardized assessment methods and teacher’s reports of reading achievement. On the latter, teachers were requested to rate a student’s reading ability levels based on the performance of the specific individual against expectations for the same kind of student ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Woodcock-Johnson III, research edition was used to assess achievement in reading and mathematics. From Woodcock-Johnson III, two reading measurements were used. First, it was assessed using letter-word identification which basically measures the skills of a student to identify letters and words in order of difficulty. Second, the analysts used passage comprehension. The students were subjected to a reading a passage which had a cloze procedure that allowed items to be arranged in order of ascending difficulty. Mathematically, the students taking the test were required to identify useful information from statements, conduct simple computations, and solve problems presented to them verbally. W scores for all the analysis were used especially in this part of the study.

Social skills were assessed using the Gresham & Elliot (1990) method for the SEEL test. A social skill test was reported by a parent/guardian who had to report 11 items. On this test, parents would give information on how their kids regularly made friends, joined new groups, confidence in social settings, problem solving skills, temper control, receiving of feedback and criticism, and cooperation with family. A likert scale was used. 

School records of problem behaviors were used and were obtained from school records in three waves in SEELS. The most useful variables in this category were rates of absenteeism, suspensions, and disciplinary actions against the students. 

The study revealed that among students with LD, 28% of them were having comorbid ADHD and 65% as those with ED. What these numbers mean is that there exists a high prevalence of diagnosis of ADHD among students that are in the category of LD and ED after using a national sample. The study explained that these high rates can be attributed to the fact that majority of the students with either LD or ED exhibit the same symptoms as those with ADHD. All the mentioned disorders use the same symptoms to be diagnosed. The study further found out that there were more male students with ADHD+LD as compared to those with LD alone. This finding was not a surprise since it was in tandem with other studies. It is generally expected that boys exhibit higher hyperactivity than girls. The study’s main finding was that the presence of ADHD in a student, has a deleterious effect in the long term especially on social, academic and behavioral end results of students with LD and ED. Generally, the study found out that negative effects persisted with ADHD over time.

The most conspicuous weakness in the experiment was on the reliance of historical data that was generated by a third parties without the current study in mind. The experiment also focused on a very large geographical area. A single study focusing on the whole of the U.S is too ambitious and errors emanating from extrapolation of data can be rife.

Research on ADHD students in the future should focus on the effects of a wide range of issues on the lives of such children. Social issues such as performance in the job market, academic world, role in crime, family life, social interactions and participation in the wide and immediate society. Such studies should paint a picture of the life of an ADHD kid in a futuristic pattern. The results of such studies would help in training ADHD affected children early enough to help them in mapping out a bright future.


DuPaul, G. J., Eckert, T. L., & Vilardo, B. (2012). The effects of school-based interventions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A meta-analysis 1996- 2010. School Psychology Review, 41(4), 387-412.

Garner, T. M. (2016). A Phenomenological Study of Teachers’ Lived Experiences Providing Interventions for Students Diagnosed With ADHD (Doctoral dissertation, Liberty University).

Muehl, D. (2015). The Effectiveness of Self-Regulating Strategies on On-Task Behaviors of a Student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Wei, X., Yu, J. W., & Shaver, D. (2014). Longitudinal effects of ADHD in children with learning disabilities or emotional disturbances. Exceptional Children80(2), 205-219.

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