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ADHD Module

Trends and Prevalence

Depending upon the source, figures vary about the incidence of AD/HD as well as the coexistence of AD/HD and learning disabilities (LD). Part of this is due to a lack of uniformity in diagnostic procedures as well as variability in reporting symptoms depending upon respondents. According to Bloom and Cohen (2007), in their report based upon a 2006 national health survey, four and one-half million children 3–17 years of age (7%) had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with boys more than twice as likely as girls to have the diagnosis (11% and 4%). Pastor and Reuben (2008) reported lower percentages. They found that the number of children 6–17 years of age with ADHD (with and without LD)image of two students with laptops increased slowly from 1997 through 2006. Approximately 5% of children had ADHD without LD, 5% had LD without ADHD, and 4% had both conditions. The incidence of all diagnoses was more likely to be true with boys than with girls. According to the American Psychiatric Association (2000), 3% to 5% is the most frequently cited estimate of the prevalence of AD/HD among school age children. A survey funded by the National Institute of Mental Health tracked the prevalence of AD/HD in adults ages 18-44 and found an estimated 4.4% of the population experiences some disability (Kessler et al., 2006). According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in 2008 approximately 19% of postsecondary students with disabilities were diagnosed with AD/HD, which represents the second largest disability group on college campuses. This statistic represents a marked increase over the 2000 (6.7%) and 2004 (11.6%) GAO findings.

With such variable prevalence rates, many people question the validity of the diagnostic criteria. However, it is important to realize that:

The increased rate of diagnosis and treatment for ADHD, particularly in the adult years, is most likely a reflection of the greater community, professional, and parental awareness of the symptoms of the condition, as well as a broadening of diagnostic criteria. (Goldstein & Naglieri, 2008)



American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Bloom, B., & Cohen, R. A. (2007). Summary health statistics for U.S. children: National health interview survey, 2006. National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Health Stat 10(234). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_234.pdf

Goldstein, S., & Naglieri, J. (2008). The school neuropsychology of ADHD: Theory, assessment, and intervention. Psychology in the Schools, 45(9), 859-874.

Kessler, R. C., Adler, L., Barkley, R., Biederman, J., Conners, C. K., Demler, O.,… & Zaslavsky, A. M. (2006). The prevalence and correlates of adult ADHD in the United States: Results from the national comorbidity survey replication. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 724-732. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2006/harvard-study-suggests-signifi...

Pastor, P. N., & Reuben, C. A. (2008). Diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disability: United States, 2004–2006. National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Health Stat 10 (237). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/Sr10_237.pdf

United States Government Accountability Office. (2009). Higher education and disability: Education needs a coordinated approach to improve its assistance to schools in supporting students(GAO-10-33). Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1033.pdf