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School Testing, ADHD Link: Book Claims Exams, Diagnosis Related

Image: School Testing, ADHD Link: Book Claims Exams, Diagnosis Related

By Alexandra Ward   |   Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 09:45 AM

School standardized testing could be the missing link in the mystery of the ADHD epidemic that has gripped America's youth over the last 15 years, a new book alleges.

In their new book "The ADHD Explosion," University of California Berkeley professors Richard Scheffler and Stephen Hinshaw present their theory that school testing, as mandated by No Child Left Behind, actually led to an increase in ADHD diagnoses.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.4 million kids between the ages of 4 and 17 — or 11 percent of that specific age group — were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2011. That's up from 7.8 percent in 2003 and 9.5 percent in 2007, NBC News noted.

Seeking to find out what factors contributed to the increase, Scheffler and Hinshaw focused on No Child Left Behind, a federal policy adopted in 2002 that held teachers and principals accountable for students' standardized test scores by tying federal funds to the results.

"When you incentivize test scores above all else, there is probably pressure to get kids diagnosed with ADHD," Hinshaw told NBC News. "We know from our own research that medication not only makes you less fidgety but also can bump up your test scores."

According to their research, "children ages 8 to 13, living in low-income homes and in states without previous consequential accountability laws, went from a 10 percent to a 15.3 percent rate of ADHD diagnoses once No Child Left Behind started," the book reports, citing a 53 percent increase over four years.

"If you can identify the children with ADHD, you can take them out of the pool that measures how schools are doing," Scheffler told NBC News.

The authors also attribute the rise in ADHD to the frequency in which kids and teens are diagnosed nowadays.

"Many pediatricians are not trained in the emotional disorders of childhood, or not reimbursed for the time it takes," Hinshaw said. "It is easy to pull out prescription pad at the end of a visit."

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