Impact of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder on School Performance: What are the Effects of Medication?

Raman Baweja, Richard E. Mattison, James G. Waxmonsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects an estimated 5–7 % of schoolchildren worldwide. School functioning and academic achievement are frequently impaired by ADHD and represent one of the main reasons children start ADHD medication. Multiple potential causal pathways exist between ADHD and impaired school performance. In this review, we decompose school performance into three components and assess the impact of ADHD and its treatments on academic performance (assessed by grade point average [GPA], time on-task, percentage of work completed as well as percent completed correctly), academic skills (as measured by achievement tests and cognitive measures), and academic enablers (such as study skills, motivation, engagement, classroom behavior and interpersonal skills). Most studies examined only the short-term effects of medication on school performance. In these, ADHD medications have been observed to improve some aspects of school performance, with the largest impact on measures of academic performance such as seatwork productivity and on-task performance. In a subset of children, these benefits may translate into detectable improvements in GPA and achievement testing. However, limited data exists to support whether these changes are sustained over years. Optimizing medication effects requires periodic reassessment of school performance, necessitating a collaborative effort involving patients, parents, school staff and prescribers. Even with systematic reassessment, behavioral-based treatments and additional school-based services may be needed to maximize academic performance for the many youth with ADHD and prominent impairments in school performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-477
Number of pages19
JournalPediatric Drugs
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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