Regardless of whether they have actual learning disabilities, children with ADHD usually have problems with academic performance. Since this is the case, many studies assessing the effects of stimulant medication have examined the effects on academic performance, as well as on hyperactivity and impassivity. These studies have clearly demonstrated that stimulant medication can result in considerable improvement in academic performance.
However, there is also a group of youngsters with learning problems who do not seem to have coexisting problems with attention and impulse control. When these children are given stimulant medication, the results are not nearly as clear cut.
Children with Learning and Attention Problems.
When researchers examined the effects of stimulant medication in children in whom both learning and attention problems were apparent, the results did not appear promising. However, as researchers refined their methods and measures, it soon become apparent that AHDH children treated with stimulant medication often showed impressive gains in both work output and accuracy in the areas of spelling, reading, and arithmetic. The amount of improvement observed was quite substantial, ranging from 25 to 40 percent.
In spite of these documented improvements, it is clear that stimulant medication alone is not always sufficient to help learning impaired youngsters with attentional problems who have fallen far behind their classmates. Common sense dictates that these children receive specific remedial help to enable them to make up for lost time. Research is quite clear in showing that for youngsters with both AHDH and reading disorders, the greatest improvements in reading result when the children are treated with a combination of stimulant medication and remedial teaching.
Children without Attentional Problems.
When we ask “Is stimulant medication helpful to learning impaired children who do not have obvious accompanying attentional problems?” we are on less solid ground in terms of scientific evidence. We have only a few studies in which dyslexic children without accompanying attentional problems have been studied, so the available evidence is very scanty. Studies seem to indicate that the contribution of stimulant medication to improved reading skills in these children is minimal.