March 10, 2008

Capitalizing on strengths to overcome difficulties for children diagnosed with ADHD

Elizabeth J. Short

Collaborative research conducted by Case Western Reserve University psychology professor Elizabeth J. Short has won the 2007 Keith Conners Award for Scholarly Contribution. The award recognizes an outstanding article published in the Journal of Attention Disorders in 2007.

Short, together with colleagues Dr. Michael Manos from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Dr. Robert Findling from Case Medical Center explored how children diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can succeed in school and everyday life by tapping into their personal strengths. Assets can be categorized as internal (emotional adaptability, school attitude and self esteem) and external (parental support, educational support and community support).

Traditional mental health research has focused on deficits, but Short and her research group wanted to find out why some ADHD children prevail in school and social settings while others fail.

"Let's stop talking about what kids can't do and start talking about what they can do," she said. "Let's start where the child is."

Given the myriad of developmental problems associated with ADHD, it seems critical to not only to identify the problems of children diagnosed with ADHD, but also examine individual differences in the group of children diagnosed with disorders to identify protective factors., she said.

She added, "We believe that behavioral assets may be the reason why some children with ADHD are successful despite their behavioral problems."

"Our feeling was that some ADHD children have protective factors that help them manage their difficulties. By concentrating on behavioral assets, we may be able to pinpoint how children succeed in the face of adversity" said Short

The researchers surveyed 318 parents with newly diagnosed ADHD children between the ages of 4 and 15. Parents were queried as to behavioral problems and behavioral assets evidenced by their child. Children who were reported to have more developmental assets had fewer behavioral problems.

"Behavioral assets appear to serve as a protective buffer against behavior problems and referral concerns in newly diagnosed ADHD children," report the researchers.

Developmental differences in patterns of assets and problems were observed in the sample. Children between the ages of 4 to 7 years had more problems with hyperactivity than the older children. In contrast, inattention and blaming others for your problems appears to be more problematic for older children.

The JAD article, "Developmental and Subtype Differences in Behavioral Assets and Problems in Children Diagnosed with ADHD" was a collaborative effort with Findling, professor of psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and Manos, section head of Pediatric Behavioral Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Former Case Western Reserve undergraduate Lynn Fairchild, who did research for the project, is also among the paper's authors and is now a first-year graduate student at the University of Florida, studying school psychology.

"All of us—regardless of who we are—have some weakness or difficulties," said Short. "These shortcomings can become part of the problem or the solution."

For example, she noted that hyperactive or high energy people can learn to channel excess energy into accomplishing a multitude of tasks. It is all about gaining control of that energy and becoming self directed that is the secret, explained Short

The Conners Award is sponsored by Dr. Keith Conner and the Multi-Health System.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, March 10, 2008 09:41 AM | News Topics: Awards, Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Healthcare, Provost Initiatives, Research

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.