Prevalence of ADHD in people with learning disabilities must be established and broader range of treatment options tested


The reporting of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms has been increasing in people with learning disability but researchers have also argued that such symptoms are being under diagnosed and also poorly treated.

This review set out to identify the level of ADHD symptoms in children and adults with learning disabilities reported in published studies and to consider the validity of the diagnosis. The authors also looked at the nature and range of interventions.

They found a great variance in the reported prevalence rates of ADHD symptoms depending on which instruments and diagnostic practices were used in the studies. In terms of the interventions reported, they found that the primary focus in published studies was on pharmacological interventions.

The authors conclude that much less is known about ADHD in individuals with learning disability than in those without. They argue that in order to clarify prevalence and to consider effective treatment, there is a need to establish baseline rates appropriately test a broader range of treatment options.

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adults with Intellectual Disability: A Review, Reilly, C &Holland, N, in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 291–309.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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