Parents can provide accurate reports of their children's ADHD symptoms

Traditionally, clinical trials of drugs to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children have relied on information provided by teachers to evaluate treatment success. An article from researchers at Mass General Hospital for Children (MGHC) verifies that parents can be as accurate as teachers in identifying ADHD symptoms and treatment-related changes in behavior. The use of parent reports in studies of new ADHD drugs could get around limitations of teacher-based studies and give a clearer picture of how ADHD affects children's activities throughout the day.

"ADHD had been looked on as affecting school time only, so it was assumed that teachers were the only reliable source of reports," says Joseph Biederman, MD, chief of Pediatric Psychopharmacology at MGHC, who led the study in the June issue of Pediatrics. "But we now know that ADHD can impact all aspects of a child's life. In addition, middle school children often have several teachers, which makes getting comprehensive assessments of behavior from teachers difficult."

To evaluate the feasibility of using parental reports, the MGHC researchers reviewed the medical literature to find clinical trials of ADHD medications that included evaluations from both parents and teachers. The identified three randomized trials examining either standard or long-acting medications for pediatric ADHD. In all three studies, reports from parents were as accurate as those of teachers in evaluating ADHD symptoms and documenting statistically significant improvements as a result of treatment.

"Many children are now receiving long-acting medications that can help improve their symptoms 24 hours a day and seven days a week," adds Biederman. "Our report shows that parents can accurately report their children's symptoms and can assess how the children respond to new medications." Biederman is a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

The MGHC report was supported by a grant from

Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

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