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hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD)

ADHD: Vanderbilt and Connors; Are the Rating Scales Reliable


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people diagnosed with ADHD has increased by an average of 3% a year between 1997 and 2006. And, as of 2003, 2.5 million youth ages 4-17 years (56% of those with a diagnosis) were receiving medication treatment for the disorder. There are no tests for ADHD that can result in a definitive diagnosis and currently there is no biological basis for it either. Since ADHD is still a hypothetical construct and little is known about the etiology the numbers of those diagnosed are big. Are we over-diagnosing? What service are we doing to our children to pathologize behaviors which could represent variations between individuals? There are many sources of inattention among children which adds to the difficulty of accurately identifying ADHD.

Several rating scales are widely used in identifying it. Two of the most common are the Connors Rating Scale and the Vanderbilt Rating Scale. Both scales have a parent and teacher assessment. The Vanderbilt Rating Scale is a 55 item scale that not only evaluates ADHD, but other co-morbid (mental and developmental) disorders. The Connors Rating Scale has been around for years and is currently being used in a revised edition. The new revision was released in 1997 added to it were items that match symptoms for ADHD as outlined in the DSM-IV.

Purpose of the Study

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ADHD diagnosis is likely to remain the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorder, because school psychologists view it as a valid disorder that can be reliably diagnosed. Despite extensive research, the "smoking gun" that would define ADHD as a biological entity has not been found and the possibility, even probability, remains that the symptoms that make up the ADHD diagnosis are really a cluster of behaviors that evolve from a variety of sources (Cushman, Leblanc, & Porter, 2004). With this in mind and with the increase in diagnosis comes an increasing concern about prevalence, cause and treatment. Is the diagnosis criteria too easily met?

The purpose of this study is to examine whether the operationalizations of the rating scales behave the way they should. How accurate are they? If theses scales are deciding our children's future, they should function predictably. Theoretically, these rating scales should be able to distinguish between children with ADHD and children without.

According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 3% to 5% of the American population. To access the current validity of these rating scales this study will randomly gather parents of children that have had no behavioral problems. Parents will fill out both the Connors and Vanderbilt Rating Scales on 1 or more of their children. The tests will be scored and compared.

Hypothetically, no more than 5% of this sample should test positive for ADHD.

A survey of parents of school children with ADHD will be performed assessing

According to the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS):

Parents of 27% of students with disabilities report their children have been diagnosed with attention deficit or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD). This disability is mentioned by parents of 70% of students in the other health impairment category, the category in which students whose primary disability is ADD/ADHD generally are included. The incidence of reported ADD/ADHD also is particularly high among students with emotional disturbances (65%).

Review of the Literature

The Design--Methods and Procedures

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