Unlocking social success: High school program empowers adolescents with ADHD

Evans, S. W., DuPaul, G. J., Benson, K., Owens, J. S., Fu, Q., Cleminshaw, C., … & Margherio, S. (2023). Social Functioning Outcomes of a High School-Based Treatment Program for Adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 1-16.

Summarized by Ellen Parry Luff

About the Study

This study focuses on a new intervention working to address the academic and social challenges faced by adolescents with ADHD, which can lead to difficulties in achieving independence and self-reliance. These challenges often result in school failure, risky behaviors, and compromised social interactions. In the past various psychosocial treatments have been developed, including clinic- and school-based approaches, but there’s a lack of evidence for effective treatments specifically targeting social impairment in this age group. This study looks at the Challenging Horizons Program (CHP) which was developed as a school-based intervention to provide extended care for adolescents with ADHD. CHP was employed in this study through the use of twice weekly meetings with a coach and once weekly group meetings for the treatment group. The study delves into evaluating the effectiveness of CHP compared to community care (CC) in improving social impairment and related issues, such as anxiety, depression, conduct disorders, and ADHD symptoms. 

Key Findings:

  • Participants in the treatment group showed a significant increase in social skills, per parent and adolescent ratings when compared to the control group, with noticeable differences at follow-up.
  • Parent and adolescent ratings on family relations showed a trend of greater improvements within the treatment group, but no significant differences observed.
  • Parent stress related to their adolescent was significantly reduced in the treatment group at the time of the follow-up.
  • Parent-rated inattention levels improved significantly in the treatment group , while hyperactivity/impulsivity levels remained unchanged.
  • Emotion regulation improvements were observed in the treatment group based on parent ratings, but this result was not consistently significant across all the different measures looked at.

Implications for Mentoring

The significant improvements in social skills shown in this study, as reported by both parents and adolescents, highlight the potential of school-based interventions like CHP to effectively address social struggles among middle and high school students. By discontinuing ineffective services and integrating CHP interventions, school staff can drive meaningful changes in adolescents’ social skills without increasing their time demands. Additionally the success of the interventions highlights the potential that evidence based mentoring programs could have with this population. This is because the one-on-one coaching and group sessions used are also often used in mentoring programs and therefore there is potential for success with this population through the use of evidence-based targeted mentoring interventions as well. The varying attendance at evening group sessions based on income and parent education levels suggests the need for additional strategies to engage low-income communities. While these findings offer valuable insights into the treatment’s effects on social functioning, there is still much ground to cover in our quest to effectively support and empower adolescents with ADHD.

To access the study click here.