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AD/HD and Adolescence: A Formula for Risk and Vulnerability

Page 3 of 3

By Sam Goldstein, Ph.D.

The Impact on School Performance

Youth with AD/HD have also been found to perform lower than those without AD/HD on measures of intelligence. However, they still perform within the normal range. It is quite likely that they are not less intelligent but less efficient in taking intelligence tests. It does not appear that the problems teenagers with AD/HD experience and the risks they present result from below average intelligence.

Teenagers with AD/HD also under-perform in school relative to what would be expected based upon their academic and intellectual abilities. In fact, approximately one-third of youth with AD/HD experience academic skill weaknesses causing achievement problems consistent with learning disabilities. By high school, as many as two-thirds of teens with AD/HD fall behind in basic academic subjects due to lack of practice needed to develop academic proficiency.

Teens with AD/HD are more likely to drop out of school and not progress as far in post-high school education as would be predicted by their abilities or by their siblings'performance. Ultimately, teens with AD/HD who struggle in school enter the workforce at a lower level.

Overcoming Risk with Resilience

AD/HD leads to a failure to develop efficient self-discipline and self-regulation, critically important skills for all teenagers. Thus, impairments in all areas of life are intensified when teens struggle with AD/HD. Teenagers with AD/HD demonstrate significant levels of co-occurring psychiatric problems and are at higher risk than others to engage in risky behaviors. I will explain the most common types of risky behavior in the second article in this series.

The good news, however, is that researchers are also increasingly identifying those thoughts, feelings, behaviors, skills, and experiences that appear to protect and insulate teenagers with AD/HD, helping them develop resilient traits and mindsets and thereby increasing the probability of successful transition into adult life. Those traits - and methods for helping teens with AD/HD develop them - is the topic of the third article in this series.

AD/HD by Other Names and Acronyms

While Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is the official term and acronym used by today's mental health care professionals, it is sometimes referred to by other names and abbreviations. For example, it is sometimes called:

ADHD (without the "slash" in the middle)

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Attention Disorder

Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah, a Research Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and Director of the Neurology, Learning and Behavior Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Attention Disorders, author, co-author or editor of 26 books and dozens of book chapters and peer reviewed research articles.

Comments from readers

"Very insightful information, my son and I are both diagnosed with adhd and have numerous underlining co-morbidities, which you portray brilliantly. We have both met with much adversity and it's very refreshing to read an unbiased opinion. Many thanks. "