University of Missouri - Columbia.
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Posted 12.07.05

Preschool Teachers Need More Info on ADHD, Researchers Say

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent childhood disorders. Symptoms start to develop when a child is of preschool age, which has implications for preschool teachers, who are a main influence on the lives of children during these formative years. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have determined that most preschool teachers are not extensively educated on ADHD, which can make it difficult for them to deal with their ADHD students' challenging behavior.

"The most common educational experience of preschool teachers was reading a magazine article that included information on ADHD," said Melissa Stormont, Mizzou associate professor of special education in the College of Education, who conducted the study along with Molly Stebbins, a school psychologist with Columbia Public Schools. "Without quality educational experiences such as reading a journal article with summaries of scientific research or going to a workshop with valid information, the information teachers are getting from types of popular media may only be fads and myths."

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The study examined 138 preschool teachers. Teachers were asked to rate their own knowledge concerning ADHD and report their opinions on current ADHD trends and issues. They were then tested on their general knowledge of ADHD. The educational level of the teacher also was noted.

Stormont found that 81 percent of teachers surveyed had read a magazine article on ADHD, while only 61 percent had read a journal article on the subject. Fewer than half of the preschool teachers reported going to a workshop on ADHD or reading a book about the disorder. The study also found that teachers with graduate level degrees possessed more knowledge about ADHD than teachers with high school or vocational level degrees.

"Almost 77 percent of preschool teachers indicated that it was not easy to tell which preschoolers had ADHD," Stormont said. "About half of preschool students with ADHD will continue to have severe behavior problems into their school years, so teachers need to be able to recognize the onset of symptoms as soon as they occur so children can receive appropriate support to make school experiences more successful. Many children with challenging behavior are 'kicked out' of early school environments and enter kindergarten without the social skills needed to be successful."

Stormont also believes the perpetuation of myths and fads by the media could spell trouble for preschoolers in the care of early child care professionals who don't look elsewhere for more information about ADHD.

"Teachers need to understand a child's individual needs and the nature of his or her disorder," Stormont said. "If they attribute ADHD to poor parenting or excessive sugar, they may be less supportive and accommodating in the classroom than if they understood the biological basis of ADHD."

Stormont's study recently was published in the journal Teacher Education and Special Education.



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