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The rich and multifaceted information gathered in the ADHD study provides unique opportunities for research on a variety of questions. Research projects within the ADHD study can provide useful and important knowledge and contribute to the general picture of development in preschool age.
The primary focus areas of the ADHD study are early signs of, and risk factors related to, the development of ADHD and other psychiatric illnesses. Learning more about these areas requires examining diverse aspects of children’s development and behaviour, including activity levels, language development, learning and temperament, to mention a few. Several sub-projects are under way or being planned. The following is a look into two of the projects.
Learning and motivation
Earlier research has shown that children with ADHD seem to learn and function better if they are given clear and positive responses and rewards for desired behaviours. It is particularly important that rewards are given often and preferably as quickly as possible after a desired behaviour has taken place. This timing affects whether the children learn and how they learn that actions and events are related.
One of the ADHD study projects will investigate how rewards affect children’s behaviour and how behavioural chains develop. Knowledge about how motivation affects learning and behaviour is very important for the development of effective interventions for children with ADHD and behaviour problems. Interventions that systematically employ positive responses, rewards and agreements are more effective in the pre-school years than when the children are older. Thus, it is especially important to be able to identify children who may need and profit from early intervention, and to understand how motivational conditions affect behaviour.
We also wish to find out more about the extent to which there are differences in motivation and learning between children showing symptoms of ADHD, children showing symptoms of other disorders and children without such problems. This knowledge can help health professionals to recognize children at increased risk of developing ADHD.
Another sub-project involves investigating the language development and language achievements of pre-school children with ADHD symptoms.
The verbal functioning of pre-school children with ADHD symptoms may be impaired, yet research addressing this issue is limited. Language skills are crucial for many areas of functioning and deficits in this area may have consequences for academic as well as social achievements, areas in which children with ADHD are known to experience difficulties.
Such research is potentially useful for professionals involved in neuropsychological assessment of pre-school children who experience ADHD symptoms.