Objectives: To investigate the impact of early school-based screening and educational interventions on longer-term outcomes for children at risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the predictive utility of teacher ratings.
Design: A population-based 5-year follow-up of a randomized, school-based intervention.
Setting: Schools in England.
Participants: Children between 4 and 5 years of age with high teacher-rated hyperactivity/inattention scores. Follow-up data were collected on 487 children in 308 schools.
Interventions: Following screening, using a 2 x 2 factorial design, schools randomly received an educational intervention (books about ADHD for teachers), the names of children with high hyperactivity/inattention scores between ages 4 and 5 years (identification), both educational intervention and identification, or no intervention.
Outcome measures: Parent-rated hyperactivity/inattention, impairment in classroom learning, and access to specialist health services for mental health or behavioral problems.
Results: None of the interventions were associated with improved outcomes. However, children receiving the identification-only intervention were twice as likely as children in the no-intervention group to have high hyperactivity/inattention scores at follow-up (adjusted odds ratio, 2.11; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-4.00). Regardless of intervention, high baseline hyperactivity/inattention scores were associated with high hyperactivity/inattention and specialist health service use at follow-up.
Conclusions: We did not find evidence of long-term, generalizable benefits following a school-based universal screening program for ADHD. There may be adverse effects associated with labeling children at a young age.