ADHD Research

Journal Articles Chapters & Books Awards and Honors

Research Focus

Sydney Zentall has been examining the conditions that occasion differences between students with ADHD and comparison populations. Most of her empirical work is derived from a theory first published in 1975 (i.e., the optimal stimulation theory). She proposed that the purpose of the active/impulsive behavior demonstrated by students with ADHD was to increase stimulation (arousal). Professor Zentall and her research teams of students and colleagues have also examined the responses of students with ADHD to added stimulation in social tasks and across a number of academic areas (e.g., math, spelling, language), and documented that novelty added to relevant parts of tasks can improve performance to levels higher than that of matched average peers.

Online 2014 brief summary for parents and teachersExpert Beacon Dos and Don'ts:


Journal Articles

Fugate, C.M., Zentall, S.S., & Gentry, M. (2013). Working memory and creativity in gifted students with and without characteristics of ADHD: Lifting the mask. Gifted Child Quarterly, 57, 234-246.

Zentall, S.S., Tom-Wright, K., & Lee, J. (2013). Psychostimulant and sensory stimulation interventions that target the reading and math deficits of students with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. doi: 10.1177/1087054711430332 

Zentall, S.S., & Lee, J. (2012). A reading motivation intervention with differential outcomes for students at-risk for reading disabilities, ADHD, and typical comparisons: “Clever is and clever does”.  Learning Disability Quarterly, 35, 248-259. doi: 10.1177/0731948712438556

Lee, J., & Zentall, S.S. (2012). Reading motivational differences among groups: Reading disability (RD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), RD+ADHD, and typical comparison. Learning and Individual Differences.  DOI: 10.1016/j.lindif.2012.05.010

Beike, S.M., & Zentall, S.S.  (2012). ‘The snake raised its head’:Content novelty alters the reading performance of students at-risk for reading disabilities and ADHD.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 529-540. doi: 10.1037/a0027216

Zentall, S. S., & Beike, S. M. (2012). Achievement and social goals of younger and older elementary students: Response to academic and social failure. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35, 39-53. doi: 10.1177/0731948711429009

Kercood, S., Zentall, S.S., Vinh, M., & Tom-Wright, K. (2012). Attentional cuing in math word problems for girls at-risk for ADHD and their peers in genral education settings. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37, 106-112.

Kuester, D.A., & Zentall, S. S. (2011). Social interaction rules in cooperative learning groups for students at-risk for ADHD. Journal of Experimental Education, 80, 69-95.

Kang, H., & Zentall, S.S. (2011). Computer-generated geometry instruction: A preliminary study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59, 783-797.

Zentall, S. S., Kuester, D.A., Craig, B.A. (2011). Social behavior in cooperative groups: Students at-risk for ADHD and their peers. Journal of Educational Research, 104, 28-41.

Grskovic, J.A., & Zentall, S.S. (2010). Understanding ADHD in girls: Identification and social characteristics. International Journal of Special Education, 25, 171-184.

Zentall, S. S., & Javorsky, J. (2007). Professional development for teachers  of  students with ADHD and characteristics of ADHD. Behavioral  Disorders , 32, 78-93.

Bennett, D. E.,   Zentall , S. S., Giorgetti-Borucki , K.,   & French, B. F. (2006). The effects of computer-administered choice on students with and without characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Behavioral Disorders, 31, 189-203

French, B. F. , Zentall, S. S., & Bennett, D. (2003). Short-term memory of children with and without characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Learning and Individual Differences, 13, 205-225.

Beyda, S. D, Zentall, S. S., & Ferko, D. J. K. (2002). The relationship between teacher practices and the task-appropriate and social behavior of students with behavioral disorders. Behavior Disorders, 27, 236-255.

Vargas, A. U., Zentall, S. S., & Wilbur, J. D. (2002). Responses to art attention-training by English and bilingual Spanish-speaking students with and without ADHD. Studies in Art Education, 43, 158-174.

Lee, D. L., & Zentall, S. S. (2002). The effects of visual stimulation on the mathematics performance of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Behavior Disorders, 27, 272-288.

Zentall, S. S., Cassady, J. C., & Javorsky, J. (2001). Social comprehension of children with hyperactivity. Journal of Attention Disorders, 5, 11-24.

Zentall, S. S., Moon, S., Hall, A.M., & Grskovic, J. (2001). Learning and motivational characteristics of boys with giftedness and/or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Exceptional Children, 67, 499-519.

Moon, S., Zentall, S. S., Grskovic, J., Hall, A.M., & Stormont, M. (2001). Emotional and social characteristics of boys with AD/HD and giftedness: A comparative case study. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 24, 207-247.

Hall, A. M., & Zentall, S. S. (2000). The effects of learning station on the completion and accuracy of math homework for middle school students. Journal of Behavioral Education, 10, 123-137.

Javorsky, J. M., Kline, C. E., & Zentall, S. S. (2000). Field-based research practices: Bridging the gap between university and classroom. The Journal of Special Education Leadership, 13, 27-37.

Stormont, M., Zentall, S. S., Beyda, S., Javorsky, T., & Belfiore, P. (2000). Playground contexts for aggression for preschoolers with hyperactivity. Journal of Behavioral Education, 10, 37-48.

Zentall, S. S., Grskovic, J., Javorsky, J., & Hall, A. M. (2000). Effects of noninformational color on reading test performance of students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Diagnostique, 25, 129-146.

Stormont, M., & Zentall, S. S. (1999).   Assessment of setting in the behavioral ratings  of preschoolers with and without high levels of activity.  Psychology in the Schools, 36, 109-115.

Zentall, S. S., Hall, A. M., & Lee, D. L. (1998). Attentional focus of students with hyperactivity during a word-search task.  Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 26, 335-343.

Beyda, S. D., & Zentall, S. S. (1998).  Adminstrative responses to AD/HD.  Reaching Today's Youth, 2, 31-36.

Zentall, S. S., & Javorsky, J.  (1997). Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder  research-to-practice through distance education.  Teacher Education and Special Education, 20, 146-155.

Belfiore, P. J., Grskovic, J., Murphy, A. M., & Zentall, S. S. (1996).  The effects of antecedent color on reading for students with learning disabilities and co-occurring attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.  Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 432-438.

Stormont-Spurgin, M., & Zentall, S. S. (1996).  Child-rearing practices associated with aggression in youth with and without ADHD:  An exploratory study.  International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education, 43, 135-146.

Stevens, L. J., Zentall, S. S., Deck, J. L., Abate, M. L., Lipp, S. R., & Burgess, J. R. (1996).  Omega-3 fatty acids in boys with behavior, learning, and health problems.  Physiology and Behavior, 59, 915-920.

Zentall, S. S., & Stormont-Spurgin, M. (1996). Educator preferences of accommodations for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Teacher Education and Special Education, 18, 115-123.

Stevens, L. J., Zentall, S. S., Deck, J. L., Abate, M. L., Watkins, B. A., Lipp, S. R., & Burgess, J. R. (1995). Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 62, 761-768.

Grskovic, J. A., Zentall, S. S., & Stormont- Spurgin, M. (1995). Time estimation and planning abilities: Students with and without mild disabilities. Behavioral Disorders, 20, 197-203.

Zentall, S. S., & Javorsky, J. (1995). Functional and clinical assessment of ADHD: Implications of DSM- IV in the schools. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment: ADHD Special Monograph, 22-41.

Zentall, S. S., Smith, Y. N., Lee, Y. B., & Wieczorek, C. (1994). Mathematical outcomes of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27, 510-519.

Zentall, S. S., & Goetze, H. (1994). Kinder mit aufmerksamkeits- und huperaktivitats- problemen (ADHD) neuere experimentelle befunde und anwendungen fur den unterricht. Sonderpadagogik, 24, 82-91.

Zentall, S. S. (1993). Research on the educational implications of attention deficit hyperactivitydisorder. Exceptional Children, 60, 143-153.

Zentall, S. S., & Ferkis, M. A. (1993). Mathematical problem-solving for youth with ADHD, with and without learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 16, 6-18.

Zentall, S. S. , & Smith, Y. N. (1993). Mathematical performance and behavior of children with hyperactivity, with and without coexisting aggression. Behavior Research and Therapy, 31, 701-710.

Zentall, S. S., Harper, G. , & Stormont-Spurgin, M. (1993). Children with hyperactivity and their organizational abilities. Journal of Educational Research, 87, 112-117.

Zentall, S. S., & Smith, Y. N. (1992). Assessment and validation of the learning and behavioral style preferences of hyperactive and comparison children. Learning and Individual Differences, 4, 25-41.

Madan-Swain, A., & Zentall, S. S. (1990). Behavioral comparisons of liked and disliked hyperactive children in play contexts and the behavioral accommodations by their classmates. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 58, 197-209.

Zentall, S. S. (1990). Fact-retrieval automatization and math problem solving by learning disabled, attention disordered, and normal adolescents. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 856-865.

Zentall, S. S. (1989). Attentional cuing in spelling tasks for hyperactive and comparison regular classroom children. Journal of Special Education, 23, 83-93.

Zentall, S. S. (1988). Production deficiencies in elicited language but not in the spontaneous verbalizations of hyperactive children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 16, 657-673.

Zentall, S. S., & Dwyer, A. M. (1988) Color effects on the impulsivity and activity of hyperactive children. Journal of School Psychology, 27, 165-174.

Zentall, S. S., & Kruczek, T. (1988). The attraction of color for active attention-problem children. Exceptional Children, 54, 357-362.

.Zentall, S. S., & Meyer, M. J. (1987). Self- regulation of stimulation for ADD-H children during reading and vigilance task performance. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 15, 519-536.

Zentall, S. S. (1986). Assessment of emotionally disturbed preschoolers. Diagnostique, 11, 154-179.

Zentall, S. S. (1986). Effects of color stimulation on performance and activity of hyperactive and nonhyperactive children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78,159-165.

Zentall, S. S., & Zentall, T. R. (1986). Hyperactivity ratings: Statistical regression provides an insufficient explanation of practice effects. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 11, 393-396.

Shroyer, C., & Zentall, S. S. (1986). Effects of rate, nonrelevant information, and repetition on the listening comprehension of hyperactive children. Journal of Special Education, 20, 231-239.

Zentall, S. S., & Leib, S. L. (1985). Structured tasks: Effects on activity and performance of hyperactive and comparison children. Journal of Educational Research, 79, 91-95.

Zentall, S. S. (1985). Stimulus-control factors in search performance of hyperactive children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 18, 480-485.

Zentall, S. S., Falkenberg, S. D., & Smith, L. D. (1985). Effects of color stimulation and information on the copying performance of attention-problem adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 13, 501-511.

Zentall, S. S. (1984). Context effects in the behavioral ratings of hyperactivity. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 12, 345-352.

Zentall, S. S., & Gohs, D. E. (1984). Hyperactive and comparison children's response to detailed vs. global cues in communication tasks. Learning Disability Quarterly, 7, 77-87.

Zentall, S. S. (1983). Effects of psychotropic drugs on the behavior of pre-academic children: A review. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 3, 29-39.

Zentall, S. S. (1983). Learning environments: A review of physical and temporal factors. Exceptional Education Quarterly, 4, 90-115.

Zentall, S. S., Gohs, D. E. , & Culatta, B. (1983). Language and activity of hyperactive and comparison children during listening tasks. Exceptional Children, 50, 255-266.

Zentall, S. S., & Zentall, T. R. (1983). Optimal stimulation: A model of disordered activity and performance in normal and deviant children. Psychological Bulletin, 94, 446-471.

Zentall, S. S. (1980). Behavioral comparisons of hyperactive and control children in natural settings. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 8, 93-109.

Zentall, S. S., & Shaw, J. H. (1980). Effects of classroom noise on performance and activity of second- grade hyperactive and control children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 8, 830-840.

Zentall, S. S. (1979). Effects of environmental stimulation on behavior as a function of type of behavior disorder. Behavior Disorders, 5, 19-29.

Zentall, S. S., & Barack, R. S. (1979). Rating scales for hyperactivity: Concurrent validity, reliability, and decisions to label for the Conners and Davids abbreviated scales. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 7, 179-190.

Zentall, S. S., Zentall, T. R., & Barack, R. S. (1978). Distraction as a function of within-task stimulation for hyperactive and normal children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 11, 540-548.

Zentall, S. S., Zentall, T. R., & Booth, M. E. (1978). Within-task stimulation: Effects on activity and spelling performance in hyperactive and normal children. Journal of Educational Research, 71, 223- 230.

Zentall, S. S. (1977). An environmental stimulation model. Exceptional Children, 43, 502-410.

Zentall, S. S., & Zentall, T. R. (1976). Amphetamine's paradoxical effects may be predictable. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 9, 1988-1989.

Zentall, S. S., & Zentall, T. R. (1976). Activity and task performance of hyperactive children as a function of environmental stimulation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 44, 693-697.

Zentall, S. S. (1975). Optimal stimulation as theoretical basis of hyperactivity. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 45, 549-563.


Theoretical reviews
(Zentall, 1975; Zentall & Zentall, 1983; chapter 3 in the Zentall, 2006 book -- ADHD and Education)

Academic areas:
(a) math computations and math problem solving (Kang & Zentall, in press; chapter: Zentall, 2007; Bennett et al., 2006; Kercood, Zentall, & Lee, 2004; Zentall, Smith, Lee, & Wieczorek, 1994; Zentall & Ferkis, 1993; Zentall, 1990; Zentall & Shaw, 1980)
(b) reading (Zentall, Grskovic, Javorsky, & Hall, 2000; Belfiore, Grskovic, Murphy, & Zentall; 1996; Zentall, 1986; Zentall & Meyer, 1987)
(c)spelling (Zentall, 1989; Zentall, Zentall, & Booth, 1978)
(d) expressive and receptive language (Shroyer & Zentall, 1986; Zentall, 1981, 1988; Zentall, Gohs, & Culatta, 1983; Zentall & Gohs, 1984)
(e) handwriting and fine motor skills
(Zentall, Falkenberg, & Smith, 1985; Zentall & Kruczek, 1988; Zentall, Zentall, & Barrack, 1978)
(f) homework performance
(Hall & Zentall, 2000)
(g) art (Vargas, Zentall, & Wilbur, 2002; Zentall & Leib, 1985)

Social areas:
(a) social style and social comprehension (Zentall, Kuester, & Craig, 2011; Grskovic & Zentall, 2010; Zentall, Javorsky, & Cassady, 2001; Madan-Swain & Zentall, 1990; Meyer & Zentall, 1995; Stormont & Zentall, 1995; Zentall, 1980)
(b) emotional style (Moon, Zentall, Grskovic, Hall, & Stormont, 2001)

Child preferences and styles:
(a) Attention, memory, and response styles (review: Zentall, 2005; Bennett, Zentall, Giorgetti-Borucki, & French, 2004; French, Zentall, & Bennett, 2003; Grskovic, Zentall, & Stormont-Spurgin, 1995; Zentall, 1994; Zentall, 1981, 1986; 1985; Zentall & Dwyer, 1988; Zentall & Meyer, 1987; Zentall, Moon, Hall, & Grskovic, 2001).
(b) Preferences for specific learning conditions (Zentall & Smith, 1993) and the effects of specific learning settings on children (Stormont & Zentall, 1999; Stormont, Zentall, Beyda, Javorsky, & Belfiore, 2000; Zentall, Hall, & Lee, 1998; reviews: Zentall, 1983; 1985; 1995).

Adult Responses to Children with ADHD:
(a) Teaching practices and preferences(Zentall & Javorsky, 2007; Beyda, Zentall, & Ferko, 2002)
(b) Parenting styles and their effects on students’ behavior (Stormont-Spurgin & Zentall, 1996; Zentall & Stormont-Spurgin, 1995).


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Zentall, S. S. (2013). Students with Mild Exceptionalities: Characteristics and Applications.  London: Sage Publications.

Zentall, S. S. (2006). ADHD and education:   Foundations, characteristics, methods, and collaboration. Upper Saddle River, N.J., Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

Zentall, S. S., & Goldstein, S. (1999). Seven Steps to Homework Success: A Family Guide for Solving Common Homework Problems. New York: Specialty Press.

Zentall, S. S. (1999). Working toward homework success (pp. 1499-151). In C. B. Jones, H. R. Searight, M. A. Urban (Eds.) Parent articles about ADHD. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Fowler, M., Barkley, R. A., Reeve, R., & Zentall, S. (1992). CH.A.D.D. Educators Manual. Plantation, FL: CH.AD.D.


Zentall, S. S. (2007). Math performance of students with ADHD: Cognitive and behavioral contributors and interventions (pp. 219-243). In D. B. Berch & M. M. M. Mazzocco (Eds.), Why is math so hard for some children? The nature and origins of mathematical learning difficulties and disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Stein, M. T., Zentall, S., Shaywitz, B. A., & Shaywitz, S. E. (2001). A school-aged child with delayed reading skills (pp.S111-S115). Reprinted in M. T. Stein (Ed.) Journal of Developmental Pediatrics, Supplement. Hagerstown, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Zentall, S. S. (1995). Modifying classroom tasks and environments. In S. Goldstein (Ed.) Understanding and managing children's classroom behavior.(pp. 356-374). New York: Wiley.

Zentall, S. S. (1988). Cognitive assessment with infants and preschoolers with severe behavioral disorders. In T. Wachs & R. Sheehan (Eds), Assessment of developmental disabled infants and preschoolers: A transdisciplinary approach (pp. 183-211). New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Zentall, S. S. (1989). Self-control training with hyperactive and impulsive children. In J. N. Hughes & R. J. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of cognitive behavioral approaches in educational settings (pp. 305-346). New York, NY: Guilford.

Zentall, S. S. (1985). A context for hyperactivity. In K. D. Gadow (Ed.), Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities (Vol. 4), 273-343. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Zentall, S. S. (1981). Specific learning disabilities, communications, and language process disturbances. In R. Ochroch (Ed.), Minimal Brain Dysfunction: A Clinical Approach. New York: Human Sciences Press. [Most outstanding book in the Health Sciences, awarded in the Sixth Annual Professional and Scholarly Book Awards, by the Association of American Publishers.]

Zentall, S. S. (1980). Environmental stimulation model. Reprinted in R. Piazza (Ed.) (1979), Motor Disorders. Guilford, CT: Special Learning Corporation.

    • Reprinted in H. Millman, C. Schaefer, & J. Cohen (Eds.) (1980). Therapies for School Behavior Problems. Jossey-Bass.
    • Reprinted in Readings: The Classroom Teacher and the Special Child. Special Learning Corp.

Research Awards and Honors

  • Research Excellence Award, Department of Educational Studies, Purdue University
    • 2011-2012
    • 2005-2006
    • 2003-2004
    • 2002-2003
  • Dean's Award for Outstanding Scholarship
    • 2005-06
  • 1985 Snodgrass Scholar Award, School of Education. Purdue University.

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ADHD RESEARCH Sunday, May 11, 2014


Last Updated Sunday, May 11, 2014
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