ADHD Research Program 02.02.09

Edge Foundation announces $1 million ADHD research program

First national study of personal coaching’s effectiveness for college students

SEATTLE (Feb. 2, 2009) – The Edge Foundation, a national nonprofit organizationproviding personal coaching for children and young adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), today announced a $1 million research study to determine the extent of the effectiveness of personal coaching on the academic and social performance of students with ADHD.

The 27-month study, led by a faculty team from the Center for Self-Determination and Transition in the College of Education at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, is the nation’s first large-scale study to document the effectiveness of coaching for college students with ADHD.

“A primary challenge associated with the use of coaching as a support for students with ADHD is the need for scientific evidence that the approach is effective,” said Dr. Sharon Field, the project’s research director. “There is substantial anecdotal evidence indicating that coaching is perceived by students, parents and educators as a valuable service that helps students succeed in a variety of settings. However, the value of personal coaching has never been subjected to a rigorous scientific study of its effects on student outcomes.”

“Millions of bright, capable young people with ADHD in the U.S. are failing academic-ally, and the resulting economic and social consequences are potentially enormous,” said Edge Foundation CEO Neil Peterson. “These students—many of whom may very well be tomorrow’s leaders and innovators—need help, and schools and colleges need help keeping them from dropping out.”

“The U.S. government estimates that approximately 10 percent of our children—nearly 8 million—have ADHD, but that half of them remain undiagnosed and untreated. This research has the potential to make a major difference in the life of every child with ADHD,” said Patricia Quinn, a developmental pediatrician with a 30-year career in ADHD and an Edge Foundation board member.

The research program’s preliminary phases already are underway. A pilot study involving Washington University in St. Louis will conclude in August 2009. The full-scale, national study will be conducted at several two- and four-year colleges and universities across the country during the 2009/2010 academic year. It will examine the effects of coaching on 250 randomly selected students with ADHD. The outcomes for these students will be compared to those of similar students who do not receive coaching services. The results of the study will be available by August 2010.

The research’s purpose is to determine the effect of the Edge Foundation’s personal- coaching strategies on academic and social factors associated with success of students with ADHD in college and university settings. The study will examine coaching’s impact on student retention rates; the number of withdrawals from classes; grade-point average; organizational and study skills; and students’ perceived sense of well-being, social adjustment and adaptation to college life.

The Edge Foundation will supply the coaches, who will be trained by Herndon, VA-based JST Coaching, the leading provider of coach training for those who work with ADHD adolescents. The coaching methodology follows the training protocols certified by the Inter-national Coach Foundation.

Funding for the groundbreaking research comes from an $805,000 grant awarded by The Deerbrook Charitable Trust and a $40,000 grant from The Foundation of Coaching (, both located in New York, with the remainder provided by the Edge Foundation. The Foundation of Coaching, a project of The Harnisch Foundation since 2006, is dedicated to the development of coaching as a profession and as a way of making a positive difference in the world through individual lives. The Edge Foundation grant is one of its last awards before the grants program is transferred to McLean Hospital, a teaching facility of Harvard Medical School.

The Edge Foundation will disseminate the research findings with postsecondary disability service providers; national organizations that conduct research into ADHD treatment; national organizations focused on coaching; national charitable foundations and parent organizations; associations of private K-12 schools; and with public K-12 school districts and higher-education institutions across the U.S.

About ADHD

A complex mental-health disorder that affects the brain’s executive-functioning capacity, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by chronic and severe issues with attention, focus, organization, short-term memory, impulsivity, patience, follow-through and time management. The typical individual with ADHD, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, may “experience a good deal of difficulty in academic, personal or social realms,” and is frequently characterized by low self-esteem and vulnerability to drugs, risk-taking and other dangerous behaviors.

Studies have shown that without effective intervention while young, adults with ADHD are twice as likely to commit a crime; six times as likely to be substance abusers; four times as likely to have auto accidents; nearly twice as likely to be divorced; twice as likely to be unemployed; and one-third as likely to graduate from college.

In addition to higher college dropout rates when compared to other students, reported academic difficulties include problems with time management, memory tasks, organizing and persisting at long-term projects, sustaining attention, locating salient information in texts, taking notes, organizing and editing research papers, and lower grade-point averages, as well as greater instances of academic probation compared to students without disabilities.

About the Edge Foundation

Launched in 2007 by Neil Peterson, the founder and former CEO of the car-sharing company Flexcar, the Edge Foundation ( is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults with ADHD by providing personal coaching. The foundation trains professional life coaches in ADHD-management techniques and connects them with students in cities across the nation for weekly telephone sessions during the academic year.

After students apply online, the Edge Foundation matches them with potential coaches from its network. Once the student selects a coach, they work together in half-hour sessions, usually by telephone, with additional e-mail and phone contacts throughout the week. Students learn skills, techniques and strategies for setting goals, building confidence, organizing, scheduling, focusing, prioritizing and persisting at tasks.

The foundation provides a limited number of scholarships and loans for students in situations that leave them unable to afford the expenses of coaching. The foundation’s initial emphasis is on high-school and college students, but its coaching services will be expanded to elementary, middle-school and graduate school students in coming years.

Edge Foundation Chairman and CEO Neil Peterson founded five companies during his 40-year executive career, most notably Flexcar, the award-winning, car-sharing company that recently merged with Zipcar after being bought by AOL founder Steve Case. He has been a consultant for the firm of Booz, Allen & Hamilton and served as vice president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. Peterson also has been the city manager of New Brunswick, New Jersey; the CEO of the public-transportation agencies of the Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle metropolitan areas; and the COO and CFO of the Washington State Health and Human Services Agency, where he managed the state’s mental-health and disability programs.

Peterson’s 2009 memoir, “Embracing the Edge: Stories of Tenacity and Personal Power,” recounts how he overcame physical and learning disabilities to become a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive and public servant. The book includes Peterson’s harrowing account of how, in June 2007, he and his children survived being swept away by a rogue wave that left them and two others in their hiking party trapped for many hours in a cave on the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island, fighting hypothermia and panic as they struggled to stay calm and focused while searching for an escape route. All profits from the book are being donated to the Edge Foundation.

Wayne State University Research Team

Sharon Field, Ed.D., is principal investigator and project director for the Edge research study. Dr. Field is Professor (Research) in the Department of Administrative and Organizational Studies in the College of Education and co-director of the Center for Self-Determination and Transition. The author of three books, 10 book chapters, 24 journal articles and 11 instructional-materials packages, Dr. Field has procured and directed research grants totaling more than $3.1 million.

Shlomo Sawilowsky, Ph.D., is the research and statistical specialist for the Edge research study. He is Professor of Educational Evaluation and Research, Wayne State University Distinguished Faculty Fellow, and Assistant Dean of the College of Education. He is the past president of the American Educational Research Association SIG/Educational Statisticians, who published his most recent book (Real Data Analysis, 2007). Dr. Sawilowsky has published more than 100 articles in social- and behavioral-science research methodology, statistics, psychometrics, and evaluation journals (including Russell A. Barkley’s prestigious The ADHD Report), and has served as principal investigator or evaluation specialist on numerous research grants.

Alan Hoffman, Ed.D., serves as a consultant on all phases of the project. Dr. Hoffman is Professor of Theoretical and Behavioral Foundations, the co-director of the Center for Self-Determination and Transition, and chair of the Marriage and Family Psychology program in the WSU College of Education. As a psychologist and former director of student affairs on college campuses, he provides important expertise to the project.

David Parker, Ph.D., is local site coordinator for the research study. Dr. Parker has worked with children, adolescents, and adults with learning disabilities and ADHD for 25 years, primarily in postsecondary settings. He has served as Assistant Director of Learning Disabilities Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and as Director of the University Program for College Students with Disabilities at the University of Connecticut. He is the Learning Specialist and project manager of a National Science Foundation grant at Cornerstone: The Center for Advanced Learning at Washington University in St. Louis.

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Contact: Neil Peterson, 206.910.7515, npeterson @


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