So your child is young? He can’t sit still? Do adults call him immature? Your child might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Or not.
Last week, a Los Angeles Times article expressed doubt over the accuracy of diagnosed ADHD cases in young children. Research conducted by Michigan State University suggests that 1 million children in the United States could be misdiagnosed with ADHD. The study shows that a main cause for this is simply because of age. Younger children in the classroom tended to be more frequently labeled with ADHD.
MSU is not alone in their findings. A study carried out by North Carolina State University shows similar results. Researchers examined the number of ADHD diagnoses in children born just before the kindergarten date in contrast to children born right after the cutoff date. With just a few days apart in age difference, the number of children diagnosed with ADHD shouldn’t have a large variation right? However, findings showed the youngest children in the class (ie. the children born just before the cutoff date) were 25% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Researcher Dr. Melinda Morrill said, “We believe that younger children may be mistakenly diagnosed as having ADHD, when in fact they are simply less mature.”
The implications are strong. If a million children could be misdiagnosed with ADHD, a million parents are also spending millions on ADHD medication and treatment right now. MSU researcher Todd Elder said that such inappropriate treatment is particularly worrisome because of the unknown impacts of long-term stimulant (such as Ritalin) use on children’s health.
For parents, here is a suggested advice column about differentiating between ADHD and immaturity from Parenting.com. Another guide to looking out for ADD/ADHD is available here.
Photo by stevensimbox of Flickr.