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Children being possibly wrongly diagnosed with ADHD

According to recent research by Todd Elder, a Michigan State University economist, the youngest or most immature in their kindergarten class are possibly wrongly diagnosed with ADHD.

His study showed that from a sample of 12,000(approx) children, the youngest preschoolers were 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade. These are significant statistics, with over 4.5 million children under the age of 18 diagnosed in U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics), this equates to nearly one million children and the potential unnecessary expenditure of up to $500 million a year on medication. Elder has said that the 'smoking gun' of the study is that a diagnosis depends on a child's age relative to other classmates and the teacher's perception of whether the child is displaying the symptoms.

A child behaving poorly, inattentive, or fidgety may just mean that child is displaying behaviour characteristics of a younger age. Doctors, teachers, and parents need to take into account the twelve-month difference that can be between the youngest and oldest in the class.

For example, in Michigan where the kindergarten cut-off date is December 1, students born on December 1 had much higher rates of ADHD than children born on December 2 and were enrolled a year later. According to Elder, 'even though these children were one day apart in age, they were assessed differently simply because they were compared against classmates of a different age set.' A diagnosis of ADHD as defined in the study, 'requires evidence of multiple symptom of inattention or hyperactivity, with these symptoms persisting for six or more months and in at least two settings - before the age of seven. The settings include home and school.'

'Many ADHD diagnoses may be driven by a teacher's perception of poor behaviour among the youngest children in a kindergarten classroom' said Elder, 'but these "symptoms" may merely reflect emotional or intellectual immaturity among the youngest students.'

The results taken across the states upheld the Michigan findings. Source: Science Daily Aug. 17, 2010. www.sciencedaily.com

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