Younger Children are More Likely to be Identified as Having ADHD

I’m dubious of most studies, in part because so much of social science is bunk. Educational research might be worse. On the other hand, this study confirms what I’ve always suspected: The younger you are, the more you appear to “have” ADHD.

Harvard University researchers have found that children who start school up to a year sooner than many of their peers are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD — even if they don’t really have the condition. As a result, large numbers of children may be improperly labeled with the disorder when, instead, they are just immature.

The study hints that July and August babies — who just barely make the birthday cutoff for kindergarten — might be better off staying home for an extra year. They are more likely to be considered for ADHD, when immaturity could be the cause.

Kids, Children, Doodle, Sketch, Drawing, Watercolor

Artist’s drawing of boy with ADHD. And gas.

Most of the reporting on this study seems to focus on teacher attitudes toward wiggling, inattentive, impulsive children.  Yeah, they can be tough to handle. Actually, you need a doctor to diagnose anything — teachers don’t do that.  Yes, we have input through checklists, but a qualified physician is needed to make a diagnosis.

Sometimes very young kids are being told to sit and listen…and that’s a new concept for them.

“Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school,” said Timothy Layton, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of health-care policy at the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

The Washington Post article seems pretty confident about ADHD:

ADHD is a brain-based medical disorder that affects the behavior of people across age, gender, intelligence and socioeconomic lines. Children with ADHD may daydream a lot, talk too much, fidget, frequently forget and lose things, act impulsively, display risk-taking behavior and have trouble making transitions.

When I read a paragraph like that I get very nervous. Are we really so sure it’s a brain-based medical disorder? So, we’ve totally concluded that ADHD isn’t learned behavior, allergies, or a million other things?

Do we have the same confidence regarding autism? Childhood obesity? Dyslexia?

Drawing: Pixabay.

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