Age of the Child’s School Entry and an ADHD Diagnosis

CADDAC National Director

I was just interviewed about a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. This study looked at data from 378,881 children, ages 4-17, from 1997 to 2011 in Taiwan and analyzed the percentage of children who were diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication. Researchers compared the percentage of children diagnosed from youngest to oldest in a particular grade and found the younger the child (born closer to the cut off for enrollment in that year) the greater chance they were diagnosed with ADHD and treated with medication. The data was consistent for this finding in pre-school and school age children, but not adolescence.

Several things struck me while reviewing the study and the researcher’s conclusions. Here are my comments;

The findings are important for medical professionals, educators and perhaps parents to take note of, as are most research findings;

If the child’s age and maturity may be in question further monitoring may be a first step,

Since professionals who diagnose ADHD are trained in child development, one would think varying rates in development should already be on their radar, but reminders never hurt;

While the data is of interest, conclusions should not be drawn too quickly;

Since we know that many factors such as, higher levels of intelligence, parental support and lack of hyperactivity, to name a few, can delay or prevent the diagnosis of ADHD even when it exists, perhaps the data may be indicating that the older the child (in that school year) the greater risk of being undiagnosed and untreated. The increased age and maturation level may be masking their ADHD symptoms.

Of further interest, is that these researchers give us significant insight into their bias with their statements, ”On the basis of the aforementioned studies, we conclude that the relative age among classmates affects the academic performance of children and their risk of receiving ADHD diagnosis and medication. Furthermore, clinicians should be reminded of the potential harm of overdiagnosing and overprescribing.”

Access more information on the study HERE

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