A study finds that the youngest kids in the class are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than are their older peers. Researchers say that the younger children are less mature than peers, and this is being misdiagnosed as ADHD.
A study done by researchers in British Columbia was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The researchers focused on 1 million children from British Columbia.
In the United States, the cut off date for entering school might be late August, or early September. In British Columbia, the cut off date for any given school year is December 31 of that year. This means that the oldest children in the class were born in January, and the youngest children in the class had December birthdays.
The researchers found that the youngest children were more likely to be diagnosed as having ADHD than were their older classmates. Kids who were born in December were 39% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. 48% of the kids who had December birthdays were more likely to be treated with medication for ADHD, (compared to the children who were born in January).
Why is this happening? It has to do with maturity levels. The oldest kids are likely to be more mature, in physical development, emotional control, and attention span, than are the youngest kids. The youngest kids are less mature, not due to having a learning disability or a disorder, but simply because they haven’t been alive as long as their older peers have. This immaturity is being mistaken as symptoms of ADHD.
Richard Morrow, of the University of British Columbia, is one of the researchers who did this study. He said:
“It is important not to expose children to potential harms from unnecessary diagnosis and use of medications”.
There is concern that an incorrect diagnosis of ADHD can harm a child in many different ways. It could mean that a child is taking daily doses of medications that he or she does not actually need. It might mean that the child could suffer socially. Teachers might treat a child who has ADHD differently than they would treat a child who doesn’t have it. This could signal to the other kids in the class to treat that child differently as well.
This is not the first study about the how often ADHD is diagnosed in children. However, it does match the results of previous studies, that suggest that ADHD is being incorrectly diagnosed in some cases.
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