The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had created new guidelines for diagnosing and treating ADHD in kids as young as 4. Previously their guidelines focused on 6- to 12-year olds.
An article in Time Healthland says that new data suggests that ADHD can begin earlier than 6 and kids may benefit from earlier behavioral treatments.
“Treating children at a young age is important, because when we can identify them earlier and provide appropriate treatment, we can increase their chances of succeeding in school,” said Dr. Mark Wolraich, chair of the AAP subcommittee responsible for writing the report.
“Kids with ADHD typically have problems focusing and paying attention. They are hyperactive and behave impulsively. But the condition may look different in different age groups. Among school-aged children (age 6 or older), about half don’t have issues with hyperactivity, according to Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, who specializes in studying preschool ADHD. In this age group, attention problems are more common, likely because they become more obvious in the school setting, where children need to sit in class and concentrate for longer periods of time.”
“Hyperactivity is more common among preschoolers, however. They may be accident-prone or have trouble playing with other kids. According to the AAP, it’s the number of symptoms, and the number of different caregivers who notice them, that is important. It’s not enough, for example, for only parents to complain of their child’s overactive behavior. In order to meet the bar for diagnosis and justify treatment, at least one other party, such as a day care teacher or babysitter, must also note the same behaviors. And these symptoms must be persistent and severe enough to impair the child’s ability to function, which could involve anything from their inability to get along with other children to being consistently unable to follow directions.”
I get that early intervention can help kids, however I just think it’s pretty hard to diagnose ADHD in kids because much of it mimics “normal” childhood behavior. You may have a child that is extremely active but still within the realm of normal. You may also have asynchronous development where the child’s self-control and social skills are far behind because their intellect is so high, but that doesn’t mean they have ADHD.
We know there are already bunches of false diagnosis for kids with spring and summer birthdays. They seem less mature and have less self control than their older classmates and therefore get tagged as ADHD. I think examining preschoolers is just asking for kids to be misdiagnosed. Give kids time to develop and see what shakes out.
Obviously a parent should have options, but they also need to know that A.There can be misdiagnosis in young kids and B.Lots of doctors are more than happy to throw drugs at an unruly kid. These are my concerns.
What do you think? Should kids as young as 4 be evaluated and diagnosed with ADHD? Is early intervention worth misdiagnosing other kids?