Kids’ school age can impact ADHD diagnosis

Kids’ school age can impact ADHD diagnosis

A child’s age and maturity level at school entry may lead to an inaccurate attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, a recent study suggests.

Researchers examined data from 378,881 Taiwanese children ages 4 to 17 years old from 1997 to 2011. They evaluated the prevalence of the children being given an ADHD diagnosis and/or a prescription for ADHD medication.

Using the cut-off birthdate of August 31 for school enrollment, the study compared those students who were oldest (September birthdays) to those who were youngest (August birthdays). Researchers then assessed whether age had an impact on those who were diagnosed with ADHD and/or being medicated.

Researchers found that children born in August were at higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD than those born in September. This suggests that perhaps what was perceived as ADHD might really have been the natural immaturity of kids nearly a year younger than their classmates. When the study was analyzed by age, only preschool or elementary school-aged children born in August were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and receiving medication.

“Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication to treat ADHD,” said Dr. Mu-Hong Chen, lead researcher of the study, in a press release.

“Diagnosing younger children can be particularly challenging given the fact that they are inherently prone to be more active and impulsive by nature,” says Dr. Brent Sylvester, an Advocate Medical Group clinical psychologist with Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “The symptoms of ADHD can be manifested for many reasons, including medical issues, sleep disturbance, or mood and learning problems.”

Adolescents who were studied were not at an increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD. This finding may imply that increasing age and growing maturity lessen the chances of being diagnosed with ADHD.

“This research highlights the importance of a comprehensive evaluation for the diagnosis of ADHD,” says Dr. Sylvester.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.