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The Youngest Kindergarteners May Be Overdiagnosed with ADHD

The Youngest Kindergarteners May Be Overdiagnosed with ADHD

Young children are being diagnosed with a condition they don’t have.

When the pilot for The Andy Griffith Show aired in 1959, Ron Howard was five-years-old. He was born on March 1st, so if he started kindergarten that year in a state with a September 1st cut-off date for enrollment, he would have been five-years and six-months-old. That would have been okay.

What’s not okay, according to Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers, is what happens to the youngest kids in a kindergarten class. They found that when children born in August start school in states with a September 1st enrollment date (they are five-years and a couple of weeks old when they start kindergarten), they’re 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their slightly older peers.

That’s pretty shocking—not only does it mean teachers don’t recognize developmental differences between children at different ages, it also can lead to medication for many children for a condition they don’t have. The health and emotional repercussions are far-reaching.

Smart steps: For kids born near enrollment cut-off dates—have them evaluated to assess if they’re ready for the demands of an organized classroom.

If you discover your child is iffy for school this fall, let him/her wait a year so he/she will be more comfortable and able to cope when starting school. Make sure it doesn’t negatively impact self-esteem—there is nothing negative about it (you need to believe that and transmit that message). You certainly don’t want your child to be misdiagnosed with ADHD.

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