At what age can a child be diagnosed with ADHD?

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In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics published their revised Clinical Practice Guidelines for ADHD, in which they stated that early identification and intervention is critical in preventing negative outcomes because research has demonstrated that preschool children may already be exhibiting psychosocial impairment in the home and school setting that is similar to the impairment exhibited by older children with ADHD.  The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study (PATS) was a large-scale, six-site, longitudinal study that was conducted by the National Institutes of Mental Health (Greenhill, et al, 2006).  Results from the PATS Study revealed that ADHD symptoms could be reliably assessed and diagnosed in children as young as three years old using the criteria from the DSM IV.

A comprehensive but focused evaluation is critical when assessing for ADHD in preschool children.  Evidence-based assessment procedures for preschool children include: 1) the use of an empirically validated ADHD measure that has demonstrated its utility in preschool children, such as the Vanberbilt ADHD Rating Scale, the Child Behavior Checklist, the Behavior Assessment System for Children or the Conners Rating Scales, 2) Assessment of impairment, which must occur in two or more settings (e.g. home and preschool) using a measure like the Pelham & Fabiano “Impairment Rating Scale,” and 3) Screening for other mental and physical health conditions and significant family stressors.  A review of the child’s behavioral history is also helpful (i.e., frequency of preschool suspensions, number of trips to time out in the preschool classroom, etc.).

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidance on identifying attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children as young as four. In this video, Dr. Oz and I discuss this controversial topic.

Continue Learning about ADD/ADHD Diagnosis

ADD/ADHD Diagnosis

ADD/ADHD Diagnosis

ADHD symptoms usually appear early in life, often between the ages of three and six. Because symptoms vary from person to person, the disorder can be difficult to diagnose. To confirm whether or not you have ADD or ADHD, it's impo...

rtant be thoroughly evaluated by a mental health professional.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.