Almost 1 million children wrongly diagnosed with ADHD

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Sounds shocking but that’s what Michigan State University economist Todd Elder found during his research.

Elder said that the children are only diagnosed with ADHD because they happen to be the youngest in their kindergarten class and are naturally the most immature.

Worryingly, it is the youngest that are also more likely to be prescribed medication like Ritalin and yet know one knows what the long term effects of Ritalin and similar drugs are on a child’s health.

Elder also says that this unnecessary medication for a misdiagnosis of ADHD resulted in a waste of around $320 million to $500 million a year, all for being younger.

“If a child is behaving poorly, if he’s inattentive, if he can’t sit still, it may simply be because he’s 5 and the other kids are 6,” said Elder, assistant professor of economics.

“There’s a big difference between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 4.5 million children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with ADHD and that is despite there being no physical test for ADHD.

Using data from a sample of almost 12,000 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort, Elder compared the age of diagnosis and the rate of medication between the youngest and oldest children in a grade.

He found that the youngest kids were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD compared to the oldest in the same grade and concluded that overall a total of 20 percent are likely to have been misdiagnosed with ADHD.

Although a teacher cannot have a child diagnosed with ADHD, they form an important part of the diagnostic criteria as the symptoms of ADHD require a child to demonstrate a number of symptoms that persist for six or more months and these symptoms must occur in at least two settings before the age of seven. The two settings are of course, at home and at school.

“Many ADHD diagnoses may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a kindergarten classroom,” said Elder. “But these ‘symptoms’ may merely reflect emotional or intellectual immaturity among the youngest students.”

A separate study carried out by North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota came to similar conclusions.

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  1. Jennifer
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Some children have behavioral issues due to maturity, age, lack of discipline, or problems at home but there are SOME children with real neurological disorders. It may manifest itself in withdrawn behavior or hyper behavior – it depends on the child. I like what Brain Balance has to say about the issue. Strengthening brain communication through education, exercises, occupational therapy, etc. can make a big difference without drugs. I understand the difficult job that teachers have with 20 or more students who learn differently and at different levels. Never-the-less, it’s not as “easy” as every child with behavior or attention problems having ADHD. Some have sensory issues, etc.

  2. linda olivarez
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    My daughter Isabella was misdiagnosed with add. She had been depressed since the age of 5, She is now 10 and has had to learn social skills how to interact with her friend and classmates due to the depression. Luckly we found a great thearpist (after many)that helps isabella and us understand this illness. And can be treated without prescribed meds. Like any illness it is a process but faith,patience,knowledge and love has held us with understanding this silent illness.

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