Science Daily reports on research by health economist Todd Elder that finds that up to close to a million children may be misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest (and therefore likely to be least mature) in their kindergarten class.
Turns out that the youngest kids in class are significantly more likely to be labeled ADHD and put on Ritalin or similar drugs -- wasting an estimated $320 to $500 million a year in unnecessary drugs. Great for big pharma, lousy for kids, parents, teachers, and anyone else who works with kids. (I've taught karate to a bunch of "ADHD" kids over the years. Some did indeed benefit from meds; but I would have to say that for at least half, the side effects of the pharmaceutical roulette that too often passes for mental health treatment these days was worse than the original problem.)
"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."
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder for kids in the United States, with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Elder's study, the youngest kindergartners were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade. Similarly, when that group of classmates reached the fifth and eighth grades, the youngest were more than twice as likely to be prescribed stimulants.
Overall, the study found that about 20 percent -- or 900,000 -- of the 4.5 million children currently identified as having ADHD likely have been misdiagnosed.
This, of course, doesn't even touch on the kids whose "ADHD" is more accurately described as "Outdoor Exercise Deficit Disorder".