Studies Show ADHD Misdiagnosed In Youngest Students

The youngest students in class are frequently misdiagnosed with ADHD recent studies suggest according to a news story in USA Today, Youngest in class get ADHD label.

Nearly 1 million children may have been misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, not because they have real behavior problems, but because they’re the youngest kids in their kindergarten class, researchers say.

If 1 million mistakes is a troubling number to consider, 4.5 million mistakes, the total number of kids so labeled, is an even more disturbing figure.

Kids who are the youngest in their grades are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children, according to a study out today from Michigan State University, given exclusively to USA TODAY. A second study, by researchers at North Carolina State University and elsewhere, came to similar conclusions. Both are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Health Economics.

I’ve heard it suggested before that the more immature for their age students are the ones who most often receive the ADHD label. Here is a study showing that birth-time-wise, the youngest students are those most likely to have the label attached to them. I would like to make the point here that students don’t develop evenly, and perhaps we need to look more closely at other students who have been so labeled as well. The oldest student in class is not necessarily the most mature, and so there could be some further variations on a theme for us to explore.

Misdiagnosing children can have long-lasting effects, says assistant professor of economics Todd Elder, author of the Michigan State study. In fifth and eighth grade, the youngest kids in a class were more than twice as likely to use Ritalin, a stimulant commonly prescribed for ADHD, compared with the oldest students, his study says.

One doctor suggested rather than that the younger students are being over diagnosed, perhaps the older students are being under diagnosed. I would suggest, on the other hand, that the diagnosis of “mental illness” is always made too easily, and so, if anything, the error is being made on the side of over diagnosis. We must remember that the numbers of people receiving disability benefits for psychiatric problems has made dramatic leaps in the last few decades. If you want this rate to decline, it will do so only when the conditions cease to be diagnosed with such frequency.

Having a “serious mental illness” wasn’t always the popular self-absorbing preoccupation that it has become today. People didn’t always feel so compelled to join the ranks of the recently declared demented. The persistent anti-stigma campaigning of kooks “in recovery” has done much to turn that situation around. Although madmen and mad women are still very much a minority population, given more campaigning, perhaps they can reverse this disparity, after which it truly will be a mad world.