Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can now be officially diagnosed in children as young as age 4, according to new guidelines released by The American Academy of Pediatrics. Up until now, the AAP had only provided guidelines for ADHD diagnosis starting at age 6.
ADHD, previously known as ADD, is the most common childhood mental disorder in the U.S.; currently about 8 percent (about 5 million) of all U.S. kids have been diagnosed. It is a neurological condition that causes a child to lose focus and behave in ways that may make it hard to successfully participate in school, social and family life.
The new guidelines are based on recent research that makes it possible to diagnose and manage ADHD sooner, and hopefully will help families to seek appropriate treatment earlier and allow their kids to avoid early struggles in school. Additionally, they provide specific recommendations for what some pediatricians are already doing unofficially—using stimulants off-label to treat young children with severe behavioral problems. Mark Wolraich, MD, FAAP, and chairperson of the committee that authored the report, said that parents concerned about ADHD should see behaviors like an inability to focus, trouble listening, and other symptoms consistently in multiple settings, like school and home. Given that the symptoms of ADHD generally sound like pretty typical behavior of preschoolers (especially those who have missed naptime), Dr. Wolraich said that the “extent and frequency of the problem” help doctors to make the diagnosis.
Should a preschool receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the new guidelines recommend behavior modification therapy as the first line of defense, followed by a low dose of prescription medications like Ritalin if therapy is not effective on its own.
What’s your take on these new guidelines? Do you think they will help kids and their families who really need it seek out appropriate therapy and/or medication, or do you think that 4 is just too early to diagnose ADHD?