Children with ADHD often experience problems in school and at home, having difficulties staying focused, paying attention and staying still. The disorder has generally been limited to children between the ages of 6 and 12, but new evidence suggests ADHD can be found in younger children, too. The report also indicates the condition may be more common in older adolescents and teens as well.
But earlier diagnoses for ADHD do not equate to more kids taking medications. Instead, experts are suggesting behavioral treatment for young children to keep them caught up in school and social activities, according to one Los Angeles Times article. For instance, parents can work with doctors to offer more positive reinforcement for kids trying to stay on task.
In special cases, however, medications such as Adderall are suitable for children as young as 3 years old, says the National Institute of Mental Health. The drugs aren't widely used among youngsters, but they can be helpful for more severe cases.
One clinical psychiatry expert told CNN that many 4-year-olds are already receiving ADHD diagnoses, so the report puts forth a unified way for pediatricians and parents to handle the condition in a younger age group. In essence, it's catching up to a trend that's already taking place.
Still, there are risks associated with diagnosing this young age group. If a child does not respond to behavioral treatment and is put on medication, parents should be mindful of the side effects of ADHD medications, which include sleep problems, mood changes and anxiety.
Then there's the problem of misdiagnosing. Because ADHD shares many similar signs with other behavioral disorders, it's sometimes hard to form an accurate opinion. One study suggests that upwards of 900,000 children are misdiagnosed with ADHD during elementary school. Interestingly, the research found that kids with birthdays at the end of their class cutoff — i.e., the younger students in their grade — were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. The problem may stem from teachers noticing more immature behavior from the younger students in the classroom.
In the United States, nearly 10 percent of children between 4 and 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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