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Starting School at an Early Age May Increase Your Child’s Chances of ADHD Diagnosis by 30%?

Children can be a lot of work to deal with, so when a parent is eager to have their baby resume kindergarten at an early age, I do not find myself judging them at all.

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Sending your child to school for the first time is a huge step that comes with lots of anxiety and excitement, which also marks the start of a fresh stage of parenting and childhood.

While the excitement is everything to look forward to, parents whose children’s birthday fall in the late summer would have to make a very tricky decision. Either to let their children resume school and become some of the youngest in class or to allow them to stay home for another year and grow more mature mentally and physically.

Factors to consider and the decision

There are lots of sceptical that parents have to think about before they choose to either send their child to school early or wait for an extra year. In defence of holding kids back for an extra year, parents will be considering factors like:

The potential for athletic opportunities sometime in future, the part where studies have shown that kids who start schooling a little later tend to be among the oldest in class and they have better grades and better performance in other school activities because they are more mentally mature. Finally, the chances for juvenile criminality is reduced.

On the part of allowing kids to start school early, some parents just love the idea of having their child as one of the youngest in their class. They also imagine what it’ll feel like to have their children finish school at all early age and be seen as a genius by other people.

For some others especially mom’s they just need some time to rest without having to bother about caring for their child for a few hours. Oh, and it’s a way to save some money on childcare. All the points already stated are very valid, but then new research has something different to say.

Recent research

A study recently published The New England Journal of Medicine is giving parents one more reason to consider keeping their kids at home with them for one year extra.

According to the new research, kids were born in the month of August and are made to resume school in September the following year are 30% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD compared to their peers that are a little older.

The lead author of the study Timothy Layton, PhD, noted that these findings point out important factors parents must consider before deciding when to register their kids for kindergarten.

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Mr Timothy told Healthline “I think parents of children with summer birthdays (or birthdays close to the cutoff in their state) have to be sceptical when teachers come to them with a suggestion that their child has ADHD,”

The problem of overdiagnosis

The findings of the studies suggest a possibility that younger children might be over-diagnosed with ADHD, and are also held up against a behavioural standard that they haven’t grown mature enough both mentally and physically to handle.

According to reports from the centre of disease control and Prevention (CDC), there was a rise in the percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD by as much as 38% between the year 2003 and 2016.

Dr Timothy also warned that parents must find ways and do everything possible to help their children handle the stress and pressure of being the smallest or youngest kid in class because it has plenty of disadvantage for the children.

He further suggested that parents who have kids with late summer birthdays should consider spending an extra year with their kids at home so they can be mentally ready for school and be one of the oldest in class.

Underdiagnosis may also be a problem

One professor of paediatrics and Chief of the Section of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics at Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, Dr Mark Wolraich, mentioned during a talk with Healthline, that while there is a problem of over-diagnosis, under-diagnosis of ADHD may also be a problem.

Dr Mark also pointed out that the fear of overdiagnosis may also prevent kids who have ADHD as a problem from getting the diagnosis and help they need.

“One of the vital aspects of making the diagnosis is determining if the symptoms are impairing the child’s function. Those kids who are having issues need to have those issues addressed because the experience with failure and not doing well can be very negative for these them.”

He mentioned that it is vital for practitioners to take into cognisance the child’s environment before they make a diagnosis and that includes their school and teacher.

Adding that parents should bear in mind that ADHD doesn’t have to be a permanent diagnosis. Because when children clearly improve as they grow older, then there is no more ADHD diagnosis.

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The problem with diagnosis

Dr Layton acknowledged the new study doesn’t conclude that over-diagnosis has been happening or is still happening.

Layton said that ADHD is not really a 0/1 type of condition and one primary caveat of the study his team carried out is that they “cannot confidently say whether the additional children diagnosed with ADHD because they were born in the month of August had benefited from that diagnosis.” Chances are that they may have received additional attention, which may have helped them.

Adding that the main concerning factor is that the children also receive drugs, and the long-term consequences of being on these drugs at such an age are yet to be studied and understood.

Wolraich, on the other hand, had a different opinion. He believes that parents must be assured that medications are not the first line of defence when it comes to treating ADHD in their younger children.

Wolraich said “For children between four to six years of age, the guidelines for the AAP states that the parent behaviour training is the first line of treatment — helping to improve the parenting and also providing behavioural interventions in the school.

Those things aren’t going to be harmful to the child and also don’t necessarily require a specific diagnosis.”

Nevertheless, it can be difficult to pin down a definitive diagnosis. Our kids may show signs of eagerness to go to school because how excited they are about learning, but it is not OK to subject then to conditions they are not prepared to handle.

Being patient and waiting till the next school year to get your kids registered isn’t too much to ask if it can help your child better prepare for the task ahead.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

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