Is it ADHD or are kids just being kids?

A new study in Taiwan shows a higher percentage of those diagnosed with ADHD are the youngest in their respective class, causing researchers to question whether some diagnoses are accurate or if kids are just being kids
By Jason Spencer | Mar 11, 2016
The number of cases of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has risen drastically over the years. But are the diagnoses correct, or are kids just being kids? Researchers in Taiwan are leaning towards the latter.

According to The Telegraph, researchers are saying that many cases of ADHD are just children who are a little less mature than their peers, and that the disorder itself is widely over-diagnosed. Used to describe a variety of behaviors ranging from impulsiveness to difficulty concentrating, a study of students showed that those who were born in August, the youngest of their peers in a single class, were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

"Relative age, as an indicator of neurocognitive maturity, may play a crucial role in the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and receiving ADHD medication among children and adolescents," said Dr. Mu-Hong Chen, the lead author of the study hailing from the Department of Psychology at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Data from nearly 400,000 children between the ages of 4 and 17 was gathered and analyzed, showing just how the month they were born in played a critical role in an ADHD diagnosis. Boys in particular saw the more dramatic jump; 2.8% of those born in September were diagnosed with the disorder, with the number jumping to 4.5% of those born in August. Published in the Journal of Pediatrics, one can see that the percentage slowly goes up as the months go by.

Dr. Chen thinks the teachers may be comparing the behavior of the older, more mature students, to the younger ones, hence the raise in ADHD diagnoses. And in order to give more help to those who are rightly diagnosed, Dr. Kuben Naidoo of the ADHD Foundation says standards needs to be raised so accurate diagnoses can be made.

"The study highlights the importance of ensuring the assessment for ADHD is rigorous and relies on a variety of sources of information that support the clinician in deciding whether the diagnosis is met," said Naidoo.

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