One of the biggest debates among parents who have the choice is whether to send their newly-turned 5 year olds to school, or hold them back a year in order for them to gain more maturity before the rigors of kindergarten.
A newly-released study published in the New England Journal of Medicine adds yet another data point to a complicated decision. The researchers found that kindergarten students who had turned 5 in the month before starting kindergarten were more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than children who started kindergarten in the month that they turned 6.
The study also has implications for the validity of ADHD diagnoses. Other research has lent credence to the idea that least some diagnoses of ADHD—a disorder linked to inattention, impulsive behavior and excessive activity—may be connected to immaturity. And other surveys have found that doctors often prescribe medication as a first-line treatment for young children with ADHD, even though behavioral therapy is considered the first option.
“Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being over-diagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school,” said study author Timothy Layton, and assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.
The study found that children born in August had a 30 percent greater chance of being diagnosed with ADHD than children born in September. That difference did not show up in states that don’t have a Sept. 1 enrollment cutoff.
The study found that 85 out of 100,000 students born in August were either diagnosed with or treated for ADHD, compared with 64 students per 100,000 born in September. Researchers also found differences when they looked solely at children who were given medication: 53 of 100,000 students born in August were medicated for ADHD, compared to 40 out of 100,000 for those born in September.
Excerpted from “Main Redshirting Debate Just Got New Fuel with ADHD Study.” Read the full story in Education Week online. The study abstract is available here.