Published August 18, 2010
Immaturity may be mistaken for Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in nearly one million children who are the youngest and least mature in their kindergarten classes, Agence France-Presse reported.
A U.S. study released Tuesday looked at about 12,000 children at three different stages of their schooling and found that the youngest had a higher chance of being diagnosed with ADHD in each stage of school than their oldest classmates.
"The youngest kindergarteners were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade,” said Todd Elder, of Michigan State University and lead author of the study. “Similarly, when that group of classmates reached the fifth and eighth grades, the youngest were more than twice as likely to be prescribed stimulants.”
Elder found potential misdiagnoses may account for $320 million to $500 million in spending a year – Medicaid, a public health insurance program for the poor, may pay $80 to $90 million of that spending.
Ritalin is the most commonly prescribed drug for ADHD and, in the study, Elder wrote that the psychostimulant’s long-term effects are not well-known.
“Many ADHD diagnoses may be driven by teachers' perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a kindergarten classroom," he added.