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Is it ADHD or just Kids Being Kids?

Kids running around like the energizer bunny has always been the accepted natural duo. That is until the more recent seeming problem with kids needing to sit still and not be rambunctiously inquisitively interruptive in school. Today the label of ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a fancy name for inattention and impulsiveness seems to be the accepted norm. But is there really such a thing as A-D-H-D? Or are kids today still merely being K-I-D-S?

The diagnosis begins right with kindergarten kids—the first official school experience. And busy, harried, over-loaded teachers may not have the real time to individually motivate and interest each one of these curious kids from moment to moment. To be sure, our world is a busy place. No wonder there are plenty of tots at 4 and 5 years old that are too busy exploring, to sit and pay quiet attention.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that kids today have social and emotional problems—even at a tots’ age. Food, environment, family upheavals all have caused a host of childhood diseases and problems– both new ones and old ones– that do need some type of medical or emotional attention. However, the causes and treatments of many of these health problems, and the treatment of them, is often a matter of trial and error—or an easy prescription of the latest accepted medication. We are, after all, a society that looks for the simplest and fastest route to travel. Is slapping every kid that can’t sit still, on a mind-altering medication, the best course of action?

A Matter of Maturity

For those troubled by the hurry to medicate, there is some new interesting research that may indicate a patch of blue sky in the cloud of ADHD treatment for “problem” kids. Recent headlines on the research of Todd Elder, Ph.D., a health economist at Michigan State University East Lansing, allude to the possibility that it is immaturity in a lot of kids that is being mislabeled as ADHD.

Maturity! That is an interesting subject of it’s own in our country of parent role models tinkering and twittering with their incessant tech toys, and jumping about like frenzied caffeine hopped-up lunatics instead of sitting quietly in an office cubicle doing their “job.”

In Elder’s research, he compared oldest and youngest children in one grade – Kindergarten — using the data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort, funded by the National Center for Education, and medication rates for ADHD. The “astonishing” results showed that the youngest children in kindergarten were 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, than the oldest in the class. ”It’s not just how old you are when you enter kindergarten that matters,” says Elder, “it’s how old you are relevant to your classmates.”

So, maybe 900,000 children who are simply young mischievous busy beavers who are just a bit less worldly than their older classmates, are more likely to be on ADHD medication because of the simple nature of their age and stage.

Quick to Judge

In some cases, busy parents who want good school reports that their kids are easy and well-behaved and require no additional extra care and concern may be welcoming the ease of medication—which also helps Johnny or Jane with home behavior as well. Teachers need to be able to get through their day successfully and survive, so may be too quick to pronounce a child’s behavior is thus and so.

In another similar study on Kindergarten level kids, Melinda Morrill, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of economics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh compared national health surveys with a National Health insurance database. In her study, she had reported the national sample she used revealed the average diagnoses of ADHD is 8%.  Yet, her study indications revealed that the younger children (born before a kindergarten cutoff date) had a rate of 9.7% and older kids (who made the cutoff date) had a rate of 7.6%.  ”Immaturity could be mistaken for ADHD,” she also concluded.

You Do Have Options

James Perrin, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and head of the division of general pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston and others like him remind parents they have options. Today, we do have many choices of school and after school environments. Dr. Perrin advises, “If the diagnosis is ADHD, environmental changes as well as medication are recommended. It may be the child is in the wrong environment “

As it is for adults who may receive some “bad news” from the doctor about a medical condition, it may be important to get a second opinion, and think about alternatives when your kid is given an ADHD diagnosis before taking the “quick fix” of a pill solution.

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