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The youngest children in the same class most often receive an ADHD diagnosis

The youngest children in the classroom are likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as in fact their relatively unobtrusive behavior may be due to their relative maturity, according to a study published online on Wednesday.

Scientists from the University of Harvard studied how ADHD is valued by the benefits of decency in many US school systems. At the kindergarten there is the 1st of September restriction. This means that children born in August get directly below the wire, while children with September birthday have to wait until the next school year to record.

"You could certainly imagine a scenario in which the teacher or the school staff who evaluates them could perceive very differently two children who are in the classroom and whose age is different for almost a year," says Dr. Anupam Yena, a doctor and an economist at Harvard Medical School. "The difference in age of 5 years old or 6 years old is huge."

By compiling a database of insurance claims, which contained more than 400,000 children, researchers divided the children by month of their birth. And the report New England Journal of Medicine finds that the youngest children in the classroom, those born in August, were about 35 percent more likely to have ADHD diagnosis and treated the condition.

ADHD was diagnosed in 0.8% of babies born in August, compared with 0.6% of parents in children born in September. At the national level, the diagnosis of ADHD is approximately 5 percent, but includes children from 2 to 17 years old, but this study was aimed at children aged 4 to 7 years.

Scientists did not find this difference in countries where the date of registration of September 1 is not met and the study found no other health differences among plant-born children.

This result refers to individual children who may have been ill-diagnosed and treated. "You want to be careful about starting a baby with this medication," says Yena.

However, the reception effect explains only a small proportion of ADHD. Yena, the youngest child born in August, says that perhaps one in four of their diagnoses might be inappropriate.

"Teachers, advisers, directors – these people should be aware of this opportunity," says Yena. School staff are more likely to raise the ADHD flag and recommend parents see their pediatrician for their children.

Jeffrey Newcorn, a psychiatrist and pediatrician who leads ADHD disorder and learning disorder at the New York Sina Medical Center, says the study complements the scientific discussion on ADHD. But he says: "I would be very careful when reading this as if the children were wrongly diagnosed."

He says that you are more likely to be able to identify ADHD for younger children, but he can say that this is just an early diagnosis, which in any case could take place for a year or two.

Several other studies have shown that ADHD is likely to be diagnosed among the youngest children.

"The current study is convincing given its large sample size and the actual use of diagnostic records, rather than more subjective recall," writes Professor of Psychology Stephen Hinshaw, a longtime ADHD researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, by email.

These findings highlight the disadvantages of ADHD, Hinshaw writes in an e-mail. "Indeed, many issues in childhood may look like ADHD: trauma, overcrowded classes, medical conditions (such as seizures), or other psychiatric issues (such as anxiety, depression). So, missing out on a short office visit is not up to the task!"

Results based on health insurance data do not contain important information.

"We really do not know much about" why "and" how "these results," says Meredith Bergey, a sociologist at Villanova University. It is difficult to find out how these diagnoses were received based solely on insurance record data.

ADHD is not a simple diagnosis, such as ear infection. So Bergey argues that this should be a more negotiated process. "What if the teacher was there with parents and doctors?" she asks. It would better inform the diagnosis and factors in potentially important factors, such as the child's age.

You can contact NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris at

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