Youngest Kids in Class Prescribed More ADHD Meds

Posted November 21, 2012 by

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The youngest kids in the classroom are more likely to score lower on standardized tests — and 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, a new study in Iceland has found.  The students whose birthday was near the cut-off for entrance to school were also a whopping 50 % more likely to be given medication for ADHD by the time they had reached 7th grade. (Mt. Sinai Medical Hospital researcher Helga Zoega and her colleagues used the national database of Iceland, culling data from all 11, 785 kids in the 4th~7th grade range for their study.)

Related: Why School is hard for kids with ADHD — and How You Can Help.

This might give parents pause when they decide whether or not to send their child to kindergarten if he or she has a birthday that falls earlier in the school calendar. Academic results show that the 4th grade students born from September to December in this study came in 10 percentile points lower on average on standardized tests in math and language arts than their peers. While testing is certainly not everything, this does speak to the question of maturity and readiness. When a child enters kindergarten after having just turned 5, it could make a huge difference for many — especially kids that are high energy, distractible or fidgety. That extra year could mean the difference between the ability to follow the rules in the classroom pretty well or not.

It also makes me wonder — are some kids being prescribed ADHD meds for behavior issues related to maturity (or lack thereof), and not for actually having ADHD?

A recent study in the U.S. also showed double the risk of diagnosis or treatment for ADHD in children born in the 4 months prior to the school eligibility age cutoff.

What do you think? Should parents wait to send their kids to kindergarten, if their child’s birthday is near the cut-off date? And are kids being mistakenly prescribed with ADHD medication because of the “fidget factor”?

Elisabeth Wilkins is the mother of one son and the Editor of Empowering Parents. She and her family live in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. thorne31 Report

    My son turned 5 in October. But I am not starting him until he is almost 6. I made the decision to work with him this year to make sure he is socially ready. I take him to class groups to monitor his behavior and then help him navigate certain social situations. I also am able to model how you address the people in authority and I am feeling more and more confident that he is going to be so much better off when he starts next year, as opposed to throwing him in this year and knowing I would have to be reactive to his behavior. I chose to be proactive. Its hard to defend sometimes when hes one of the oldest in groups, though.

  2. no accidents Report

    Family dysfunction, divorce, abuse etc can also play a huge role. The ABC diagnosis which leads to medicating a child needs to be put under the microscope and new rules written.

    Also, nutrition plays a huge role in a child’s inability to cope.

    Great article.



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