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.)
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.