The trouble with diagnosing ADHD in children

October 22, 2018

A recently published study by a team of researchers has shown that the youngest child in the classroom is most often the one to be diagnosed with ADHD.

The results in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,detail seventeen studies covering over than 14 million children from various countries.

Lead author Martin Whitley commented that some teachers are mistaking the immaturity of the youngest children in their class for ADHD. The study contributes to the central debate about ADHD and the ever-popular question whether diagnosed ADHD children have a brain disease?

Medicating the younger children in the classroom suggests that the medical community has mislabeled normal brain development as a pathology. The relation to maturity makes sense especially considering one year to a child is a significant chunk of their life.If the ADHD children are usually the youngest children in the classroom, this would explain why researchers have not been able to develop an object test such as a brain scan, blood test, or genetic test to diagnose ADHD.

Although there are no biological markers that can be used to diagnose ADHD, official outlets sometimes give the impression that this is the case. A recent brochure on ADHD from The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIHM) states that “Brain-imaging studies have revealed that in youth with ADHD, the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed by about three years.”

It continues, “More recent studies have found that the outermost layer of the brain, the cortex, shows delayed maturation overall.”

The average citizen would therefore conclude that brain scans can be used to identify ADHD. What the NIMH doesn’t mention is that the studies they refer to detected miniscule differences in a small group of children, and that the scans cannot be used in a doctor’s office to determine if a child should be diagnosed with ADHD.

Birthdate is not the only source of variation when it comes to the diagnosis. The diagnosis also varies from one country to another. The CDC recently reported that one in every 10 children in the United States over the age of three has been diagnosed with ADHD, while in France, it is extremely rare. In the late 1990’s, Gretchen Lefever reported that 20% of schoolboys in southeastern Virginia had been diagnosed and treated for ADHD. And children in Appalachia are more likely than children in California to be diagnosed—23% of school-aged boys in the South have received a diagnosis.

Sex, citizenship, state of residence, and now birthdate have all been shown to play a role in who receives a diagnosis. These findings suggest that more than biology is involved.


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Category: Education, Features

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