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Millions of children misdiagnosed with ADHD for being younger than their classmates

Monday, August 23, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Research out of Michigan State University (MSU) has revealed that nearly a million children, and counting, may have been misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) simply for being younger, and thus more immature, than the other kids in their grade.

The study, soon to appear in the Journal of Health Economics, explains how children who are born just before the cutoff date to enter kindergarten are far more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children born just after the cutoff date. Those born before the cutoff date are the oldest in their class that same year, while those born after the cutoff date end up being the youngest in their grade when they start the following year.

"If a child is behaving poorly, if he's inattentive, if he can't sit still, it may simply be because he's five and the other kids are six," explained Todd Elder, assistant professor of economics at MSU and author of the study. "There's a big difference between a five-year-old and a six-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD."

Critics of ADHD diagnoses in general lament that there are no definitive ways to properly test for the supposed disease. Assessment is based almost entirely on observation by parents and teachers, which can fail to accurately take into account varying maturity levels. 

According to the report, ADHD misdiagnoses result in cost waste of anywhere between $320 and $500 million a year on needless medications. These same medications are also likely causing untold damage to childhood development due to their serious side effects.

Similar studies out of North Carolina State University, Notre Dame and the University of Minnesota have all recently come to similar conclusions about ADHD misdiagnoses, and will be published alongside the MSU study.

Sources for this story include:

http://news.msu.edu/story/8160