ADHD Now Diagnosed in 4 Year Olds

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January 26, 2012

ADHD, also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a condition that causes children and teens to have difficulty controlling their behavior. Until recently, ADHD was a condition that was only diagnosed in children between the ages of 6 and 12 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics  released new ADHD guidelines at the annual pediatric meetings last year. Now it is possible to diagnose and treat kids as young as 4 years of age.

If a preschool child is diagnosed with ADHD, the AAP recommends that parents and preschool teachers start with behavioral therapies to help children with ADHD control their problem behaviors. Early diagnosis and intervention will hopefully help these children start on a more positive educational path.

When children have ADHD, they can be impulsive, inattentive and easily distractable. Younger kids are more likely to have the symptoms of hyperactivity.  Because of this high energy and  impulsive behavior, young children with ADHD often have a difficult time in the preschool classroom and on the playground. These kids will sometimes miss the social cues so important to early preschool friendships.

The hope is that behavior therapies will help these young preschoolers navigate the classroom and the playground. If we can identify and treat these children early, we can help maintain their self–esteem, and set them up for success during the school age years. If behavioral therapies fail, the new guidelines recommend that parents and physicians consider medication to treat the symptoms of ADHD.

Alice Park of Time Healthland, reports that half of school aged children (age 6 or older), “don’t have issues with hyperactivity,” according to Dr. Andrew Adesman. In this age group, attention problems are more common, likely because they become more obvious in the school setting, where kids need to sit in class and concentrate for longer periods of time.”

These older children may still have social struggles, but they are not as apparent as the preschoolers with ADHD. The preschoolers may be literally running into or over their friends on the playground. For the older kids, the social issues can be more subtle.  One of my patients with ADHD, a sweet 8 year old boy, once told me  “ I make friends, I just don’t know how to keep them.”

In those children who do need medication, it is important that the parents, caregivers and physicians continue to support the behavioral interventions and treatment plans.  This approach to treating the whole child will help that little 8 year old learn how to “keep” those friends, while he also obtains the focus he needs to succeed with his academics.

The advice provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.

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