A major study found a link between enrollment month and children's likelihood of being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD.
Enrollment Month Linked To ADHD
Researchers from Harvard University used the data from a large insurance company from 2007 to 2015 to compare the rate of ADHD in children who were born in August. In the United States, children must be 5 years old to enroll in kindergarten and the cut-off is Sept. 1. This means that children who were born in September have to wait another year to start kindergarten.
"You could certainly imagine a scenario in which two kids who are in a class who are different in age by almost a year could be viewed very differently by a teacher, or school personnel who's evaluating them," explained Anupam Jena, a physician at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the study. "A year of age difference in a 5-year-old or a 6-year-old is huge."
The study involved more than 400,000 children born between 2007 and 2009. They found that an average of 85.1 per 10,000 children, who were born in August, was diagnosed with ADHD, but only 63.6 per 10,000 children born in September have the disorder. The difference was not observed in states where the cut-off date is not Sept. 1.
ADHD symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by 2016, approximately 9.4 percent of children from ages 2 to 17 have ADHD.
ADHD In Children Youngest In Class
Dr. Jena added that the findings of the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine are important for children who might have been misdiagnosed with ADHD. The physician warned that parents should be careful about placing a child on medication at a very young age. Several other studies have suggested that ADHD is more likely to be identified in children who are the youngest in their classes.
However, Jeffrey Newcorn, a pediatrician at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and not involved in the study, warned not to read the findings as if children are being misdiagnosed. He suggested that children might have received an early diagnosis.