An unsettling report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that a lot of American children are being diagnosed with ADHD, but improperly so.
It turns out that one in 5 receive the diagnose of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder based solely on what family members think, which is in clear violation of the guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In the US alone, roughly one in every 10 schoolchildren have been labeled as ADHD as of 2011, totaling to a whopping 6.4 million kids. It is a sharp increase of 42 percent in children being diagnosed with ADHD since 2004.
This very increase is the reason why some doctors have started questioned whether or not these children really have the disorder, leading to CDC showing much-needed interest in the methods used to diagnose these children.
During 2011 and 2012, CDC researchers have been involved in conducting a survey that recorded the ways parents found out their child’s ADHD. Some of the families then took part in a survey follow-up in 2014.
Researchers found that the average age for diagnosis was around 7 years, with one in 3 children diagnosed before the age of six. The age was the first red flag researchers noted, since very few diagnostic methods would prove effective in children that young.
But what really made the team rethink the diagnoses was the fact that 18 percent of kids involved in the study had received an ADHD diagnosis based just on what family members thought about the children’s behaviors.
This practice is clearly against AAP guidelines, which say that the ADHD diagnosis fits only if the child shows symptoms in more than one setting, both at home and in school, for example. Rating scales were also used in the case of most children, with the older kids also prescribed to undergo psychological testing.
According to Thomas Brown, a psychologist at Yale University, there’s plenty of room for improvement in this field. He was, however, impressed of how many doctors and practictioners actually used the method of psychological testing. And that’s a good thing, as prescribing medication for ADHD should never be made solely on information provided by parents.
Brown also had an input on the young age of diagnosis, which he says it suggests that hyperactive kids have overloaded the study’s data. He added that children who are “quiet and spacey” and at risk of ADHD might be overlooked at such a young age.
According to the American Pediatrics Association, children under 6 who are diagnosed with ADHD should not be medicated, but put in therapy. Over the age of 6, the recommendations include behavior therapy or stimulants approved for ADHD.
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