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School enrollment age and ADHD - is there a connection?

School enrollment age and ADHD - is there a connection?
School enrollment age and ADHD - is there a connection?

If you look at statistical figures, you will notice that at the beginning of the 1990s, an illness spread to the extent that it could only be described as an epidemic - if it were a contagious disease. In Germany alone, at least one child in every classroom is suffering from ADHD, regardless of grade level. In the U.S., the country where ADHD was first diagnosed, 10% of all school-age children take a medication that reduces or suppresses the symptoms of ADHD.

Image caption: Not every child that is behaviorally challenged or is a little more lively has ADHD as well. Unfortunately, ADHD is diagnosed far too quickly.

In November 2018, scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston published a study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, which has been around since 1812. This article puts ADHD in a new light. The suspicion expressed by critics is that ADHD is a simply non-existent disease.

What is the study about?

The researchers evaluated data of 407,846 children born between 2007 and 2009. Those kids were followed up until December 2015. Just as in Germany, different states in the U.S. have other cutoff dates for enrolling children at school. This is usually September 1. In Germany, eight states use this cutoff date. Children who reach five before September 1 are enrolled in school accordingly. Children with their 5th birthday after September 1 are not enrolled until the following year.

Researchers found that children born before September 1, and thus entering school as five-year-olds, were diagnosed with ADHD far more frequently than children who started school a year later. Interestingly, this clustering of ADHD diagnosis did not occur among children for whom states set a different, earlier cutoff date. An earlier cutoff date simply ensures that the age differences in a preschool class are only a few months.

With the September 1 cutoff date, the age difference is almost a year. However, age-related differences in behavior are more apparent in five- or six-year-old children than in older children. This means, for example, that the five-year-old still has a more pronounced play instinct than his classmate, who is already one year older. As a result, this is often seen by teachers as a behavioral disorder. Parents are informed, and the children are diagnosed with ADHD by a pediatrician.

The Harvard Medical School researchers also examined the data for asthma, diabetes, and obesity in those children diagnosed with ADHD. What they found were no significant differences between the five- and six-year-old children.

What does this suggest?

More than 400,000 examined case data show that many five-year-old school children are above-average diagnosed with ADHS. However, their one-year older classmates are far fewer diagnosed. Obviously, if you apply common sense, you realize that something cannot be correct. A disease does not select its victims by the year. With 400,000 diagnosed children at the age of 5, one can no longer speak of a coincidence. It allows only one conclusion. The children are mostly wrongly diagnosed.

But it is not only the researchers from Boston who have come to this conclusion. Studies and evaluations are also underway in Europe, examining the September 1 deadline for school enrollment. In Germany, the prevalence of ADHD diagnosis is 1% higher among five-year-old schoolchildren born before September 1 than among children born after September 1, and therefore are older when they start school.

Considering that ADHD could be technically / medically detected at most by a QEEG, a quantitative electroencephalogram. However, this method is not used in practice. Other serious diagnostic possibilities are exceptionally long and costly. One can only assume that many doctors diagnose ADHD because it is financially worthwhile and involves little effort.

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