The American Academy of Pediatrics has modified their recommendation for diagnosing and treating children with ADHD this month. Previously children from age 6 – 16 were recommended to be evaluated and possibly treated. The new recommendation includes children from age 4 up to age 18. So in that sense, 4 is the new 6.
My concern with this recommendation is treating children with psychostimulant medication at such a young age. I am not a parent myself, and I cannot fully comprehend how hard it must be to raise a child with behavioral difficulties, but why medicate at an age where physical, neurological, emotional, social, etc. development is so sensitive? Why not wait two more years?
I consider it a given that the vast majority of parents have their child’s best interest in mind. Children can be spectacularly odd, even freakish. Why is there no place in society for children that are behaving so oddly and exhaustively? Ritalin – Ritalin syrup – at age 4 just seems too early to me, and more like a quick fix aimed to please busy parents.
My hypothesis is that if some parents would deal with their own inflated expectations and dream of what their child should be like, their child’s behavior would seem a lot more acceptable.
This is an emotional topic, and it certainly provokes emotional reactions. My grandfather had severe ADHD as a child, and the situation was sometimes out of control. He was often punished and beaten in school. His own father made him wear high-heel shoes to school one day to humiliate and punish him for his behavior. Back then, teachers knew nothing about ADHD. As he grew up, however, he matured and the severity of his ADHD lessened. People with ADHD usually lose the H (hyperactivity) as they mature. My grandpa went on to achieve great things.
I shouldn’t generalize from one case, but that doesn’t change my opinion that 4-year-olds, who are nowhere near 1st grade school-age, are too young for psychotropic medication for ADHD. Parents should stick it out and seek alternatives at least until the critical school-age of 6 years has been reached. Until then, children aren’t mandated to have to function in a class-room setting in a way that is socially appropriate.