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August 18th, 2010
07:08 PM ET

Nearly 1 million ADHD misdiagnoses, study says


CNN recently reported that many psychologists are seeing a lot of misdiagnoses of ADHD. Readers had a lot to say about that.

Now studies are backing up anecdotal evidence that ADHD gets inappropriately applied to many children.

An analysis by economist Todd Elder at Michigan State University suggests that about 900,000 children who have been told they have ADHD in America may not have the condition at all. The study will appear in the Journal of Health Economics.

Elder found that how old a child is relative to peers in the same class also affects teacher perception of ADHD symptoms. In other words, teachers tended to perceive ADHD symptoms more in younger kids than older kids, even in the same grade. Younger children were also more likely to take stimulant medication for ADHD. The study authors suggest that children who are young for their grade may get an inappropriate diagnosis because teachers mistake their immaturity for ADHD.

The age at which a child starts school influences teachers' perceptions of whether the child has ADHD-related symptoms, but does not as strongly affect the parents' perceptions, the study said. Data for this research came from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort.

Another study in the Journal of Health Economics, led by William Evans at the University of Notre Dame, found similar results regarding the age of the child and the likelihood of ADHD diagnosis. Researchers looked at data from the National Health Interview Survey, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and a nationwide private insurance company.

Both Elder's and Evans' studies found that being young in a grade more than doubles the likelihood of receiving an ADHD diagnosis or treatment. Evans' study says:

Since ADHD is an underlying neurological problem where incidence rates should not change dramatically from one birth date to the next, these results suggest that age relative to peers in class, and the resulting differences in behavior, directly affects a child’s probability of being diagnosed with and treated for ADHD.

The cost of a misdiagnosis on the health and well-being of a child is tremendous, Elder writes. Chronic stimulant medication for ADHD may lead to possible cardiovascular problems and a reduction of children's growth rates, studies have found. These medications also take a substantial toll on the family. Elder estimates that $320 million to $500 million is annually spent on ADHD treatments for children who inappropriately received the diagnosis.


soundoff (186 Responses)
  1. Amber

    As someone who has adult ADD and comes from a family where EVERYONE has either ADD or Hyper cumpulsive disorder, I can attest that it does exist. I take excellent care of myself and it has taken me years to find little tricks and habbits that help me focus and get done what I need. I'm saddened by people who claim there are no disorders out there. However, kids are too frequently labeled with ADHD and I am working hard, along side my sons teachers, to make sure that every avenue is explored before the word "prescribed medication" even enters our vocabulary.

    August 19, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Shannon

    One of the things that our OTs have taught us is that technology for these type of children is NOT a good thing. IMHO, ADHD/ADD/SPD is getting diagnosed more and more is not because the parents are lazy and the children are undisciplined.. in many cases, the children are learning from technology. I will tell you I was just as guilty. I am in the IT field and I really think that in many cases, technology has created a spike in this. My reasoning is simple.. and again.. this is just from what I have witnessed. When my son was 18 months old we got him a computer program that taught the basic things (colors, numbers, alphabet..etc) in 18 different languages.. I thought it would aid him tremendously in that he would have a leg up by knowing these things in 18 different languages.
    We would get frustrated because the school stated that our son exhibited many classic signs for ADD/ADHD except the fact that it was not shown in 2 different environments. We knew that he was a little behind developmentally (physical and emotional (being an only child), not cognitive). We didn’t understand what went wrong.. we did all the things that many upper middle class parents did.. we had our child in sports.. he had access to computer games that taught him advanced thinking.. he went to the best early childhood learning centers that stressed technology and academics.. soo.. what is occurring now that didn’t occur when we were younger?? Something that the OT said really hit home with me.. She had said that because of all the technology, the kids aren’t getting outside and really working out their energy and getting their senses in check.. and kids are now sensory seeking.. hence.. active and touching things.. and pushing.. and not understanding their environment.
    One of the examples she gave was teaching a child the color orange. When we were young.. our parents would hand us an orange.. we would use all of our senses in understanding what orange meant.. We heard the word, saw the orange, touched the orange, tasted the orange, smelled the orange, and could squish the orange. By this, we used the following senses: tactile, auditory, oral, olafactory, visual, and vestibular. The brain needed all those things.. Now, kids see it in one dimension and their senses aren’t in sync and can’t work together.. so.. the brain is constantly going but it can’t connect to the senses because we forgot to teach it when it was young..
    Because of this, we make sure our son has a sensory diet before and after school. It helps regulate him brain and slows him down and puts him in check.

    August 19, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sean

      Some great points Shannon. I think you hit it on the head..technology. and lets say...TV!!!!!
      I decided life was too short for commercials. Stopped watching ALL tv series as of say..first season of Lost..
      What did I notice????? Well, when I turn the boob tube on..I can actually sense the ASSAULT on my senses..what may have seemed cool (good graphics, well produced etc..) before, now assaults my senses...leaves me feeling...fried. I've taken up organic gardening..my commute takes me through fields, farmland..and I feel....calm..can't even take too much rock on the radio, have given in to classical..not that I prefer it..but now that I'm keyed into my senses..I can't take the assault on my senses anymore..or prefer not to allow them to be assaulted.
      Learn how to record shows, and selectively present them to your children, without commercials..and see if you notice a difference..and in between shows..go sit in the grass with your child..we are ALL distracted..maybe all these kids need is more of US, our attention, calmly, patiently playing with them, taking them to the forest for a walk...and fewer SAW 19 commercials..just a thought.

      August 19, 2010 at 15:33 | Report abuse |
  3. concerned parent

    Ritalin was originally marketed by the drug companies for MBD (minimal brain damaged) children.
    But the marketing campaign failed with parents because very few wanted to label their normal children as brain damaged!
    The drug companies had a rethink and MBD was split into 2 different so-called mental diseases ie ADD (later ADHD) and LD (learning disability).
    There is no scientific basis for either LD or ADHD – both are completely subjective.
    ADHD is diagnosed based on questionnaires about behaviours, which are completely by teachers, social workers and gullible parents and for the most part could fit any naughty normal child.
    LD is diagnosed using nonsensical statistics – so that almost anyone can be made to fit the data of LD (most often it is the brightest children that are diagnosed as LD)!

    August 19, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. JustAGirl

    Ah yes, are we really surprised? I am not. That is what happens when we allow elementary school teachers and day care 'teachers' who don't know any more about ADHD than most parents do make the 'diagnosis'.

    August 19, 2010 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Paige

    ADD/ADHD is a result of the understimulation of parts of the brain. The medicine taken for ADD/ADHD is an amphetamine, it calms ADD/ADHD because it balances the stimulation in the brain. One part is no longer over producing to compensate for the other. If a person with ADD/ADHD takes the medication they calm down, focus, have fewer impulsive behaviors. However, if a person who does not have ADD/ADHD takes the medication they will BECOME hyper, unfocused and impulsive. The medicine is a stimulant, think Speed. It is clear when you take the medicine if the diagnosis is correct or not, you can tell by the resulting behavior in the person.

    August 19, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shannon

      agree!!!

      August 19, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
    • Eeyore

      This is one of the few intelligent posts here. Thank you for restoring my faith in the intelligence of the general public. You are absolutely correct. A child who is diagnosed BY A PHYSICIAN as having ADHD or ADD and placed on medication will either show improvement in symptoms, in which case the diagnosis was correct, or won't, in which case the diagnosis was incorrect. Like many treatments, there is some element of trial and error.

      August 20, 2010 at 10:55 | Report abuse |
  6. Sean

    Drugging the young kiddies because they are 'different' than some kids in class.
    Only in America..can kid's get put on speed at the behest of their 'educators', with meth/crystal ice (the same thing essentially) being a #1 problem on the streets..so starting them young would seem to make sense, if your deranged..

    August 19, 2010 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eeyore

      Sean=dumbbell.

      August 20, 2010 at 10:56 | Report abuse |
  7. Sean

    I was diagnosed with ADD, answered the questions truthfully, took a battery of standardized questionnaires..and it was obvious once I took the medicine it was a MIS-diagnosis..flushed the crap..Sorry for adding that to our drinking water..my bad 😦
    I can only imagine how hard it must REALLY be to diagnose a kid..some not so hard I understand..but we're talking in the millions..sounds like a boon for Big Pharma, and drug pushing 'professionals'.

    August 19, 2010 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LastoftheZucchiniFlowers

      Sean – I regret your misdiagnosis and I realize there are many, many like you who suffered as a result of being wrongly labelled. Pediatric develomental expertise is not always what you might expect and mistakes have been legion – as we have seen. However please know that it is not necessarily Big Pharma and 'your 'drug pushing professionals' to which I DO take exception – but many parents who fought vigorously for that diagnosis. Often – it is obvious. But diagnostic indicators which can only be called 'soft signs' like inability to attend, distractibility, etc., CAN and ARE often fleeting childhood behaviors. That is why only a continual observation over a series of visits with a REAL pediatric expert can help tease out those 'on the fence'. If only we would stop for a moment and remeber our OWN childhoods along with the incredible changes we felt in school, at home, and with 'friends' and relatives and then wonder why it's important to view the child from EVERY vantage point in his/her life and NOT simply the input of a harried elementary school teacher and/or a mom with little to no support at home and THEN determine if we are dealing with a child who is developmentally impaired or simply needy? The difference is NOT all that simple to extract. PS – I am NOT drug pushing professional and never have been. Do I prescribe drugs to patients? Of course. And most of the time I do so only after the drug has been on the market for at least one year and only if I can honestly say that I would take said drug or permit it to be administered to a member of my own family in a similar circumstance. If I cannot – I do not and have not Rxd it. Don't indict and entire profession. We don't enter this to 'push drugs'!

      August 19, 2010 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
  8. Dystopiax

    Heads up. Where evidence of hyperactivity and attention deficit are flagrant, check for potential DID / MPD and their causes at home. Yes – even in children as young as 7 or 8. A clue sometimes is variation in cursive penmanship, as alters change during the day. No kidding.

    August 19, 2010 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LastoftheZucchiniFlowers

      dysto – while the occasional clue MAY be elicited from this single measurement – I defy you to make so grave a Dx from it!!! I have seen it done by a colleague who happens to be reknowned for his pediatric 'developmental expertise', however he has been WRONG in at least a dozen cases we know of and as a DIRECT RESULT of using this measurement. Sorry Dysto – I don't buy that 'penmanship' marker. It's too broad and kids change TOO MUCH to put that much faith in a single 'diagnostic' red flag. There are also too many children who develop ambidexterity on and off during their toddler years and may not indicate 'handedness' on target for several years. Those kids are not anomalous – but rather, variations on the norm. We are not dealing with widgets! As clinicians, we MUST remember the IMPACT of our words before we speak them to a parent as WELL as not permitting ourselves to be co-opted by a parent during a crisis. The consequences are too grave.

      August 19, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
  9. LastoftheZucchiniFlowers

    The sadness here is that thousands of kids were labelled and medicated based on nonsense! The only kids who are likely to have been diagnosed honestly are those who were evaluated over a course of at least six office visits by someone who understands the vagaries of ADD (and all the iterations of ADD). In my practice, I have seen all too many parents who DESIRED this MDx for their dhild in order to access 'special programs', obtain meds (with a very high street value when sold) as well as those who were short on parenting skills and patience. However, to be fair – it's not an easy diagnosis to make. The thoughts and movitations which populate a child's mind and nervous system are not SIMPLE and no equation or algorithm takes the place of close evaluation by multiple players who KNOW THAT CHILD. We (medical providers) have NOT done right by these children nor have their parents and teachers who, for many diverse reasons, sought to pigeonhold thousands of young minds into the dreadful (ADD/ADHD) box. A tragedy of the highest order which we (the doctors) and you (the parents, teachers, allied professionals) MUST struggle to undo. Best to ADMIT our mistakes and start mending the fence NOW. Medical diagnoses DO indeed go in and out of fashion like the wind...........but what makes THIS on unconscionable is the fact that very young brains have been impinged upon by VERY STRONG drugs and these products are NOT without consequence.
    Medication is necessary for some children – but it must ALWAYS be the LAST and not the FIRST line of treatment and even then – the lowest possible dose for a measurable therapeutic effect is the goal – NOT SEDATION or Torpor! God forgive us for what our commuinity has done to these very healthy, though challenging kids.
    .

    August 19, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • StepMommy

      Thank you.

      August 19, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
  10. Jen

    How many posts have we seen that go something like this: my kid didn't have ADHD, I didn't want to medicate, the teachers were mean....blah blah blah
    Ok, if your kid doesn't need medication, what does he or she need? To say that you are not going to medicate, like it is the end of the story, is absurd. If your child has a discipline or attention problem, it is YOUR job, as a responsible parent, to FIX it. Figure out a way, medication or no medication.

    August 19, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Delance1000

    It don't surprise me at all! Especially looking at Macon,Georgia !

    August 19, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Angry Bob

    OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!! I read some of these responses and I shocked at some of you. My daughter was diagnosed at a very young age with ADHD. We had many doctors and specialists look at her and all agreed that she was ADHD. I am very angry that people are blaming the parents and teachers for the diagnosis. Do blame a parent or the teacher unless you your self have a child that has ADHD. My deceased wife was very involved with my daughter as well as myself. Right up till the day she died. Now I am raising my 16 year old daughter alone and when she doesn't take her 25mg of XL ADDERALL I can tell the personality change and the mood switch.
    Also i have to deal with my mother claiming the meds aren't needed, but mind you she does not live in my home and see the personaity and mood swings of my daughter, she should learn to keep her comments too.
    So people please read about it if you can read, learn about and be around someone who has it. You might learn something.

    I am sorry for any miss spelling but I had to reply to some individuals on here that touched a nerve.

    August 19, 2010 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dawn

    I truly believe that there are children out there that do have this disorder and need help. That being said, I went through hell with my daughter. Started in Kindergarten. Teachers said she had ADD. Took her to the family physican. He looked at her and said that she didn't look like she had ADD but that there were some wonderful drugs on the market we could try. If they didn't work out, we could stop them. I wasn't interested in having my daughter be a guinnea pig. Went to the psychologist. She couldn't find anything wrong with her and recommended we go to the psychiatrist. I told the psychiatrist what was going on and he starting showing my 6 year old how to swallow a pill and I left with 2 bottles of drugs that just came out on the market 3 months ago that she was supposed to take for the next 20 years of her life. He didn't even talk to her or test her!!! I flushed the drugs. I fought the system until 4th grade when I encountered a wise teacher. My daughter got honors in 5th grade. It is definitely over-diagnosed and if your child is out of the box, the teachers will scream ADD and tell you to put them on drugs to put them in the box so that it is easier for them. By the way, this is private school. This is just my experience.

    August 19, 2010 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LastoftheZucchiniFlowers

      Dawn – I was pleased to read your post. A parent like you KNOWS inherently what the 'experts' often miss. I was also glad to hear that you flushed the drugs (you did not name them, but that is less important than your action itself). I AM curious,however, to know what your daughter's 'wise' teacher did to turn things around for her? CONGRATULATIONS on keeping your child out off meds hat would clearly NOT have helped her and might have harmed.

      August 19, 2010 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      The name of the drug was Straterra. Which was later found to cause reproductive problems in girls. It was only on the market for 3 months. They wanter her to take it for 20 years, to "get her through school". Despite what they say, all teachers talk about their students. So it is very difficult to start with a clean slate when you go to the next grade. I guess it is probably necessary in some cases, but in others it's not. So my daughter would carry this unofficial diagnosis with her from grade to grade. The pressure was phenominal. It all ended with the fourth grade teacher. If my daughter was bored or didn't like a subject, she was not attentive. If she liked a subject, found something interesting, or had a enthusiastic teacher, she paid attention. I just really think that kids with ADD/ADHD can't pick and choose which things they aren't attentive with. They can't control it like that. But I do believe that this disease does exist but it is extremely overdiagnosed and some teachers use it as a crutch so that they don't have to change the way they reach out to some children. I'm sure they are under a lot of pressure to with the steep curriculum requirements these days, but I'm not letting my kids pay the price for that.

      August 24, 2010 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
  14. Surthurfurd

    I am a teacher. I am not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. That said, medical doctors and psychiatrists are not teachers. I have spent quite some time dealing with the issue of ADHD and other learning and behavioral disorders in young children. I also have been diagnosed as ADHD.

    There are genetic characteristics related to dopamine and the variation of the maturational rate of children. These characteristics seem to make concentration and related activities much harder for certain children. That being said, Philip Shaw, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD has conduced some impressive brain scan comparisons of children with and without the disorder. It seems that most grow out of it over time. The problem is in our expectations of children being identical based on their age. We get upset that our child is not performing as well on some tasks as others their age and this causes us adults to force children to take on tasks before they are ready.

    I could go on; but, note this: a high percentage of "gifted" identified children (the real ones not the ones trained to do well on the test) seem to also have these same characteristics. Philip Shaw and his group have even noted in other research that the maturational rate of the brains of highly gifted children is often delayed in some areas while accelerated in other areas.

    We need to reform education to be around the needs of children not our need to make all children alike.

    August 19, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tina B

      You made a good point. My child is above average in reading writing and spelling. She is in honors reading and writing this year. She is one of the youngest in her class too. SHe has a hard time sitting in class and she always interrupts her teacher and talks to her friends. She takes along time to finish her work at school and at home. She struggles in math.
      Every parent teacher conference since kindergarten was about how much my child interrupts the class and does not stay on task etc.....but her grades were above average. The teachers NEVER suggested medication. When I asked the teachers about adhd, and most of them are teachers who have been teaching for 10plus year,s all said pretty much the same thing "The pill is not the answer, she will learn to make better use of her time as she gets older she will mature and learn to stay focused for longer periods. Bravo for the teachers who know that all kids are different in the ways of learning.

      November 16, 2010 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
  15. ADD Family

    Don't harp on the mis-diagnoses and forget that there is an inherent need in some people. I am a 41 year-old male with an ADD diagnosis made after my son was diagnosed with autism. ADHD medications work wonders for him as the stimulants help make the necessary neuro-chemical connections in his brain, allowing him to become more aware of his autistic sterotypic behavior and manage himself.

    As much as I would prefer to NOT take medication myself, I find that it allows me to regain control of myself when I am chasing "bright shiny thoughts." Without the meds, I am unable to break a train of thought, multi-task, or even get a good night's sleep because my brain does not shut off.

    Coincidentally, I am 4th generation military, my mother, grandmother and wife were military brats as well, and we've all had our immunizations. We've also been exposed to pesticides, lead-based paint, and chemical-rich processed foods.

    I agree that at least half of the ADHD diagnoses in America are not correct, but I constantly wonder what we've been doing to ourselves over the last 100 years that has been leading us down this path of, hey, what's that shiny thing?

    August 19, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. tjherndo

    This guy is an economist! What does he know?

    August 19, 2010 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. white indian

    its just a LACK of LOVE and UNDERSTANDING.

    and thats the real cause of ADHD.
    30 years ago, THERE WAS NO ADHD.

    and the chemivcals in food, also are responsible for strange behaviour.
    EAT NATURAL
    sLEE WELL
    WORK hARD FYSICLY

    and then you recover within ONE WEEK.

    and drink a LOT of CLEAR WATER.

    August 19, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Surthurfurd

      30 years ago we let any child who did not fit in with our expectations just fall to the wayside. We used to let them fail out of school. Now we demand that all children reach a common set of goals. This is both a great ideal and a fools task.

      We need to assume all children can learn; but, we need to realize all children learn differently and have different strengths and limitations. Just like some children are naturally talented in music and others in drawing; some are naturally talented in learning data by rote or talented in finding interrelationships between content. We should be teaching children to their strengths and not to a one-size-fits-all set of standards.

      August 19, 2010 at 20:36 | Report abuse |
    • Eeyore

      I'll bet you drink a lot of clear liquid, but I doubt it's water.....

      August 20, 2010 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
  18. Pamwhola

    I know a child who is a new good friend of my son's with this diagnosis and we have been around him alot. The only thing that I have noticed during the summer months when he is not medicated is that he seems to have a stubborn streak in him and he seems to use his diagnosis as a reason to not be able to listen to grownups when told to do something such as 'put your seatbelt on'. I see him look at me and then ignore me and I had to ask him, do you need a hearing test? I have witnessed him purposely climb where I told him that I thought it was not safe to climb, and that is in his own yard where his parents think it is okay. So according to my kids who go over there he seems to not climb up there all day and when I appear he gets up there as quickly as he can...so maybe he has a disorder that is called 'I will do exactly the opposite of what you think I should do inorder to get a rise out of you'....lol Naturally the only rise I get is the fact that my kids are not following his lead because they know better to not play those games with me. I am trying to understand this 'ADHD' diagnosed child.

    August 19, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eeyore

      Now, just imagine trying to work with this child and perhaps 3 more with similar difficulties, one or two who have other learning disabilities, one or two physically handicapped, visually or hearing impaired children, one emotionally or psychologically disabled child, and about 20 kids who only have run-of-the-mill "normal" problems. That's a typical classroom situation for many teachers.

      August 20, 2010 at 11:20 | Report abuse |
  19. James

    Simple, we (Americans) are the most medicated society in the world! I'm thinking there is a lot of money to be made with diagnosis being made, even when there is nothing wrong. It's a vicious circle. From political entities, to the pharmaceutical industry to the doctors right to the patient. The money flows up, not down. Way to be, thanks for nothing

    August 19, 2010 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eeyore

      OOOH! BRILLIANT analysis!

      Have you ever watched Penn and Teller's "Bulls**t?" You should. You could be one of its stars!

      August 20, 2010 at 10:59 | Report abuse |
    • Hazuki

      Okay I've read the whole comment srtnig, and what pops out is that there are way too many things being called ADD/ADHD, so that confusion is rife. Anyone remember C. Lendon Smith? He is/was an MD who wrote books called things like "Feed Your Children Healthy Food" and good common sense. I ran across an old book of his trying to figure out why my new husband and his children were so wigged out all the time - antsy, frantic, anxious, touchy. Dr Smith noted anecdotally that he saw much of that behavior in people with blue eyes. He wondered after decades of seeing this if there wasn't something genetic in Northern Europeans, a recessive trait, that led to this kind of emotional chaos. Think of the prototypical moody Celt - just what Smith was talking about. Since then, I've noticed the same tendency - the antsiest of all tend to have yes, blue eyes. Just another anecdote...but isn't noticing patterns a logical place to begin an analysis and structure an investigative study?Oh, and he's now my former husband. On top of his own antsiness, he was a lousy father who believed expecting even slightly conforming behavior was cruel and unusual ... because he had never been able to conform except by extreme effort which could not be sustained.

      October 12, 2012 at 01:26 | Report abuse |
  20. Sam.

    the main reason ADD and ADHD are problems at all, or diagnosed so frequently, is because kids with ADHD struggle to focus and learn in a classroom setting. this is a shame because in most cases these kids aren't incapable of making normal progress, they just struggle to meet the set standards while in a structured classroom.

    my brother has ADD and i strongly feel that his frustrations with school are unnecessary. the school has pushed strongly for him to be put on medication, and so he is. the medication has altered his personality and even caused signs of depresssion. his ADD poses few problems for him outside of school, and he has a gift for understanding the working mechanics of cars/engines/etc. in his case, his so-called mild ADD will probably never even need to be mentioned again once he graduates college, and his condition is more a personality type than a disorder.

    instead of medicating these mild cases, they should get guidance on how to overcome the problems their trouble focusing causes. they can't... or at least shouldn't want to be medicated through adulthood, and can to find their own mechanisms for coping and dealing with the world; independent of any chemical. i believe strongly it can be done. and that its a much better alternative to medication. that's not to say some children don't have cases serious enough to warrant help in the form of medicine.

    and another thing, for that matter, teachers and school districts should not be "diagnosing" ADHD or making suggestions about whether or not a child should be medicated. they have some responsibility to flag children they suspect may have a learning disorder (including ADD/ADHD)... but the diagnosing and prescribing should go on strictly between doctors and parents.

    August 19, 2010 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. social worker

    The real reason school systems diagnosis kids as ADD/ADHD is so they can get additional funding. Its not about the kid, its not about the parents, its about money. To be fair to teachers, as there are some good ones, when your administration will not allow you to discipline students who do misbehave, then drugs are your only option to prevent disruptions in a class room. It is a very sad day. But when you take out God and all His teachings this is what you get, not to mention money hungry school districts

    August 19, 2010 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. AlaskanKnight

    ADHD is a vital issue for some children, unquestioned. The issue I had, was there is no definitive test to say yes...this child is ADHD...or NO...this child is not. We had teachers pushing for a ADHD diagnosis for my son. He was asked several questions by a social worker, who was a "friend" of my EX wives, he was seen for 15 minutes by a Psychologist, and the man wrote a prescription for medications. His statement to me was..."I see NO signs of ADHD in your son's behavior but I think we should try a LOW dose of Ritalin and see if it helps". The results they looked for, were not some provable results, they simply wanted to see if his grades would improve. I was told we'd try this for 30 days, at which time we'd re-assess. Two weeks later I was TOLD they were doubling his dosage......no 30 days passed and no grades were seen. Two years later he was taken off the medications without notifying me and I was told later, he'd "outgrown" ADHD. I am, sorry, but you do NOT outgrow ADHD. This is a case of a kid who was BORED, whose home life was a mess from divorce, and who wanted to be doing something MORE. He is now a VERY bright 22 year old. While ADHD is a crucial issue for many, the simple fact is, we tend to OVER MEDICATE in a simple effort to make things better, and medications, while essential for some, are OVER PRESCRIBED in our society. PERIOD!

    August 20, 2010 at 05:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • StepMommy

      Absolutely true. thank you for sharing. i think it is important for parents of adhd and add children to realize that there are other parents out there (shocking i know) who dont do what is in the best interests of the child, and end up with a misdiagnosed and medicated minor who is often just struggling with chaotic life events (like a divorce) and NOT adhd or add.

      August 20, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
  23. mommabear

    I just would like to say, in Kindergarten my child was recognize as a "kinesthetic" learner,which means that she learns best by motion, if she is doing a lesson about any subject is better for her when she is moving. The beggining of First grade was a "nightmare" because her class got a substite teacher because their classroom teacher was ill. So this substitue teacher kept sending notes home and such about my child "not following directions" she even had the counselor of the school opening a "behavioral chart" on my child, when the classroom teacher came back she didn't have any problem with my child ,she got rid off the behavioral chart and told me that my child actually was very advanced in her learning being one of the best readers at her class and neither her second grade teacher this year have any kind of problems with her , they LOVE my child,they think she is a very kind person and loving and caring,so YES sometimes are TEACHERS the ones that are the problem. Not all of them but there are some. That sub even mention someting about medicating my child. To what I reply: do you have any medical title or a psychologist degree????? She wouldn't say anything....So yes teacher can make mistakes ,too!!!!

    August 20, 2010 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DoubtingThomas

      ANd for the love of God, get an education yourself, lady. You're as close to illiterate as one can be.

      August 20, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse |
  24. DoubtingThomas

    You who are insisting that teachers diagnose anything are complete idiots. They do nothing of the kind. Teachers can suggest parents consult a physician; they can report their observations. That's all.

    If you can prove otherwise, then cite your sources. Teachers cannot diagnose or prescribe medication AT ALL.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • One ticked off parent

      Doubting Thomas........you are correct, teachers are not qualified to diagnose or prescribe meds (or some of them probably would be dispensing pills at the start of class) ...... What teachers are qualified to do is to teach. We entrust our children to them with the hope that they chose their profession because they had a deep desire and love for the education of our children. Instead I have found , in my experience, that "those" kinds of teachers are few and far between and what we have to settle for is a frustrated, eyeball rolling, and inadequate excuse for an educator who is also uneducated themselves to the truth that not all children learn in the same way. My daughter is in 5th grade, and she//we have had to endure 6 years of this. Yes, in grade K we were confronted with "oh I think she might have ADD" ......from YES a teacher, not a Dr. I'm a good parent, we checked it out, and again in 1st grade, second grade....etc. having the Dr. tell us again and again that they didn't see any behavior that would make that diagnoses. Last year, 4th grade.......the school decided to get creative telling us in a conference once again that attention was a problem and that if we didn't seek this out and get her diagnosed and on meds that she would have a good chance of self medicating with drugs and alcohol later in life. Nice! Well your scare tactic had the desired impact on me and we took her in to a psychiatrist that 10 min later, sure enough, she has ADD and put her on Adderall which was a flipping nightmare. Side effects were awful and I saw my daughter spiral into mood swings, my once morning girl could no longer get to sleep and the Adderall that was supposed to help her focus, of course reports from school gave a thumbs up, was picking at her skin causing huge scabs because she was taking speed every day. That quickly came to a hauls! She took her MSP's w/o meds and passed. So back to the initial point you put out there.......teachers can't diagnose ! Hmmm our school sure thought they knew better than the Dr or why would they push it year after year? Not to mention the deplorable depths to which they would go to get what they wanted with the 'scare tactics" !!! You are right they are teachers and they should concentrate on that, hey maybe make learning fun and interesting and by golly prepare to teach kids and not drones cause my child, like any other is not a drone so educate yourself and maybe they should be assessed for ADD because it seems that they are about everything but their job!! My experience, not an assessment of all teachers.......it really takes even just one good teacher to make a difference. I know this because they tried the same with my older son but fortunately he had a wonderful 3rd grade teacher that actually cared and invested in him her time and talent and that was his turnaround year. Long winded but passionate and love my kids!

      December 2, 2013 at 04:21 | Report abuse |
  25. Leah (TXanimal)

    I have no doubt that some children are misdiagnosed as having ADHD...but that doesn't mean they don't have some other psychological/physiological problem that's causing their behavior. It's so easy to assume it's "lazy parenting" or "bad teachers", but there are plenty of well-adjusted, functional families who have a ridiculously unruly child!

    I had many problems when I was growing up...severe anxiety, trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, just to name a few. My younger brother didn't have any of those problems. Our parents were strict but not overbearing, we didn't sit in front of the TV all day, we were punished for bad behavior and praised for achievements, and our teachers were great. It was only after a few years of living on my own that I realized my issues weren't simply "laziness" or "stupidity" or "bad parenting". I talked to a mental health professional who evaluated me over several months and eventually diagnosed me as having ADD (not ADHD)...me, a female at 25 years old! I didn't want to take medication, so I found other ways to deal with my problems. It's difficult...5 years later I still struggle with things that "normal" people do without thinking. It's not always because people are "lazy" or inherently "bad"...some of us just think & operate differently. I don't use my ADD as an excuse for the shortcomings I still have...it just means I haven't found a way to deal with them yet. I think that's something everyone can say!

    A little compassion and understand never hurt anyone.

    August 20, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leah (TXanimal)

      Oops, I meant compassion & understand*ing*...

      August 20, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
  26. Christine

    This study has found some real, and disappointing findings. Hopefully it will help teachers and other professionals to reflect on their observations of students and eliminate the effect of age on diagnosing ADHD.

    However, I have to disagree strongly with the idea that medication is just an "easy way out" when treating a child with ADHD. If a child truly has ADHD, behavior training can help, but will only provide a coping strategy, not a cure. Since, as this article correctly states, "ADHD is an underlying neurological problem," medications can be very effective because they can control the neurological fuctionings and return them to "normal." I think that too often parents are reluctant to try medication with their children because some medications do have side effects. However, there have been many advances in ADHD medications recently, and most people can find the right medication for them if they are willing to go through a few trials. Also, the medications are immediately effective and short acting, without lingering in your system. So, if there is an immediate side effect the medication can be discontinued and the problem solved right away. As a special education teacher, and an aunt to two children with ADHD, I can say that I have seen many children go on medication for this condition and there is an immediate "night and day" difference. This happens often when students actually have ADHD. They become immediately able to focus, acheive, and succeed. One of the most detrimental side effects of NOT trying medication, in my opinion, is that students have low self-esteem because despite hard work and even knowing what choices are the best to make, their inattention and impulsivity sabatoges their academic and social life. The children referenced in the article who have been misdiagnosed would not benefit from medication, since they don't actually have neurological problems. Their parents, teachers, and doctors should notice that the medication is not helpful and investigate the diagnosis further!!

    August 20, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Christine

    One more note! To everyone who has mentioned that teachers have "pushed" for medication or gave a diagnosis, you should talk to the administration! No teacher is qualified to do that, and even if you walk away from a doctor with a perscription, you are the one in control!

    August 20, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Pamwhola

    Has anyone heard of young teenage girls being put on adderall in order to help calm their natural hormone imbalance? The reason why I ask this is because I saw that a girl was on birth control pills and then recently put on adderall and I was thinking that was an interesting cocktail combo. She said she seemed to be feeling better but could not take the adderall if she woke up after noon, so there is times when she cannot take it. I watched her closely and she seemed to be quite moody with her Mom still in the little time I saw them together today. Anyone have any input on that kind of situation? Late teenage girl being put on that kind of medication, I did not ask exactly what the purpose was for it, the girl just noted that she felt better with it then without it.

    August 20, 2010 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. jenstate

    Some children have behavioral issues due to immaturity, age, lack of discipline, or problems at home but there are SOME children with real neurological disorders. It may manifest itself in withdrawn behavior or hyper behavior – it depends on the child. I like what Brain Balance has to say about the issue – http://www.brainbalancecenters.com . Strengthening brain communication through education, exercises, occupational therapy, etc. can make a big difference without drugs. I understand the difficult job that teachers have with 20 or more students who learn differently and at different levels. Never-the-less, it’s not as “easy” as every child with behavior or attention problems having ADHD. Some have sensory issues, etc.

    August 22, 2010 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Matt

    You betcha teachers can be STUPID. I am 42; recently formally diagnosed. Above average IQ. Gifted, at least in some ways. HOWEVER, when I was going to PUBLIC SCHOOL (caps so you read this right) as a child in the 1970s, I was REPEATEDLY abused physically and emotionally by my teachers and administrators who HAD NO CLUE about what was troubling me. Their solution? Spanking me, viciously, in front of the entire class (NOBODY ELSE WAS EVER TREATED THIS WAY. MY K'GARTEN TEACHER WENT SO FAR AS TO PULL MY PANTS DOWN AND SPANK ME; AKA SEXUAL ASSAULT). To this day I am consumed by rage when I think about it. So yes, absolutely, TEACHERS CAN TOTALLY SUCK!!!

    August 23, 2010 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Cindy

    I feel some children who are diagnosed with ADHD, have parents and teachers who do not want to deal with their behavioral problems. I have a child, I'am sure I could have been able to get her medicine but I choice to deal with her and her behavior.

    August 23, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. James

    @Heather from the 8/21 post... My son was diagnosed with ADHD by a psychiatrist but when I decided I didn't not want him to take medication anymore, it was his teachers (his special ed teacher was the biggest voice) that advocated for him to continue to take and actually told me they were going to expelled from the school if I didn't agree to continue having him medicated. I hate the school system in my area, but poor parenting or lack of desire on my part was not the issue. I am, and will forever remain my son's biggest advocate!

    August 26, 2010 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaaat

      I am so sorry for your son he should be able to try going off his medication for a few school days to see what happens; he may have grown out of most of his ADHD by now and no longer needs his medication. You should try taking him off them for a few days without telling the school.

      February 4, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse |
  33. Ann

    Dr. Olney warned of the damage that this product would do to the unborn and to children. He said that the FDA acknowledged "aspartame had been shown to induce brain damage in neonatal animals” but FDA dismissed the neurotoxicity as irrelevant on grounds that the approved uses of aspartame don’t include feeding it to newborn humans. Yet aspartame can be found in prescription and over-the-counter pediatric drugs and in pediatric vitamins. Nursing babies receive this poison from mothers who breastfeed. The recent plague of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, and birth defects manifest the neurologic devastations of aspartame. Supporting this view, Dr. Louis Elsas, Emory Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics, testified in a congressional hearing that aspartame is a teratogen (causes birth defects) and a neurotoxin.

    September 5, 2010 at 00:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Kaaat

    To get an ADHD diagnosis parents should have to see a psychologist not just fill out a checklist in their pediatricians waiting room.

    February 4, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Angela

    I believe that ADHD in children is incredibly over diagnosed. I do testing in neuropsychology and we see many children that have either had a previous diagnosis of ADHD or that are being referred for this reason. I agree with the article that attributes some of this to the child being younger than the rest of his or her classmates. Most of the children that are diagnosed with ADHD are behind either physically or mentally. Instead of the school or parents addressing the more important issue, the child is referred for being ADHD. As I do believe some children do have ADHD, I believe most of them do not. The parent or teachers complain that the child will not pay attention or behave, however, when some are left alone in the room to do testing they are perfectly behaved and attentive. I do not agree it is entirely the school or the parents fault because the healthcare system has made it so easy to fix any behavior problems with medications. I believe that if we could change the way we deal with behavior problems in childhood, there would be a reduction in children diagnosed with ADHD. This is not only important in the way of saving money, but it will also save the child from the negative effects of stimulant medications.

    June 5, 2013 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Name*ja

    Do you have any data on msdx of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, esp msdx of mental illness in medically I'll pts? Thanks so much for this great research that will help others.

    November 13, 2016 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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