Parents, experts weigh in on new ADHD findings that encourages medicating children as young as four years of age

Photo by Rodolfo Belloli

A leading group of pediatricians has set new guidelines for children as young as four years old who are diagnosed with ADHD. (See story here)

The American Academy of Pediatrics put together a detailed list for doctors and pediatricians for diagnosing and treating children ages 4 to 18, saying that children need to be caught at an earlier age to help with their treatment.

The group also put together a revised tip sheet for symptoms of ADHD, which includes: daydreams, doesn’t listen, easily distracted, makes careless mistakes, disorganized, forgetful, squirms, cannot stay seated, talks too much, frequently interrupts and more.

Some parents are agreeing with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ruth Grau said her now nine-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD at age three. She first tried altering his diet by giving him all-natural foods – no artificial colors, no yellow foods and nothing sweet. She said it had a very slight effect.

“We also tried various occupational therapies, but none of them offered long-term lasting effects,” Grau said.

Grau started her son on medication shortly after he turned five.

“It was an overnight miracle,” she said. “We did not advise his teacher, as we wanted to get a genuine response to see if she noticed any changes. She called the next day to ask what happened because he had been so improved in her classroom.”

Grau said that when her son misses his medication, she can tell immediately that he is unfocused.

“If your child is helped by medication, why would you not give it to them?” she said.

Larry Farnsworth said his son was diagnosed at age four.

“We were having some behavioral issues with him,” Farnsworth said. “Quick mood swings mostly and a temper which caused him to be removed from not one, but two daycare centers. Most of the problem had to do with him sitting still. We had him enrolled in two [reggio-based] daycare centers and he would finish his projects quickly and get into trouble when he had to wait for other students to finish theirs.”

Farnsworth said they began family therapy with his son and had a psychiatrist run tests and evaluations.

“He came back to us based on all of the feedback that he received and said he believed our son suffered from ADHD,” Farnsworth said. “We really needed him in daycare because of our jobs – we couldn’t afford to continue to stay out of the office, but thankfully we were left without daycare in the summer. Our psychiatrist gave us a variety of options, including medication. We discussed both with him, between ourselves and consulted our son’s pediatrician. We ultimately believed that medication-based therapy was best for Jack. The psychiatrist worked in conjunction with the pediatrician to run necessary tests like electro cardiograms, blood work, etc and agreed to start him on medication under the following condition – we start very slow with the medication.”

Farnsworth said his son is now doing well with small doses of medication.

But other doctors are warning that ADHD is misdiagnosed, and putting children on medication at such a young age is not a good idea.

Dr. Lawrence H. Diller stated in his article, “The Run on Ritalin: Attention Deficit Disorder and Stimulant Treatment in the 1990s,” that Ritalin use increased by 500 percent from 1991 to 1996 because of pressures in psychiatry and society at large.

Jane Collingwood reported in PsychCentral that preschoolers see the largest amount of side effects in patients using stimulants.

“Fears have also been raised about potential long-term effects of stimulant drugs on the heart and on the child’s developing brain. But the available data on these outcomes is limited, so the true effects are still unknown,” Collingwood reported.

Dr. Kurt Hofeldt, a pediatric optometrist, said one in four kids have a visually related learning issue, and 33 percent of kids could actually use glasses to help them perform better.

“Before pediatric patients are diagnosed with ADHD, they should have a complete eye exam with an optometrist to measure eye tracking, focusing, refractive error, and eye health,” Hofeldt said.

Debbie Justice, director and founder of The Learning Center for Families, said that she agrees with the pediatricians that children should be helped early on, but does not agree with diagnosing them and giving them medication.

TLC is a private, non-profit organization in St. George that works with children under the age of three with developmental problems. They offer in-depth, free testing for children that, Justice said, is more extensive than a pediatrician has the time to complete.

“We try to look at children as early as possible so we can have the right interventions in place,” Justice said. “My understanding of ADHD is it’s classified as a learning disability rather than a condition. Children under the age of four are not in a learning environment where you sit down and line up.”

TLC tests children to see if it is their home environment, tests their temperament and looks for a sensory disorder. Sometimes children who can’t hear are diagnosed with ADHD when that is not the actual problem, she said.

Justice said that sometimes it could also be the parents, not the child.

“Some parent just can’t handle any activity whatsoever because of their condition,” she said. “Typical activity level in that child is too much for that family. As for finding kiddos early, I’m all for that. Labeling them? I don’t agree, I just don’t agree. However, families call me left and right and say, ‘I think my kid is hyperactive.’ We’ll conduct a full assessment and find things that would make the [parents] think that, but we aren’t going to diagnose that.”

Justice said that TLC provides parents with training and alternatives to medication. They offer interventions to families before they go to school so they don’t “get thrown out on the first day of Kindergarten.”

Justice added that teachers are the last person who should be diagnosing children with ADHD.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.

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  • Voice of Reason October 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    What a complete pile of nonsense.

    The only people who believe this crap are those with IQs below 110—and that is what the drug makers and the American Academy of Pediatrics is counting on: that stupid people will believe this nonsense without question.

    Wake up, people: your kids are not sick with some disease. They are just kids. Whenever a kid is troublesome, it more than likely started in the home. Don’t just pop a controlled substance into your kid, dear parent. Take a good stiff look at yourself and your parenting. Then take a look at how your kid is being “educated.” Then look at his/her diet.

    You give your kid Ritalin or Adderall or any of that crap and you are just cutting their lives short.

  • tyler October 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    This is assinine!! what 4 year old doesn’t act hyper and want attention??!!! Like everything else, including flu shots, and all of today’s new “diseases” out, are fear tactics for the root of all evil- money!!

  • tyler October 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Agree 110%, Voice of reason!

  • Tamara October 19, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Nearly 1 million children are believed to be misdiagnosed with ADHD simply because they are the youngest of their peers (Todd Elder Study). There is no, and I repeat no, definitive way to diagnose and test for ADHD. Diagnosis is 100% perception of a child’s behavior.

    It’s important for teachers to be prepared to teach with different styles to adapt to the ADHD child’s learning method. ADHD children do not “fit into the mold” and perceive differently.

    Children as young as 4 should not be labelled right away with ADHD and full medical exams must be done to rule out other explanations. Too many parents are convinced their kid has ADHD and just want that “magic pill” to make it all better.

    There is no “magic pill.”

    All pills come with many side effects that parents often don’t consider. Insomnia, upset tummy, weight loss are some of the easy side effects. Suicidal tendencies, psychotic behavior, stroke, heart attack, convulsions, neurological damage, liver damage are the others that are more common than many think.

    I’m not saying some kids don’t benefit from these drugs and I’ve seen kids who suffer from ADHD symptoms and it’s really hard to see they want to be better, but they just can’t focus. It is a hard decision for sure but running to pharmaceutical drugs right off the bat is not the answer. The only drug that has any long-term history is Ritalin and it’s been proven to cause drug dependency. Strattera (side effect of suicidal tendencies), Concerta (stimulant that can make a child appear to be using crack cocaine with it’s ‘high’ effects) and Adderall (pulled from shelves a few years back due to users experiencing heart attacks), are all common drugs used to treat ADHD and none have very long histories to show if they are even safe for long-term.

    My son’s had ADHD since he was young, we’ve dealt with it for 7 years now since knowing what ADHD is. It’s not easy and we tried a variety of drugs including pharmaceuticals – they worked short-term and then stopped working or gave serious side effects forcing us to stop treatment. Drugs don’t work for every child – but behavioral strategies do and more parents & teachers need to learn and implement them. (Using checklists, sticking to a routine, proper discipline techniques, cool-down periods, exercise breaks, post-it note reminders etc.)

    Your kid will always have ADHD – so you must teach him how to learn to live with it. Just as a blind person doesn’t “see” like everyone else but must learn to do things a different way that works for them – an ADHD child must also learn what works for them and follow those techniques, not just rely on a pill to make it all go away because it won’t.

  • ms jackson October 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Government and agencies instill fear for control. Think about it, if someone told you the the moon was colliding with earth, rigt off bat you’d probably believe it before you seeked more information sources…

  • ms jackson October 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Today’s push for antibiotics and prescription drugs are literally poisoning our people! Anti-anxiety/depressants are known to make symptoms much worse than they already are and are alarminly raising the suicide rates. Ima keep it short cuz yall can do your own research, but it’s even known that psychologist and therapists are ineffective and teaching wrong habits and ways to form anong the population. I could go on and on, the world is corrupt and not just in the way of politics!! go by your gut feelings

  • Big Bob October 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Tamara, who told you your son had ADHD??? Hope you got multiple testing

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