- More than three-fourths of young children with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not ready for school, compared to only 13% of other children, according to a new study appearing in the journal Pediatrics.
- Compared to peers without such symptoms, they were more than seven times as likely to lack important social and emotional skills and six times as likely to have “impaired language development,” based on tests and on parents' responses to a questionnaire. The 4- and 5-year-olds were also significantly more likely to have low assessment scores on approaches to learning — such as taking initiative, showing creativity and knowing how to self-regulate — and to be behind on physical and motor development.
- The children with ADHD symptoms, however, scored the same as their peers in the area of cognition and general knowledge. Lead researcher Dr. Irene Loe, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, noted that because symptoms such as being inattentive and impulsive are normal in toddlers and often continue into the preschool years, ADHD can be hard to diagnose in this age group.
While the study sample was small — only 93 children — the findings point to the need for better identification of children with ADHD so they can receive intervention, such as behavioral therapy, before they enter school, Loe suggests. “A lot of these kids are not identified until they’re really having a lot of trouble in the school setting,” she said in an article.
The study also comes as efforts to increase developmental screening rates in the early years are increasing across the country. Help Me Grow, for example, is an initiative in 26 states and the District of Columbia to create more collaborative networks among those focusing on young children’s development, with early identification of developmental problems being one of the goals.
The U.S. Department of Education’s "Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!" effort and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s "Learn the Signs. Act Early" campaign are a few other examples of efforts to promote screening. Screening instruments, such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, allows pediatricians, early-childhood and child care providers and other professionals to monitor young children’s development and refer families to early intervention services if needed.
School leaders and district early-childhood directors can participate in efforts to promote screening to better identify children at risk for ADHD earlier and provide joint professional development for preschool educators and special education teachers to share strategies to support children with ADHD.