ADHD can be diagnosed as young as age 4

ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, can be reliably diagnosed and treated in children as young as age 4, the nation’s pediatricians say.

New guidelines for managing ADHD were released Sunday by the American Academy of Pediatrics at the group’s annual meeting in Boston. The group’s previous guidelines covered children ages 6 to 12. But newer evidence supports diagnosing and treating even younger and older children, the report said.

ADHD affects about 8% of children and teens. Doctors believe earlier identification and treatment could prevent some of the difficulties that children with the disorder face, such as poor school performance and social problems with peers.

The expanded age range, however, does not mean more young children will receive medication, the report states. In children ages 4 and 5, doctors should try behavioral interventions first, including parent training. But, they said, stimulant medication can be considered for preschool-age children with moderate to severe symptoms who do not benefit from behavioral therapies.

The organization is also releasing information kits to doctors in primary care to help diagnose and treat ADHD. Resources for parents are available as well on the AAP website. The guidelines will be published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.


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