deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder and is
usually diagnosed by age 7. Children with ADHD have problems with focusing and
exhibit erratic behavior. They are easily bored, unable to sit still, very
fidgety and hyperactive.
ADHD is usually managed with
psychotherapy, education plans, behavioral interventions, parental training and
medications. These interventions may be carried out first or they may be used
in combination with medications. Experts say that medication must not be used
as a substitute for other treatments.
Nearly 12,000 Icelandic
children who were born between 1994 and 1996 formed the subjects of the study.
Each of these ADHD children began taking medications sometime between their
fourth and seventh grades.
It was observed that by the
time the children reached the seventh grade, those who had started on their
medications by their fourth grade showed a mere 0.3 percent drop in their math
score, in comparison to a 9 percent drop among children who began taking
medications around the sixth or seventh grade.
The girls in the study group
showed improvement in math after they began their medications while the boys
showed improvement in both math and language arts.
"Performance of kids with
ADHD tends to decline over time, especially if medication is delayed,"
remarked Helga Zoega, the lead author of the study and epidemiologist at the
Institute for Translational Epidemiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New
York. "Starting medication earlier may halt this decline."
The study did not reveal
whether the children received other forms of ADHD intervention besides
medications, and if these treatments played a role in enhancing their
Says Dr. Stefani Hines,
director of the Center for Human Development at Beaumont Children's Hospital in
Royal Oak, Michigan, "Although ADHD medications do not make a child
smarter, they do improve those target symptoms that can hinder academic
performance and progress, namely distractibility, attentional weaknesses, and
ADHD diagnosis in children has
increased 22 percent between the years 2003 to 2007, and has continued to
steadily increase. This rise in diagnosis has lead to the usage of certain
medications among these children including Ritalin and Adderall. Parents and
doctors have always been anxious about the use of these medications in young
children and wondered if the drugs need to be used in them.
"This study showed that
for kids with ADHD, early intervention is beneficial for them.....The important
thing is the drug reaches the kids who need it at the right time," Zoega said.
ADHD diagnosing is very
challenging because it has many subtypes and symptoms. But the diagnosis is
very crucial to its management. An accurate diagnosis guarantees the best
response to treatment. For this reason, it is essential to categorize different
symptoms more accurately in the future and create more exact subtypes for better
ADHD diagnosis and treatment.