According to a published report from the Centers for Disease Control, over 10,000 two and three-year-olds in America
are being medicated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — a number that has experts highly concerned because of the implications of diagnosing this disorder at such a young age. Many have labeled the high number of prescriptions as medically irresponsible.Current pediatric guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend any diagnosis for children three years of age or younger, including the distribution of any stimulant medication — the results of which have never been tested for efficacy or safety on children that young. While medications can help treat the condition in adults, they are not without risks, including growth suppression, hallucinations and insomnia.
“Developmentally, you’re supposed to be scattered and disorganized as a toddler,” explains child psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Rappaport, who works with Harvard Medical School. She has been working with ADHD children for over 20 years, and says that she has a firm rule of never treating children under six with medication.
It’s also worth noting that toddlers in a lower-income strata were more likely to be given medication when compared to wealthier toddlers. Rappaport points out that many poor families, and consequently children, might have to deal with issues like neglect, parental substance abuse, and financial difficulty, which can lead to an inability to focus. “It’s because of the underlying trauma that’s on in their life,” she says, and doctors should be searching for root causes, and alternative solutions for addressing them, before jumping to the conclusion that a child needs Ritalin or Adderall.
“Having raised a son with ADHD and working with many families in the same boat, I could not possibly imagine having put my son on medication or even evaluating him before age 8,” says Coach Juli at CoachJuli.com
. “Toddlers by nature are going to exhibit almost all the ‘classic symptoms’ of ADHD – because they are just that, toddlers!”On the other hand, the report shouldn’t be seen as an indication that ADHD isn’t a legitimate issue. Although it is often over diagnosed, most research indicates that about 6% of the adult population truly has it. And for these individuals, medication can be helpful when behavioral psychology fails to assist.