Medicate My 4-Year-Old?!

Revised guidelines give doctors the go-ahead to diagnose and treat ADHD in younger kids, but are parents comfortable evaluating preschoolers for attention deficit?

New ADHD Diagnosis Guidelines

The new AAP guidelines specify that diagnoses should rule out other causes of the behaviors while assessing for coexisting conditions -- anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder. The diagnosis should include input from people in the child's life -- teachers, care providers, and the immediate family -- to be sure that the symptoms of ADHD are present in more than one setting. When a child has been diagnosed with ADHD, based on criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (IV), the AAP offers these age-specific treatment recommendations:

> For children ages four to five, the first line of treatment should be behavior therapy. If such interventions are not available, or are ineffective, the physician should carefully weigh the risks of drug therapy at an early age against those associated with delayed diagnosis and treatment.

> For children ages six to 11, medication and behavior therapy are recommended to treat ADHD, along with school interventions to accommodate the child's special needs. Evidence strongly indicates that kids in this age group benefit from taking stimulants.

> For adolescents ages 12 to 18, doctors should prescribe ADHD medication with the teen's consent, preferably in combination with behavior therapy.

Next: Why Parents Worry About Early ADHD Diagnosis

Try Behavior Therapy First

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