Can a Six-Year-Old Be Treated for ADHD?


"My son struggles at school and has 'mild ADHD'—but his doctor won't treat him. How severe does the disorder have to be to warrant treatment?

Dr. Larry Silver specializes in treating children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

As long as the physician established the correct diagnosis, the term “mild” is not helpful in treating attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “Mild” by whose standards?

If symptoms of ADHD are interfering with a major life activity—school, home life, interactions with peers—the disorder should be treated.

Since your son is having trouble at school, he may benefit from treatment. You may need to find another professional who’s more comfortable treating younger children with ADHD.

One other thought. You say that your son is struggling at school. Between 30 and 50 percent of children with ADHD also have a learning disability, which can explain why some children aren't able to learn and also cannot seem to stay on track. Discuss this concern with his teacher, and pursue a learning evaluation with the school.

Larry Silver, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is a former acting director and deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the author of Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on AD/HD and The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child's Learning Disabilities.
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