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I was “one of those kids” with a very short attention span and ADHD only really became a common term in my generation when I reached high school. Some people may say that it “wasn’t treated before” and that doctors are just making up new “terms and conditions” for kids being young and energetic, etc., but I really believe in ADHD and how it can affect a child’s life, and especially their education and chances of success later in life. It important to recognize it as a chronic illness.  New Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that children as young as four can be diagnoses and treated for ADHD.

The previous research was more than a decade old and covered children from 6 to 12, but with more research and understanding of the issues surrounding ADHD in children, the upper limit was also expanded to include teenagers to age 18.

Toddlers with ADHD have behavior issues that go beyond the normal challenges of early childhood. Anger is generally a problem, as are tantrums. A toddler with ADHD may refuse to sit in a high chair or stroller, and needs to be in seemingly constant motion. Even at this young age, they struggle with controlling their impulses—they may hit other children and become disruptive while playing with other children.

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Dr. Mark Wolraich, lead author of the report released Sunday at the AAP National Conference in Boston, “There is now enough evidence to address this broader age range,” he said. “We know that identifying and treating kids at a young age is important … because the earlier we can provide treatment, the better chance of success.”

ADHD affects some 8% of children and teens and is the most common neurological disorder in youngsters. Behavior such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor social skills and inability to follow directions are the main indicators. It is not thought best to medicate the youngest patients, rather try to help them over come the condition with behavioral therapy and parental training. Showing them consistency and structure around meal, bath and bed times can be important.

However Wolraich, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, who has been studying the condition since the 1970s says low doses of Ritalin can assist even the youngest cases where other therapies do not produce results.

Some studies have shown that those with ADHD are at greater risk of dropping out of school, car accidents, substance abuse and its well known they can be difficult to deal with; subject to tantrums and generally distracted.

For older children who are already in school the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends both medication and behavioral therapy.

Some doctors are applauding these new guidelines because kids who don’t get treated are at a much higher risk for everything from low self-esteem to poor grades to being socially immature. It is sometimes thought that they can go many years with daily reminders that they can’t do what other kids do, which wears them down. Parents have to be their child’s advocate and get them the help they need and get it early.

If you would take a child with a vision problem to an optometrist for glasses, why would we not treat kids who have trouble with their brain circuitry?

Here are some quick facts on ADHD in toddlers according to Reader’s Digest: 

  • Toddlers with ADHD seem to have a low sense of danger, so they require an especially watchful eye to help them avoid accidents.
  • No one knows what causes ADHD.
  • A child with ADHD will show signs of the problem very early on, but you may not realize there’s a problem until your child starts nursery school.
  • Problems with speech or hearing can also mimic ADHD symptoms.
  • Because ADHD symptoms often look like typical toddler behavior, it’s difficult to diagnose the condition in children under five.

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