ADHD can be diagnosed in children from age 4, physician group says

American Academy of Pediatrics releases new ADHD therapy guidelines

BOSTON — Children can be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as soon as 4 years old, according to new guidelines released Sunday by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a new report, the children's physician group said emerging evidence made it possible to diagnose and manage ADHD from the ages 4 to 18 years; previous guidelines, released in 2000 and 2001, included children ages 6 to 12 years. The AAP recommends behavioral interventions in children ages 4 and 5 years, while methylphenidate "may be considered" for preschool children with moderate to severe symptoms who do not experience significant improvement with behavior therapy. A mix of drug and behavior therapy is recommended for elementary school children and adolescents.

"Treating children at a young age is important because when we can identify them earlier and provide appropriate treatment we can increase their chances of succeeding in school," report lead author Mark Wolraich said. "Because of greater awareness about ADHD and better ways of diagnosing and treating this disorder, more children are being helped."

The AAP released the report, titled "ADHD: Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis, Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder," at its National Conference & Exhibition in Boston Sunday. It will also be published in the November 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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