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Kids As Young As 4 Can Be Diagnosed, Treated For ADHD

<p>Diagnosed with ADHD at age 5, Blake Taylor poses on campus at University of California, Berkeley, in 2009, when he was 19.</p>
Jeff Chiu
/
AP

Diagnosed with ADHD at age 5, Blake Taylor poses on campus at University of California, Berkeley, in 2009, when he was 19.

Doctors can and should be evaluating their young patients for ADHD as early as age 4, according to new guidelines from a leading group of pediatricians.

"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," said pediatrican Mark Wolraich, lead author of the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The most controversial part of the new advice is its endorsement of medication, such as Ritalin and Vyvanse, to treat even 4- and 5-year-olds with moderate-to-severe problems when behavioral therapy falls short.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved use of the drugs in children younger under 6. Doctors are free to prescribe medicines for uses that aren't explicitly approved by the FDA.

The pediatricians group put together detailed advice for doctors to help them diagnose children ages 4 to 18, an expansion of the 6 to 12 age group covered in the previous guidelines issued about 10 years ago.

For parents, there's a revised tip sheet on symptoms of ADHD.

ADHD is common, affecting about 8 percent of children, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.