Encourage Age-Appropriate Behavioral Disorder Treatment for Young School Children

Target: Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education

Goal: Educate parents of incoming students about proper and age-appropriate treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A report out of Iceland indicates that the youngest children in classrooms are much more likely to receive behavioral medications (like that for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD) than their older classmates. Using the national database to take a peek at test scores and psychotropic drug prescriptions for some 11,785 children (ages 9 to 12), researchers found that because of a wide age difference, some children were much more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Birthday cutoffs for school entry necessarily lead to an age span of at least 12 months within the classroom,” said the lead authors of the study. “At age 5, this span accounts for 20 percent of the child’s age and presents a difference in maturity and performance between the youngest and oldest child in the class.” Between the fourth and seventh grades, if a child is among the youngest in the class (bottom third), they are 50 percent more likely to be prescribed stimulant-based medication for ADHD.

According to the study, because this gap in maturity seems to carry on through age 14, “this should be taken into account when evaluating children’s performance and behavior in school to prevent unnecessary stimulant treatment.” Too often, children are being prescribed ADHD medication unnecessarily—bringing another host of issues—and the stamp of ADHD can last well into the future.

In order to ensure that children are properly diagnosed and properly treated, parents must be made aware of these findings when their children start school. To encourage the United States Department of Education to educate parents of incoming students about proper ADHD treatment, please sign the petition below.


Dear Mr. Duncan,

A new study out of Iceland indicates that the youngest children in class are much more likely to receive stimulant-based medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because of a wide gap in maturity level and performance, these younger children are often misdiagnosed with the disorder and treated as if they have a learning disability. It is important to remember that decisions to treat these types of behavioral disabilities can have a lasting effect on children throughout their lives.

This is why it is very important to make this information available to all parents who are sending their young children to school for the first time. Younger children should be treated according to their individual maturity level and performance, not in comparison to their older classmates. I encourage you to focus on the individual child and educate parents about proper and age-appropriate ADHD treatment.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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134 Signatures

  • Darlene Roepke
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