School Enrollment Age Impacts LD Diagnosis

Findings from a recent large-scale study show that children who are younger than most of their classmates are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, ADHD, and depression.

The results are from a UK study in which school records for more than 1 million students, ages 4 to 15 were examined. According to a report in Medscape, compared to kids who were the oldest in their grades, the youngest students —with birthdays within the final 3 months before the enrollment cutoff for their grade—were more than 30% more likely to be diagnosed with [nonspecific learning disabilities], depression, or ADHD.”

While the research, first reported in JAMA Pediatrics, was not designed to explain the large discrepancy between the diagnosis rates of younger and older classmates, study co-author Jeremy Brown from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested the following possible reasons:

Younger children may find it harder to concentrate in class, leading to increased diagnosis of hyperactivity,” Brown said by email. “Issues such as inferior academic performance and poorer peer relationships can lead to mental health problems.

Brown agrees that more research is needed to better understand the findings as well as to determine “effective interventions to minimize the impact of age in the school year.”

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