The American Academy of Pediatrics has expanded the age range for the diagnosis and treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to children as young as 4 and as old as 18, in new guidelines released on Sunday.
The academy is emphasizing the use of behavior treatments over medication in most cases, for the youngest children.
“I think the most significant changes are expanding the ages from preschool through adolescence. The original guidelines were from 6 to 12, because that’s where the evidence was. We’ve been able to broaden the scope of the guidelines because there was more evidence available for preschoolers and adolescents,” said the lead author of the new recommendations, Dr. Mark Wolraich, CMRI Shaun Walters Professor of Pediatrics and the Edith Kinney Gaylord Presidential Professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.
Wolraich added that the new guidelines also give pediatricians advice on managing inattention or hyperactivity problems that don’t quite meet the definition of ADHD.
The new guidelines will be presented at the academy’s annual meeting in Boston and will be published in the November issue of Pediatrics.
Dr. Richard Gallagher, director of special projects at the Institute for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at the NYU Child Study Center in New York City, said, “Medications should be used very carefully. I’m admittedly biased since I primarily do behavioral work, but behavioral work does have its limits. If a child is getting into dangerous situations or presenting with problems interacting appropriately with peers and adults, medications can be very useful. When monitored carefully, medications are safe for the vast majority of kids.”