For months I have been teaching a playful kindergartener how to read, but progress has been slow. Recently I learned that this child has a November birthday and is probably the youngest in her private school class. Her birthday comes several months after the cutoff date for public school kindergarten registration.
Now I understand that she is not slow to learn at all. She is doing fine for her age. Most kids her age are in pre-K. If she were too, she would be one of the oldest in her class, not the youngest, and one of the most advanced.
New research shows that not only is the ability to read affected by the age of a child in a class, but so is the likelihood of that child being diagnosed as ADHD.
The younger the child is in a class, the more likely that child is to be diagnosed as ADHD, according to findings just published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
According to that journal, “rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis and treatment were 34 percent higher among children born in August than among children born in September in states with a Sept. 1 school entry-age cutoff.”
Knowing this is important if you have a child with a summertime birthday. Your active, exuberant child might be perfectly normal for his age, but might be more active and distracted than older children in his class. His teacher might suggest he is hyperactive. You might begin him on medical treatments which can be harmful and which aren’t necessary if the child’s biological age is considered.
If your child with a summertime birthday is scheduled to start kindergarten next fall, consider his activity level. All little children are active, but some are noticeably more active than others. If your child is like this, he might have trouble sitting still in class, listening, following directions, and focusing. He might have trouble monitoring his own behavior and keeping it appropriate to the setting.
Another study shows that younger children in grades are more likely to be assessed as ADHD by teachers, probably because those children are being compared to the group as a whole.
If your child will be young for kindergarten, consider waiting another year to start him. There might be a cost to you (if he is in day care, or if you, the mother, are hoping to return to full time employment), but the cost to your child over his academic career could be greater.
I’ve often thought that schools should have two “crops” of kindergarteners: older students starting in the fall and younger students starting in January. Too much of an age and developmental difference exists between a five-year-old child and a six-year-old child to collect them all in the same class.