"It does not surprise me that some children are being given medicine as the easy way out but that doesn't mean it's the right way to do it," says Max Wiznitzer, MD, a pediatric neurologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospitals about the Center for Disease Control's estimate 10,000 toddlers receive medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is the most common childhood disorder with doctors diagnosing 11 percent of U.S. children with trouble paying attention, problems controlling impulsive behavior, or being overly active from ADHD. According to Dr. Wiznitzer, however, toddlers -- under the right supervision -- might need the drugs Ritalin or Adderall to control their behavior. "I've put several three-year-olds on it and, with the medication, it's like night and day," says Dr. Wiznitzer. "It's amazing how much better the behavior gets but you have to know what you're doing."
"It's almost unheard of to give (ADHD medication) to a two-year-old," continues Dr. Wiznitzer. The American Academy of Pediatrics has no guidelines for ADHD for children under the age of four but Dr. Wiznitzer says the U.S. government funded a study, the Preschool ADHM Treatment Study, to look at the disorder in children three to five years old. He says medication can help certain toddlers but only as a last resort.
"These are very challenging children," says Dr. Wiznitzer. "There's not a lot of them who are symptomatic at age three but there is a very small number. We've made sure they do have ADHD features, that their behavior is occurring in multiple settings, that it's not due to poor parenting, it's not due to poor teaching, it's not some other medical condition."
University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospitals