Gauging if your little one is ready for school is tricky business for parents. And this latest study on early learning and the link to ADHD might have you reconsidering when the right time to start is.

We all want what’s best for our kids. Bundling kids off to kindergarten and school to spread their wings is a real milestone for both parents and kids.

However, a Harvard study suggests children starting too early in the schooling system is perhaps leading to an increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses.

The dilemma

When children celebrate a birthday close to the school enrolment cut-off date, (if there’s a time buffer zone) parents can sometimes be given a choice of enrolling their child into kindergarten early, if they feel their child is ready. Alternatively, some parents will hold their child back to start the following year. Ultimately, you choose for your child to be one of the youngest in the class this year or one of the oldest for the following year. Either way, it’s a tough call for many parents.

young child starting school, attention deficit hyperactive disorder study

Interesting study results

A study led by the Harvard Medical School in the US reveals that children enrolling in school when born in the month before the enrolment cut-off date, are a huge 30% more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than their fellow, older classmates in the same year level.

It’s not just a small case study either, to formulate their findings, the Harvard research team studied 407,000 primary (elementary) school children born between 2007 and 2009, following them right through to 2015.

ADHD or are kids are just being kids?

Timothy Layton, a Harvard professor and lead author of the study, says: “Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being over-diagnosed and over-treated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school”. You know what, I think he’s bang on the money. Sometimes it’s a case of comparing apples with oranges.

child upset at school, attention deficit hyperactive disorder study

Why wait a year for the best learning start

In childhood (particularly when kids are around five and six-years-old), a year can make a HUGE difference. Not only in their behaviour, concentration, ability to adapt to different learning situations and general socialisation. But also, young children find it difficult to sit for long periods of time and concentrate. Then there are those littlies who often feel anxious.

It’s during these first, early years of education that you want to know your kids are getting a firm grasp on learning. They’re the building blocks for the rest of their 12 years of education, after all!

What is ADHD?

According to The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic problem. It can result in poor concentration and control of impulses. It can affect a child’s learning and social skills and can have an impact on family functioning.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder facts:

  • It’s estimated one in 20 children in Australia have ADHD. It is more common in boys than in girls.
  • There is no known cause for ADHD.
  • ADHD is not caused by poor parenting.
  • ADHD can run in families, so it’s believed that genetics do play a part, making some children more predisposed than others.
  • With understanding and care, a child with ADHD can go on to live a normal life!

attention deficit hyperactive disorder study, child in school, hand up


This isn’t the first study to suggest that starting school early might not be beneficial for our kids. For an interesting school readiness related read, check out  What’s the Right Age to Start School?

Author

South Australian mum and self proclaimed foodie, Lexi can most days be found in the kitchen, apron tied firm and armed with a whisk or wooden spoon!

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