Don’t depend on one source to describe your preschooler's hyperactivity or lack of attention, says researcher Sarah O'Neill, of The City College of New York, based on her research at Queens College (CUNY). O’Neill concludes that behavior at home should be considered as well as input from teachers and clinicians before children are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study was announced on October 1, 2013, and was published in Springer's "Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology."
The study investigated how effective the observations of parents, clinicians and teachers were in predicting the diagnosis and severity of ADHD at the age of six. ADHD is characterized by impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity.
For two years, researchers followed a group of 104 three to four year-old children who had been identified as being inattentive and/or hyperactive. Parents and teachers rated the behavior of the preschoolers. Clinicians who did not see the parent-teacher reports also rated the preschooler’s behavior through psychological tests.
- 53.8 percent of the children were diagnosed with ADHD by the age of six
- The possibility of an ADHD diagnosis increased with all three groups rated the children with a high degree of symptoms reported at ages three and four
- Parents’ reports were crucial to determining a diagnosis, especially when combined with reports from clinicians or teachers
- Teacher reports alone were not useful, which the researchers attribute to the inability of educators to predict a child’s status over time or situational variables, such as preschoolers exhibiting disruptive behavior because they are having difficult time adjusting the school. The teachers findings could be affected by the size and setting of the classroom and their expectations of student behavior
- Parental input appears to be crucial but are not enough to make a diagnosis
- Teacher and clinicians’ observations during psychological testing are needed in addition to parental reports for a valid assessment
When educators and clinicians can recognize children who are at risk for poorer incomes, they can plan appropriate interventions.
"Consider a preschool child's behavior in different contexts," O'Neill emphasized. "Although parents' reports of preschoolers' inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity are very important, ideally we would not rely solely on them. At least for young children, the clinician's behavioral observations appear to hold prognostic utility."