New research has found a correlation between the age at which children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) begin taking medication, and how well they perform on standardized tests.
Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Iceland discovered medication initiation during the fourth grade was linked to better academic performance than when ADHD meds were started in the sixth or seventh grade.
The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.
Researchers studied 11,872 Icelandic children born between 1994 and 1996. The children started medication for ADHD at different times between fourth and seventh grades.
The findings showed that children who began drug treatment within 12 months of their fourth-grade test declined 0.3 percent in math by the time they took their seventh-grade test, compared with a decline of 9.4 percent in children who began taking medication 25-to-36 months after their fourth-grade test.
The data also showed that girls benefited only in mathematics, whereas boys had marginal benefits in math and language arts.
“Children who began taking medications immediately after their fourth-grade standardized tests showed the smallest declines in academic performance,” said the study’s lead author Helga Zoega, Ph.D.
“The effect was greater in girls than boys and also greater for children who did poorly on their fourth grade test.”
While the use of medications for ADHD is relatively widespread in America (and to a lesser degree in Iceland), research tracing the stimulant use and academic performance is limited.