Study Shows Early Enrollment In School Can Cause Harm

December 5th, 2018

Parents love to brag about how smart their children are. Having a kid “ahead of the curve” is cultural currency for people whose self-worth is wrapped up in the achievement of their offspring.

Now, a Harvard study shows that parents who push their kids into school at an early age may actually be harming their development and increasing their chances of being diagnosed with attention deficit disorders (ADD and ADHD).

No matter how “advanced” your child seems to you, chances are they still need time to be a kid.

Young children need to move around, make noise, ask lots of questions, and steer conversations towards their own curiosity. These behaviors are not often valued in a classroom environment where kids are expected to sit and listen and engage in more structured learning.

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Pixabay Source: Pixabay

The researchers warned:

“Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school.”

In most states, the cut-off age for kindergarten enrollment is September 1, but parents have the option of enrolling their children in school if they were born in August.

The Harvard study, which was published in the The New England Journal of Medicine, showed that

“…children born in August in those states are 30 percent more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, compared with their slightly older peers enrolled in the same grade.”

Of course, an increase in diagnosis can actually be the result of a greater recognition of the disorder, but the researchers concluded that “…at least in a subset of elementary school students, the diagnosis may be a factor of earlier school enrollment…”

“Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school.”

It’s not just overly-ambitious parents who push their children along the learning curve, but society at large that expects more and more of little kids with each passing decade.

For example, 20 years ago, most children did not learn to read until after kindergarten. Now, the majority of teachers expect their 4 and 5-year-old students to have some reading skills, and U.S. Common Core educational standards encourage this.

A report called Defending the Early Years (DEY), published by the Alliance for Childhood, notes that there is no scientific evidence that children benefit from learning to read before or during kindergarten – it doesn’t make them better long-term readers or encourage their love of reading.

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Pexels Source: Pexels

These inappropriate literacy expectations hurt low-income students more than anyone since they may not have the benefits of at-home learning opportunities prior to school and are immediately labeled behind the curve once they enter the education system.

In reality, these kids are just fine, developmentally speaking, but these labels can follow them throughout their school careers.

“When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and confusion.”

According to the DEY report, Common Core standards push students too hard and kindergarteners alone are expected to meet more than 90 standards:

“…the snowball has escalated into an avalanche which threatens to destroy appropriate and effective approaches to early education.”

So why are our educational standards potentially harmful to children?

It may have to do with the quick and dirty writing of the Common Core curriculum, which was compiled by a large team that failed to include any K-3rd grade teachers.

As expected, teachers across the country are upset that they are being forced to teach activities that they know are not developmentally appropriate.

The biggest problem with literacy education in kindergarten is that it takes time away from more appropriate activities that help children develop social and emotional skills.

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Pexels Source: Pexels

Educational pressure can lead to public health consequences. According to the CDC, ADHD diagnoses have increased 42% between 2003 and 2012, and 1/3 of these diagnoses occurring in children under 6, who could be put on medication at that early age.

The problem is blaming the children when their environment is at fault.

Young children who should be enrolled in school the following year but who are pushed into kindergarten instead are likely to look relatively immature compared to their peers. And they are – at that age, a year makes a huge developmental difference.

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Pixabay Source: Pixabay

So remember that no matter how mature your child seems to you, there’s evidence that pushing them into an academic environment too early could have long-term negative consequences on their well-being.

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Source: Intellectual Takeout