This is the story of three (imaginary) children, Alice, Bobby and Charlie.
All three of them are Grade 1 students and their teacher has been asked which of them is the calmest, most mature and responsible.
Thats no problem for our fake teacher. Alice can sit quietly for the longest, needs the least attention, and acts out infrequently. You could leave her alone with sharp scissors and model airplane glue, and know shed be fine when you got back.
Bobby is middling. He can sit quietly, he can do his work well, but not all the time. He fidgets a bit. He needs a bit more help.
But Charlie is clearly the least mature of the three. He cant sit still. He talks too loudly, out of turn. You cant leave him alone with a piece of tissue paper.
Whats the difference? Is it that Alice is a girl, or that she and Bobby are naturally more mature for their ages? Or is it that Alice was born in January, Bobby in June, and Charlie in December?
A new study by UBC researchers shows a disturbing trend to drug kids may be based on age, not a realistic assessment of their medical needs.
It will rightly throw a spotlight on the ongoing debate over whether attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is over-diagnosed and over-medicated.
Boys born in December in British Columbia are 30 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their peers born in January. For girls, the difference is 70 per cent. And December-born boys are 41 per cent more likely to be medicated than those born in January; girls 77 per cent more likely.
Well, theyre younger. The authors of the study suggest thats the key difference. The kids who act less mature? Theyre literally less mature. At an age when brain development is rapid, we shouldnt be surprised that 10 or 11 or 12 months makes a world of difference.
But in a classroom, that translates into more attention required from the teachers, more talks with parents.
Teachers cant diagnose, cant prescribe drugs. And parents cant, either. But which kid is going to be hauled off to the doctor due to trouble in class or low grades?
We shouldnt be too surprised by this, considering that a similar effect has been known in athletics for decades, where January-March kids are more likely to excel.
Why? Because theyre bigger and stronger.
What can we do about this mess? Heck if I know.
Some kids are clearly being diagnosed and prescribed not because theres anything wrong with them, but because theyre being compared unfairly to older children.
We can work on that. We can use fairer comparisons. We can take age within grade into account, at least partly.
However, were unlikely to upend our entire system of year-based classroom education. Because the system is just not designed to nurture every unique snowflake of a child (because there is not enough money in the world to do that).
It is a quasi-industrial process that was invented more than a century ago to give kids basic literacy and numeracy, and to teach them to sit down and shut up, to prepare them for life as factory workers or clerks.
Weve added a lot of extra stuff to schools over the years. We now ask them to combine child care, education, and moral and physical development. But the system still demands that its components (the kids) can keep still, or it wont function.
We used to use the strap to keep order, and we decided that was wrong. Now we use drugs. Is that right?
Matthew Claxton iks a reporter for the Langley Advance, a sister paper of the News.