Not Ready for School: Experts on Kids Learning Too Early

According to the Law “On Education” you can go to primary school from 6.5 years old. Everyone knows that passport age and readiness to study may not coincide. It is not for nothing that in many schools a psychologist talks to a child before an admission. But experts say that the youngest children in the class are often not just not ready – they find more different abnormalities during the examination – from ADHD and mental retardation to childhood depression. Let’s figure it out together why this happens.  

Younger students are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, ID, and depression

If a child cannot sit still or cannot restrain himself from starting to talk about everything at the wrong time, what is it – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or is he just not “ripe” to sit still?  

It is impossible to say for sure, because each such case must be considered individually. But new research shows that the youngest children in the class are diagnosed with ADHD, mental retardation (ID), and even depression about 30% more often than their older classmates.  

Babies born in the same calendar year can differ by up to 12 months from each other in terms of age and development. Primary school teachers are well aware that students who enter first grade before age seven perform worse on the curriculum. But now it turns out they are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

This conclusion was made by British scientists. Moreover, they emphasize that the study was not designed to determine the cause of these problems, but to find an association, a link between age and impairment. But scientific work has also identified a number of potential reasons for this relationship.

Expert commentary

Jeremy Brown of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England, co-author of the study

Younger children may find it harder to concentrate in class, leading to an increase in ADHD diagnoses. Poor academic performance and poor peer relationships can have negative mental health consequences.

It is also possible that lack of readiness combined with ADHD is causing the disorder to manifest more frequently. Where the erased form of the syndrome could be compensated for at a later start of school and school discipline and would go unnoticed, in younger children at school it manifests itself more vividly and attracts attention.

What factors matter?

For this study, researchers examined the electronic health records of more than a million schoolchildren in the UK.

  • The researchers found that children born in the last quarter of the school year were 36% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children born in the first quarter of the school year.
  • The youngest children were 30% more likely to have mental retardation and 31% more depression than their older classmates.
  • In addition, babies born in the third quarter of the year were 20% more likely than the oldest to be diagnosed with cognitive impairment.

The exact reasons for these risks are not clear and more research is needed. But it is clear that children who start learning at an earlier age need additional support. It is likely that this also applies to children in kindergarten, who go to a group of toddlers a little older, in order, as parents say, “reach for the big ones.”

Expert commentary

Meg Benningfield, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University

If you compare a 4 year old to a 5 year old, you see a big difference in development. When younger children are forced to study the same program and be in the same conditions as older children, there is a risk of both overdiagnosis and underdiagnosis.

Just as the behavior of an overly active and fussy but healthy child may lead someone to assume they have ADHD, the opposite is true. Teachers may justify the child’s misbehavior because he is the youngest in the class when in fact he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The results, showing a greater number of children with mental retardation among those who start the learning process earlier, surprised doctors the most. The reasons for this need to be investigated, as it is not yet clear what could explain this connection.

Is your child ready for school?

Despite all the research, date of birth shouldn’t be the only factor in determining when to sit down. It is also necessary to take into account the level of development and maturity of the child.

Various surveys are available to identify such markers. But there are also simple tests that experts recommend paying attention to. And some of the tests are already several thousand years old!

Philippine test

This option is the best fit for our country. In the Philippines, readiness is assessed by the presence of a growth spurt in children, which occurs at 6-7 years of age.

The child sharply adds in length – and not only by stretching the spine, but also by lengthening the arms and legs. Clothes, shoes become small, and during the season, a former baby can add a couple of sizes at once.

Simultaneously with the leap in physical development, a new stage in the maturation of brain functions begins: the accumulation, assimilation and analysis of information move to a new level.

If it is not clear by the centimeters whether there was a jump, ask the child to throw his right hand over his head and reach the left ear. If everything works out, then an important stage of preparation for school has been passed!

Marshmallow test

In the 60s, this marshmallow or “marshmallow test” aroused a lot of interest. Walter Michel tried to determine how well self-control children have. Later, on the basis of the time of eating sweets, they tried to predict the success of children in the future – but all these studies were not “pure” from the point of view of science. But the self-control function required for the school can be checked.

What to do? Put in front of the child a sweet, a delicacy that he loves and does not receive often, and promise that in 15 minutes he will receive a second. But only if you do not eat the first portion during this time. Then leave the room and return in a quarter of an hour.

If a child can control himself in the presence of such temptation, then it will be less difficult for him to get used to school discipline.

Dairy or Permanent?

We carry out tests when enrolling in school. In Asian countries, they may ask how many milk teeth fell out: this is a medieval Chinese test.

The child’s permanent teeth indicated that he “entered the mind” and not only can learn, but becomes responsible for his actions in the face of the law.

Pisiform bone

Some bone tissue in babies forms after birth. The most famous example is the overgrowth of the spring, and the most painful is the “nanny’s elbow”, an injury that is observed much less often after 6-7 years due to the formation of additional tissues.

But to see what is in the elbow without an X-ray will not work. But on the inside of the wrist, at the bottom of the palm and on the opposite side of the thumb, adults have a pea-shaped round bone. In children, it is formed on average at 10-12 years old (sometimes earlier). In ancient Rome and Greece, it was used to determine when a child matured to study. We can assess physiological readiness for stress more seriously when moving to high school.

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