New idea: Kids with attention deficit disorder are just late bloomers.

This is not being said (at least outright) by some major news outlets like ABC and Time, although the public is jumping on it.

To their (minimal) credit, Time even noted that the study has not been peer reviewed (meaning no one other than the researchers has yet evaluated their work, and it should not yet be being reported as fact), and a number of news outlets are even reporting that the study only found that about half the kids catch up to their peers.

An article in the NY Times even mentioned the fact that the study wasn’t about ADHD. Not the article on the front page, but an article in the opinion section, in which the author reports actually contacting the researcher to verify their findings.

Greg J. Duncan, a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University and the lead author of the school study, was somewhat mystified that his research – which attempted to understand the links between kindergarteners’ math, reading, attention-paying and “socioemotional” skills and their later academic achievement – was being discussed in the same breath with ADHD at all. The study, he said, wasn’t “about clinical levels of attention problems.”

This was true. Duncan’s research didn’t measure the effect of ADHD on future achievement; in fact, it made no mention of ADHD at all.

As a quick note: Often kids with developmental disabilities have delayed maturation of skills/abilities (and often don’t catch up entirely). This is one of the core impairments in kids with autism or Asperger’s. Delay in maturation doesn’t necessarily mean things will turn out fine if you just wait. What it does mean is that children with delays like this are hitting developmental and social milestones unevenly. As a (possibly more extreme) example, someone who doesn’t learn to speak until they’re nine – even if they catch up to normal levels by the time they’re 18 – is not going to have the same set of educational or social experiences that their normally-developing peers do.