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I have a 4 year old boy who is very intelligent (or so I thought), but has trouble moving from task to task


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Anonymous January 21, 2009


My 4 year old is very smart and remembers and knows things that you ordinarily would not expect him to know. However, he is very slow, in fact, will not move from one task to another unless reminded. I thought this was a normal behavior but I am getting complaints from his K-4 teacher, who has to nudge him along all the things including dressing. For eg. you ask him to put his winter gear on, he will put his coat on and wait until you tell him to mittens on and so on. It is the same in every task. I am getting worried, I think he is not paying attention or focusing, however, he can repeat everything you said and knows all the things in school but does not move on. IS anything wrong with him? Does he have inattentive ADHD? Thanks for your answer

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sbozarth23 January 21, 2009


Hi anon,

First, let's not use the phrase "wrong with him" let's think of this as just another way your child is unique.

Members more experienced with this topic will way in soon, but until then I would like to invite you to join the following group.

Learning and Attention Difficulties http://community.greatschools.net/groups/11554

This group if full of information about these kind of situations, and will put you in touch with other parents experiencing the same things.

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drjohnson January 21, 2009


It's possible that he might have ADD, but it's also likely that he's just being a 4 year old. Pre-schoolers aren't well-known for their maturity.

How does he do other tasks, like coloring, listening at story time, playing with his friends? Does he play simple board games like Candyland? At home, does he seem to be a general dawdler or does he seem to forget what he was doing?

Kids develop in different areas at different rates. I wouldn't get upset if the only problem he has is needing a little extra nudging when getting dressed or other uninteresting tasks. It sounds like he's learning and thriving.

He may just need a little more help with mittens & zippers. Kids older than 4 can still get forgetful & frustrated with these things. OR he may need a little motivation. Like making a game to see how fast he can get all these items on. Or he may need to be given a routine - First put on this, then that, then the last thing. Maybe he's confused how to zip and get his boots on if he's got mittens on - that sort of thing.

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healthy11 January 21, 2009


Hi. First of all, I want to comment on your statement, "I have a 4 year old boy who is very intelligent (or so I thought)..."

Please realize, even if your son has attentional difficulties, it's completely separate from intelligence. (My son has a high IQ that qualifies him for Mensa, but he's still got ADHD, along with some LDs.) There's a term for kids like that, "2e," and if you're interested, I've listed lots of resources about them here: http://community.greatschools.net/groups/16042

As the other posters have said, I'm not sure if your son really has ADHD inattentive or SCT, (sluggish cognitive tempo, which some researchers are identifying as a separate, but related issue) because there is such a variation in what preschoolers do/how they act. I think you're wise to be learning all you can about possible reasons for your son's differences, but I would give him benefit of the doubt right now. What does he say when you ask him to try to speed up?

Have you considered trying some kind of "incentive" system or "reward chart" where he might see pictures of the various steps involved in dressing, and he can put stickers on it, or "check them off" as they're done? (ie, first put on snow pants, then boots, then jacket, then hat and scarf, then mittens, then take backpack.) Some kids need visual reminders until the routine becomes an ingrained habit. (Of course, by then it might be springtime, and hopefully the weather will be warmer so he won't need the boots, gloves, and hat, but take things one day at a time!)

To talk to other preschool parents, you might like to join http://community.greatschools.net/groups/11534

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MSMomm January 21, 2009


Hello Anon:

Does your son also need nudging to perform daily ordinary tasks, such as brushing his teeth, washing his face, taking a bath?

When my son was your son's age, even into the elementary school years, he had a difficult time moving from one task, or subject, to another. He would not start the next task until he completed the previous one.

As others have said, he's still young, and I'm sure for many children who live in colder climates, it a chore to get all the necessary clothing on in a short period of time to play outside.

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vismom January 21, 2009


Thanks everyone for all your answers, I will look through some of these websites you have posted.
Yes, he needs nudging with every task, otherwise, he will sit there thinking about something else that happened the day before or at some other time. I was thinking he was unique, as he never made any mischief and plays well with other kids and is very affectionate. Except, now his K4 teacher keeps saying that he is looking at other kids or something like that.
He did have slight weakness in his fingers, so we thought he was not moving along because he cannot do the tasks at hand, but now I know he can as he has tremendously improved. If we keep moving him along, he can finish them all fine. He races to certain things he wants to do....

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vismom January 21, 2009


In response to Dr. Johnson's question, it is hard to know whether he forgets what he is doing versus he is thinking something else. He does not seem to be a dwadler, it appears as though he is thinking about some other scneario (in other words day dreaming).
He palys well with his friends and he can concentrate on games, can do puzzles etc.
That is what is so puzzling why he takes so long in tasks that require him to something

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drjohnson January 21, 2009


When my daughter was small, she would frequently say when asked to do something "I want to do what I want to do!" (with a strong emphasis on the second "I")

It sounds to me like your son "doesn't want to do what he doesn't want to do."

At this time, it doesn't sound to me like you have anything particularly worrisome going on. You might want to pick up a copy of Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It's based on research into the varying personalities of tots and chock full of strategies on how to handle kids with some of the more persnickety personality traits. I'm guessing that some strategies to get your boy to do what he needs to do is all you need right now.

I don't know who has all of those cooperative children that experts seem to think we all have - I certainly never had any. Don't let people make you think you've got or caused a problem. Heaven knows what their kids do or don't do!

If your son gets into kindergarden or 1st grade and begins have trouble doing his work, you might want to revisit whether there's a disorder.

One thing that's frequently misdiagnosed as ADHD or ADD is a very bright child who's just bored by the low stimulation of the average classroom. Perhaps that's the case with your son. Is he just thinking about more interesting things than the wheels on the bus going round and round?

p.s. I'm not a MD. My initials are DRJ. I'm just a battle worn mom.

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vismom January 21, 2009


DRJ, Thank you for taking time to respond. It is very helpful to know that otehr people are going thru the same thing and that my son is not alone in this problem. I will look through some of these resources.

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TeacherParent January 26, 2009


What does he do instead of moving on to the next task? Does he stare into space or play with the buttons of the jacket he just put on? More information would be helpful here. What about in the morning at home? Must you stay with him to get him dressed reminding him to put on the next article of clothing? At school if he sees the other children starting to put on their mittens, what does he do? Watch them or put on his own when he sees them doing so?
Your son is only 4 - there are other 4 year olds who don't move from task to task so please know you're not alone. But yes these days teachers have higher and higher expectations for children. That a child can't 'stay on task' at age 4 is not necessarily a sign of Inattentive ADD.

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vismom January 29, 2009


He is just staring into nothing, when you remind him, he is jolted back into this world. It is same in the morning, I have to be behind him to get him moving from one thing to another. Getting down from the car...he will d it but you have raise your voice to get his attention. I have not noticed what he does when he sees other children, but his teacher tells me he just looks at them. He can spend many many minutes doing nothing if he is not reminded.
I am getting worried, is he not motivated or something else. Inattentiveness also does not seem to be the problem, because he is watching and remembering everything and can repeat everything, it is just he does not move his body to what he is supposed to do. At times he is the most active kids if he is where he wants to be.



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