By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist
My son is on point academically. However, he talks out during class, he doesn't respect authority, he makes fun of the blind child in the class, he laughs at the teacher when she is trying to discipline him and he never wants to go to school. He is pretty much the same way at home. He jumps on the furniture, he is impulsive and persistent. Does this sound like AD/HD or a behavior issue? All school year long I have received notes and phone calls from her that he has no respect for the class rules. I cannot tell her how to do her job. I do not know what to tell her. I simply do not want a zombie child, from him taking medication, because she cannot cope with his energy or behavior issues.
It sounds like you have two separate (but related) concerns. Let's deal with them one at a time. First, you should address your son's off-putting behaviors, because early negative experiences can color his entire school career, and it sounds like he is getting into quite a bit of trouble at school. While it is impossible to tell if his behaviors meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis, a cluster of disruptive behaviors suggests that additional assessment is needed.
If you have not already done so, ask for a conference with his teacher, and make an appointment with his pediatrician.
From the teacher, get very specific information about your child's classroom behavior. Ask her to fill out a behavior checklist, such as the Conners' Rating Scales - Revised or the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), which you can get from the school counselor or your pediatrician. Data from these checklists can be presented to the physician to assist in the assessment.
Consult with your son's pediatrician to rule out any medical problems, discuss the teacher's concerns, and share the problem behaviors you have seen from your son at home. If your son does have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, explore different interventions and formulate a treatment plan.
Your use of the word "zombie" suggests that you have concerns about the use of medication to treat behavioral issues in children, which is understandable. While this is a common concern of many parents, I can tell you that AD/HD is a complex neurological disorder that has been researched extensively by both medical and psychological specialists. Most experts agree that the most effective treatment includes a combination of both medication and behavior modification techniques. The National Institute for Mental Health is an excellent resource.
If you still have doubts, consider having your son evaluated by a child psychiatrist or a pediatric neurologist. It would be worth your peace of mind and might reassure school personnel that you have taken their concerns seriously.
I also picked up on some frustration toward his teacher. Keep in mind that one disruptive child in a classroom takes a teacher's attention away from all of the other children, and learning for everyone is halted.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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