By Joe Connolly, Consulting Educator
My son is a very respectable and very quiet young man of 13. He is in the seventh grade and I have noticed that the teachers tell me since he was in the fourth grade that he seems to space out in class at times, when the teacher is talking or he has assignments. The teachers complain about him being too quiet sometimes.
I have noticed that he spaces out at home sometimes too, and he gets aggravated at me and the teachers because he says he does not understand why they say he is not paying attention when he knows he is. He says he is listening and the teachers say he is daydreaming. I don't think he is daydreaming. I think he just kind of spaces out.
Is there anything I can do? Is this serious?
Without having more information it is difficult to determine if this is a serious matter. The fact that your son's teachers insist that he is daydreaming could mean there are some things going on that need to be addressed.
There is a possibility that your son could have some form of Attention-Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), although there is no way to diagnose that in this forum. That can only be done by a qualified, licensed clinician. One of the many signs of AD/HD is daydreaming in class. However, this can also be a normal sign of adolescence. If your son was exhibiting other signs, like impulsivity and or hyperactivity I would be more concerned. Many experts will probably tell you that the inattentive form of AD/HD is often harder to spot and is usually diagnosed when children are older. Children with AD/HD can also exhibit creativity, enthusiasm and flexibility.
The fact that your teachers seemed to be concerned about this is enough for me to recommend that you make an appointment for your son to meet with the school counselor. You may also check with your pediatrician, who can provide you with further referrals as needed.
If your son is diagnosed with AD/HD, there are many forms of treatment that you can consider. AD/HD is treatable in children and adults alike.
If you determine that your son does not have AD/HD then there are a variety of approaches you can use to help him with daydreaming in class. If his grades are good, however, and he is getting his homework done on time and he seems to be enjoying an otherwise normal and happy life, you may choose to keep an eye on this trait without doing anything more.
If he is not diagnosed with some kind of disorder but he is struggling academically and socially, then you could work with him on a rewards/consequence plan or behavior modification to help him improve. On the other hand, you may discover that his daydreaming has nothing to do with his academics but rather is a function of communication skills or social skills.
If you choose to help him by trying to change his behavior, you could take this behavior modification approach: Help him create a list of short-term and long-term goals centered on his daydreaming. He should also establish a timeline to achieve those goals. When he achieves the goal within the allotted time, he will receive a reward. If he does not achieve the goal in a timely manner, he will receive a consequence. It is important that your son have a say in the rewards and consequences. You will want to make sure the rewards/consequences are small for the lesser goals and large for the bigger goals. In time he should start to see improvement.
For more information on AD/HD you should check with your local hospital or doctor's office. There are hundreds of resources available and you'll want to make sure you are getting the information that is most pertinent to your situation.
Special thanks to Kristin Stanberry for her assistance with this article.
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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