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My son can't focus but I don't believe he has ADD.Are there any disorders with similar symtoms?


stephaniek78 November 13, 2008

My son has trouble focusing on undesirable tasks. However, I have researched ADD and other than the distractability, none of the other symtoms match up. He can focus for hours building very detailed and impressive structures with legos. But when he has to read a book, he gets so distracted by the pictures that he can't focus on the text. His teacher wants him tested for ADD and she is unwilling to try any of my suggestions. However, his lack of focus is affecting him at school. He is a very smart 8-year-old but he just can't seem to finish work and stay on task. Are there any other disorders or learning disabilities that are similar to ADD that I should take into consideration? I am feeling very preasured to try to have him diagnosed with ADD but the more I learn about it, the more I don't think he has it. Help!

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drjohnson November 13, 2008

Sure there are many other conditions that resemble ADD/ADHD:

However, I'd like to point out that the focus on activities like Legos, computer games, tv, etc., don't point away from ADD. In fact, there's a whole symptom called "hyper-focusing" which is quite common in these children.

Lastly, You can't just go out and get the child diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. You have to take him to qualified MD, like a pediatric psychiatrist or neurologist. There is a whole protocol for proper diagnosis.

I can tell that you are worried. I suggest that you get some referrals for psychiatrists and make an appt. Discuss your concerns and see what the doctor says. Your son may or may not have ADD, or some other condition. But then you'll know what the problem is and be able to address it.


healthy11 November 14, 2008

drjohnson's response is excellent. I was going to answer in a similar fashion, except that I have personal experience with a son who sounds much like yours....he's very bright, loved legos, but couldn't focus on tasks that he deemed "boring" like reading.
Without going into a lengthy story, I will tell you that my son was diagnosed with ADHD, as well as dyslexia (reading issues) and dysgraphia (writing issues) yet his IQ is higher than 99.9% of the population. (There's a term, called "2e" or "twice exceptional" for kids who are gifted & have learning issues...You can read more at

In looking at the DSM-IV (diagnostic & statistical manual) that doctors use for determining if a child has ADHD, they DON'T EXPECT ALL the "symptoms" to be present all the time....I find the site to be a good place for parents to learn more... In any case, your son should first have a comprehensive physical, along with full eye and hearing exams, to ensure nothing else is obvious. (For example, a child who has trouble seeing letters will naturally have problems reading, and writing, and will likely avoid those activities because they are difficult.)

I know it's never easy to confront the fact that your child is struggling, but you're taking the right first steps by trying to find out why. Teachers do have a bit of an advantage over parents in that they see many, many more children and can tell when kids behaviors are outside the norms. It helped me to volunteer and go into my son's classes, and see for myself what some of the issues were. (At home, I knew my son wasn't "perfect" but in a 1:1 environment, where he got undivided attention and he wasn't being told what to do all the time, he was manageable. In a classroom with 25 other students, where he was competing for attention, it was a much different situation.)


stephaniek78 November 17, 2008

Thank you very much for your insight! I should probably explain that I do teach children with special needs such as ADHD, Austism, and so on. I also provide Developmental Intervention therapy to children through a program called First Steps however, these children are quite a bit younger. So I am trying to look at my son's situation from a teacher's point of view instead of a mother's point of view. Lastly, he is not demonstrating any disruptive behaviors at school at all. He is actually one of the best behaved students in his class. However, I have made an oppointment to consult with a child psychologist to see if something is going on with him.
Thanks again!


miabishop December 9, 2008

We are currently in a very very similar situation with our son who is also 8. His academic ability in 1st grade excelled, with his reading at a second grade level. No classroom disruptions, and generally no reports of "zoning out" that his 2nd grade teacher has recently now let us know. He still is an advanced reader and chooses to read non-fiction most of the time, indicating he likes to learn however, his motivation for certain subjects lacks now and some of his subjects are inconsistent in grading. We too are concerned and I am a mental health therapist, and along with my husband have decided to have him evaluated by a neurologist that I work with. At the same time we have let the school know that we do expect their assistance is making sure he does not fall behind and that we will be discerning all factors including his learning environment. We did choose a public school, however this year the teacher student ratio is high and we were concerned at the beginning of the year. This may be a factor as well. It was difficult for me to consider that he may have ADD, but had to also take into consideration that mild anxiety and depression is in our family histories. Removing the shame that often gets attached to these diagnostic labels is the first gift we can give to our children. Find yourself a competent child psychologist or neurologist and get the evaluation, they are comprehensive in approach. That we you and your husband can make a solid discerning decision about how to best accommodate your son. It takes a village to raise a child, one step at a time and the best of luck to you and your family!


hermina January 5, 2009

My child appears to be intelligent etc. She was diagnosed with adhd and severe to profound dyslexia. I agree with your child's teacher to evaluate for add/adhd. These are a list of the evaluations that truly helped my child: Language Processing evaluation, Central Auditory processing evaluation(through the school), Dyslexia evaluation(through a dyslexic specialist), and Mental Health evaluation to rule out ADD/ADHD(through a mental Health professional). Dyslexia is the #1 cause of learning disabilities, it is a language processing disorder that shows up as "Specific learning disorder". Please do the testing before your son gets any older and this problem gets worse and affects his behavior completely. Testing is available, and it mean a better education for your child. Your son is fortunate to have a teacher that gave you reasonable suggestions. I learned the hard way. When my child got older, school was a disaster and I did my own research and began the evaluation process, it was worth it. Please find a dyslexia specialist and have your son tested. Actually, a language evaluation could help as well. You may want to check out the Susan Barton for Dyslexia website, it is quite informative.


Jessy27 November 10, 2009

I have almost the same problem with my 8 year old son. He can't focus or stay on task. He doesn't finish his school work and this is affecting his grades tremendously. He is an excellent student. Most of his works are 89-100% and he is at the top on reading. I don't have any problem with his reading because he loves reading. He loves to build stuff with legos. He can finish a video game by itself. (Video games are only allowed on weekends) At school, he does wonder around a lot. I took him to his pediatrician to evaluate him for ADD/ADHD because his teacher insisted that he had ADD...he doesn't have ADHD or ADD. He is a normal child but the pediatrician told me that if I want, he could give him a small dose of medication so he can concentrate at school. The dose would last 7 hours, the time he would be at school. How I am going to medicate my son if he is ok? My son has asthma and he is on medications since he was 18 months old. I told this to his teacher and she seems upset like she wanted me to medicate him. Another thing is that I ask her for any other suggestion she can give me because I don't want this to affect my child and her answer was that he was a bright kid that he didn't need any tutoring. He doesnt finish his school work for some reason and he dont need help? She keeps complaining and he dont need help?
I told her that maybe he was depress since his dad has been gone for so long. (he is serving on Iraq) and she just change the subject. I am taking my kid to a different doctor to get a different opinion and I still waiting for the school counselor to give me an appointment to see what we can do about it. I have been working with this for months. I am really desperate because I don't know what else to do and it seems that at school I will not find help.


healthy11 November 10, 2009

Jessy, since you say that your son always gets good grades (89-100%) it doesn't sound like he has academic problems in comprehending the material, so I understand why the school would say that tutoring isn't likely to help. His difficulties aren't in knowing how to do the work, but in being self-motivated to get it done. If you do believe that depression due to your husband's deployment is an issue, it's wise to consult a second doctor, who is hopefully a specialist like a child psychiatrist and not just a pediatrician. A specialist would also be in the best position to determine if other factors, like ADHD, are contributing to his difficulties. I hope you get more information soon.


Cheryllion August 18, 2010

Notice how you almost never hear this about girls -- maybe it's just normal! Whatever you do, don't drug your kid or let him think he's "wrong" somehow with psychiatrists. Teachers are so boy-unfriendly. They like the calm girls who sit and do their work. One of the best speakers on this subject that I've ever heard is Dr. Katz. He has a website that talks about how boys just need to have a burst of energy now and then -- most of them just aren't made to sit quietly and focus!

I know my son has problems focusing, and on days I HATE it. But I know that he's a bright, kind, creative kid, so I just deal with it and try to remind him that he needs to concentrate. I know there are some kids out there who are destructive and maybe do need more powerful intervention (even so, the ones on drugs I think are worse off because of it! It is scary what the "medications" have done) Eventually we'll find a tool or habit that works for us. :) All the best and you are not alone!


B2momma September 13, 2012

I'm just a parent. I have 2 boys. I really believe a parent knows their child best. My oldest (10) had an issue we could put our finger on for a long time, but I knew there was an issue. My 8 yr old does not focus when he finds something boring. I have found that the teacher makes all the difference. If he/she makes in interesting he does focus. I think he's just an immature 8 year old boy.


karlakahler September 26, 2012

I am a mental health therapist and qualified to diagnosis kids/adults with ADHD. I *thought* my son had ADHD and decided to get an evaluation. It turned out that he had SPD. We have been in OT for several months and he has made major improvements. They can look similiar in terms of behavioral issues, lack of focus and giftedness.

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