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After three years with difficulty focusing and behaving in class, what's the next step?


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tabitha8122 February 2, 2009


My son is an only child, seven years old and in 2nd grade. He seems to be having an abnormal amount of trouble concentrating and staying on task in class. He has no problems focusing when it is something that interests him, such as playing games or reading a book at home. He's very intelligent for his age, but he's easily distracted in class and doesn't read directions carefully. His work has been suffering even though he knows the material. When I speak to him about this he gets very frustrated and upset. I just received his report card which shows a need for improvement in following rules, respecting others, exhibiting a positive attitude, working independently, completeing work in a timely manner, talking at approriate times, and listening attentively. He has high marks in striving for quality work and organizing and caring for his materials. At home he shows signs of OCD and perfectionism. He's a very sweet boy who wants to do well. I dont know what to do anymore. Any ideas?

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healthy11 February 3, 2009


Have you discussed your son's issues with his doctor? I think getting a referral to a child psychiatrist would be a good thing to do next. Your son sounds very similar to mine at that age, and my son was eventually diagnosed with ADHD...my son is also highly gifted, and the term that's often used with kids like that is "2e" or "twice exceptional," (being both gifted and having ADHD/LDs.) You can read much more about "2e" students at http://community.greatschools.net/groups/16042

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tabitha8122 February 3, 2009


We have not met with a doctor yet, but I intend to take him to see one after seeing a decline in his ability to stay focused in class.

I was recently diagnosed with a behavioral disorder myself and have been fighting with different medications for the last year with no success. I see some of the same characteristics in him, and I'm afraid to put him on the same path. I hate the thought of medicating him and would prefer not to if possible. I want my son to have the same academic opportunities as everyone else, especially since he is so advanced. At the same time, his teachers seem to only choose to see the negative in him, and I'm wondering if he would be better off in a more understanding environment. Is your son in a special class? If not, how do you work things out with his teacher? Are they understanding?

I've never heard of 2e. That seems to be a very fitting description for my son. Thank you for making me aware of it. How long have you known this about your son?

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drjohnson February 3, 2009


Tabitha -

It may be that your son is just bored in school. If he's extremely bright, the classroom may be moving too slowly for him. But being a child, he doesn't have the maturity to avoid misbehavior when he's extremely bored. If that sounds likely,then you might want to have him tested by the school psychologist to see if he qualifies for any gifted programs.

I think that if he had an attention disorder, he would have trouble sitting still and reading at home. Videogames and legos and tv are notorious for kids with attentional issues to be able to "hyperfocus" on. But not really reading or organizing stuff.

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healthy11 February 3, 2009


tabitha, drjohnson might be right, and perhaps your son is just gifted and bored, but there are many studies that show hereditary links to different mental health issues. With a family history, it is important to consider many possibilities.

Regarding my son, from the time he was in preschool, teachers would comment "He's so bright, he should know/act better." He was formally diagnosed with ADHD in 2nd grade, and we moved him out of the public school system into a private gifted school, to try and focus on his strengths instead of his weaknesses. They had smaller class sizes and more hands-on learning, but I would often volunteer in the classroom and I could see he was still struggling to pay attention, and even though it wasn't intentional, he would do things that bothered other kids, and the teacher, etc.
After trying different diet, behavioral supports, etc. we did do a medication trial, without letting his teacher know. It was the week before parent teacher conferences, and when we went in to talk to her, she was able to identify the specific days that he was more attentive, and they coincided exactly with the days he tried the medication. He has used meds during the school year ever since.
As it happens, once my son's attention was better, we discovered certain academic difficulties still didn't improve (like his struggles to write) and he was eventually found to have LDs, too. His IQ is higher than 99% of the people, but I won't lie, school still isn't always easy for him. He graduated from high school on the "B" honor roll last year, and is now in college.
I've "educated the educators" as he's gone through school, and some are more willing to listen and learn about "2e" students than others. I think over time, more and more teachers will recognize there are more kids like ours than they ever realized.

On a separate note, If you've got a diagnosis of your own, be sure to let your son's pediatric psychiatrist know, because some treatments/medications for ADHD can actually be contra-indicated for other conditions, such as bipolar...

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eccentric February 3, 2009


Yeah, I would agree with drjohnson. If your son is bright, he may just need more work to do in the class to keep his mind busy. My son's 1st grade teacher gives him book reports and Math sheets during his regular class simply because he would do the "normal" classwork long before anybody else! He gets more homework and special projects. Today he took his new Aesop's fables book to read to his class (his teacher is fantastic) and allows him to do these extra projects. He's extremely organised at home and I don't think that's a problem, it's a gift! :) I have been told to skip a grade next year, but I don;'t think my son is mature enough to take that. Hence, focusing on his intellect and strengths will help him more. Cheers

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tabitha8122 February 3, 2009


He really gets into his videogames and would play for hours if I let him. It's funny that you mention tv and Legos as well. He loves his Legos, Bionicles, Magnetics, puzzle games and anything he can build. The reading does seem to be an exception.

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tabitha8122 February 3, 2009


I considered skipping him up a grade level when he was in kindergarten. He already knew the material from preschool and at home. He was very bored and expressed that to me regularly. His social skills were not there, and his teacher and I decided it would be a bad idea.

I'm not sure that giving him additional projects in class would work in his case, but maybe more challenging work would capture his attention. Though, he still learns very easily and has amazing math skills, he has difficulty completing his work in a timely manner. He is easily distracted by his classmates. Another example of this would be the sentence dictation the teacher does in class. The children are to write a sentence which is properly spelled, capitalized and punctuated as the teacher says it. I've noticed my son's are often incomplete or have careless errors. He easily corrects these errors at home. I ask him to correct all errors on tests and homework as a means of review and also to see what we need to work on. It never seems to be a matter of him not understanding. He just seems to rush through his work or misinterpret the directions.

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tabitha8122 February 3, 2009


Thank you all for sharing your ideas and personal experiences. It is very helpful to hear from those who can relate!

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TeacherParent February 9, 2009


I'd suggest going in and observing your son in the classroom. Perhaps his teacher can move his seat nearer to her desk and have him sit away from the other children when she dictates the sentence (this is an old practice - fewer and fewer teachers are still doing the 'oral language' sentence but that's another matter)
But as you suggest 'OCD' - I'd talk to my pediatrician or family doctor for their advice with that concern. it did concern me somewhat when you say your son becomes frustrated and upset when you talk to him about school. If you're speaking in a calm and paitient manner - and I'm sure you are - I'm also sure he shouldn't become immediately frustrated and upset.
The picture painted of your son shows extremes - very focused to the point of perfectionism and easily distracted and so unable to do work of any quality. You say he can focus when it's something of interest or a game- they must play some games at school - how is at school when they're playing a game? Is there anything at school that interests him?
I'd be particularly interested in observing him during game time at school. It's much easier to stay focused at home - and to not be frustrated - because at home we're by ourselves and without the distractions and the need to compromise that the presence of other children necessitates.

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mommyofscoot February 16, 2009


tabitha8122,

I feel your pain. I'm going through th same thing with my 6 year old. I am at a lost for words.



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