38 answers

7 Year Old Having Difficulty Focusing/Paying Attention

I am at my wit's end with my 7 year old son. Starting at the end of his 1st grade year in May, he began to have a lot of trouble concentrating on things. At first, he just seemed to be bored with the school year, and then with being home for summer vacation. But now that he's back in school, I have received numerous notes and a phone call from the teacher expressing concern over his lack of attentiveness. She said that he just spaces out completely, and that he has even gotten so distracted that he has fallen out of his seat more than once. She said that he often does not seem to be aware of instructions that she has given him, and that although he does excellent work when he pays attention, she is very concerned that his school work is going to start suffering if he can't snap out of this. Now I have started to notice that he is forgetting everything as well: his notebooks, his school books, his school assignments; you name it, he just can't seem to get it together. He also spaces out at home, but it doesn't seem (although I could be wrong) like he's just tuning us out for the sake of tuning us out. It's like he's just not aware of anything going on around him 99 percent of the time. This behavior is pretty new; he was never like this, that I am aware of, until around May. Today we had our first soccer practice, and he spaced out in the middle of the field. When the coach shouted at him, he became withdrawn and has been pretty spaced out for the rest of the day.

I am very worried about my son, but I don't know what to do. He's scheduled for a physical next month, but I don't want to just medicate him, which I suspect would be the outcome of this discussion with the doctor. We have tried punishments (initially), natural consequences, incentives, earlier bedtime, cut out tv and video games completely, changed his diet, tried to get him more physically active, and if anything he just seems to be getting worse. I would appreciate any input from moms who have experienced any of these problems and how to handle it.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I read this and thought Epilepsy right away. My Aunt had a mild form sounds just like what she went through. She has since outgrown these attacks.

2 moms found this helpful

There are some books in the parenting section of the book store that give you alternate diet suggestions to help with similar problems. It might be a good starting place.

2 moms found this helpful

If he is withdrawing you might want to have him tested for autism as I believe that's one of the symptoms. I would think that if he's spacing out to the point of falling out of a chair that there is something going on other than an attention disorder.

2 moms found this helpful

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I think that you should take your son in to see his ped asap. I don't want to scare you, but he could be having seizures. People tend to think that seizures are convulsions that are very noticeable, but there are seizures that could cause the symptoms that you describe. My son has ADD, but he never appeared "spaced out", especially to the point of falling out of his chair.

3 moms found this helpful

I could have written you post myself! Our now 19 year old son did great in kindergarten but the second half of first grade he just changes, seemed bored, zoned out, everything you mentioned. We would work for HOURS on homework and he would forget to turn it in, I'd have to run him back to school on a daily basis to get a book he forgot for homework etc, it was horrible. We fought this until 6th grade when I finally got sick of dealing with it and took him to the doctor, I knew something was wrong. They suggested treating him for ADD but we refused unless he was tested. We took him for testing with a wonderful Dr at Vanderbilt and sure enough he was ADD. We started medication and by the end of the year he was a changed child, A honor roll, loved school and did great. His 11 grade year he ask if he could come off the medication, we told him he could but as soon as problems started he would have to go back on. He never had to go back on, graduated High School with honors, got a large scholarship and is in college now doing wonderful! For our son we found he needed a STRONG schedule to stay focused, school, homework, job and girlfriend take up most of his time and he does wonderfully!

3 moms found this helpful

I would definitely stop punishing him for this--it's not something he can help. Make an appointment with the doctor for this coming week. My friend has these exact same symptoms, she started getting them in elementary school. She has a seizure disorder. It causes her to just space out, and it happens more frequently during the day when she is stressed. They are called petit mal seizures, or absence seizures. There are medications that sometimes help. My friend is a successful athlete and a middle school teacher despite having these seizures daily.
Here is a youtube video of a little girl having petit mal seizures.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE6N0Da8Ce0

3 moms found this helpful

A.,
Please move your son's physical exam up ASAP--today, if possible. I work in health care, and this sounds as if it is a physical problem. Epilepsy (petite mal seizures) can present with these symptoms, as can many other physical disorders. Please don't punish your child for this behavior. Get him seen by a doctor now!

3 moms found this helpful

Hi A.,

A friend of ours was experiencing something very similar to what you describe. It turned out that her 5 year old had a lot of fluid in his ears, but was not having ear infections, so they didn't know. All the fluid was causing him to not hear well, so he was zoning out in class and appeared to be not paying attention and acting up. I guess I would start with the simplest explanation of what might me going on and work from there. I'm sure an ENT doc and audiology testing could at least tell you if he is hearing ok.

I hope you resolove the probolem soon!

K.

3 moms found this helpful

I have had similiar things with my five boys and found that after really working hard to get chemicals out of my home it has made a world of difference. My boys are normal children but they seemed to be distracted continually. After much reading and research about these kinds of problems I was convinced that the formaldyhe and pesticides found in the toothpaste, soaps, etc. seemed to cause an increase in the inicidences of this type of behavior as well as other problems. After much research and thinking I decided to take the plunge and just see if the 'experts' knew what they were talking about. Even the teachers indicated that children with these types of problems were on the rise in the last ten years and they mentioned the use of chemicals in our home. I found a web site that has all kinds of information about this and it was helpful to me. I'll give it to you for what it's worth. For us, we found a world of difference in our son's behavior. You might want to explore this:
http://www.ahealthcafe.com/support
I found a lot of useful information there. The change in my boys has been remarkable and I hope you might find some help also. I wish you well in your search to help your son. He is worth the effort!
Song of Praise

3 moms found this helpful

If he is withdrawing you might want to have him tested for autism as I believe that's one of the symptoms. I would think that if he's spacing out to the point of falling out of a chair that there is something going on other than an attention disorder.

2 moms found this helpful

If I could suggest, do you live in an older home? If so, have him lead tested. My son had a very similar issue, and this turned out to be the culprit... and yes, he was at the same age.

2 moms found this helpful

I would call the doctor and voice your concerns. See if they think you could wait or if they want to see him now. My youngest brother has a seizure disorder. When the doctor diagnosed him(20+ years ago)he gave us pamplets to read. I vaguely remember it saying that there were different types of seizures. From mild (spacing out) to Grand Mal(whole body stiff and uncontrolled muscle groups). My SIL hit her head on the car pretty hard and two weeks later she spaced out at work and fell out of her chair. She is a dental assistant. The called for an ambulance, took her to the ER. They determined she had a seizure. She went through different dr. visits and test. They determined that she had a seizure disorder resulting from her head injury.

2 moms found this helpful

A.-

I have no idea what is going on with your son, but what you are describing reminds of a dear friend of mine who used to "space out". Her doctor said that she was having a type of seizure. When she would have these "episodes" she would just look at you and not be able to talk or move or do anything. It was like she was just frozen in time. I don't know that I would have ever thought of it as a seizure. In her situation it was caused by medication and resolved itself when she switched medications.

If your son is not on any medications you might check and see if he has any food allergies or is deficient in vitamins or minerals. I recently read an article that was about how many people are not getting enough omega 3. Omega 3 is supposed to be very good for our brains. You might also have his B vitamins and magnesium levels checked.

You might research about how Omega 3, B vitamins, and magnesium work to help our bodies and brain development. Journal his diet to see if he is getting enough of these nutrients. If he is not getting enough of these you may want to try and get him to eat foods or supplements that would increase Omega 3, vitamin B and magnesium and see if he improves.

I just read the response about lead and I think that is also something good to be checked. Window blinds can also cause high lead levels. A friend experienced this problem about 2 years ago.
Good luck

2 moms found this helpful

I agree with many of the postings. I am a mental health provider and this is not consistent with ADD. The sudden onset suggests something else is going on. I recommend you get him to a neurologist as quickly as possible. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

I don't want to scare you, but I'm pretty sure there are forms of epilepsy that present this way. You should definitely have a long conversation with his pediatrician and make sure you ask about epilepsy.

2 moms found this helpful

There are some books in the parenting section of the book store that give you alternate diet suggestions to help with similar problems. It might be a good starting place.

2 moms found this helpful

I read this and thought Epilepsy right away. My Aunt had a mild form sounds just like what she went through. She has since outgrown these attacks.

2 moms found this helpful

You need to get him to a doctor NOW.
If you are thinking of ADD, it may not be that at all. These are symptoms of many different conditions - none of which he has control over.
Before he has to also contend when failing and before you are over worried, just find out what it is.
Please, let me know how it turns out - I will be hoping and praying it is just something simple.
J.

2 moms found this helpful

Please, take him for a physical with his Ped. It may be an attention deficit disorder, which are becoming more prevalent all the time over the last 20 yrs. The fact that he sometimes falls out of his chair though, leads me to think he may be having petite mal seizures, rather than ADD, so it is really important to get him properly diagnosed and treated!

2 moms found this helpful

I was just coming to write what a PP said.........it could be seizures. My nephew had one last summer and apparently he'd BEEN having them........but they were so mild, no one noticed---not even him. Him falling out of the chair more than once is pretty serious in my book, is there any chance he can be seen sooner than next month?

I wish you the best of luck with it all and i hope you get some answers quickly!

2 moms found this helpful

My suggestion includes a few options: psychological assessment, physical exam and an allergy assessment, and behavior intervention.

If this is a new occurrence, I suspect a trauma. Has anything traumatic occurred in your son's life? If he is not willing to talk to you, I recommend you both visit a psychologist for an assessment--especially one who specializes in children. There may also be group therapy for your son, which will allow him to learn behavior modification or coping skills with his peers.

Have your son checked for allergies. Food (and sometimes environmental) allergies may affect moods and attention--I speak from personal experience with this. If this is the case, the solution may be as simple as eliminating the allergic trigger.

Lastly, your son may have a learning disability. Find a specialist to do an assessment to check for this. It may just require one on one time with a profession to help him adapt to learning in a traditional classroom setting, thus improving his concentration elsewhere as well.

Good luck to you!

2 moms found this helpful

When it's ADD, usually there was some indication before age 7 that there were problems. Often people just think, oh it's normal behavior for a 5 or 6 year old boy and he'll grow out of it, and then it becomes more of a problem in a structured classroom like 1st grade. However, in your case it sounds like it may have come out of no where - suddenly started with no indication from kindergarten or preschool teachers that this could be an issue? Or no indication at home that it could be? In that case, I would emphasize that part to your doctor and ask to explore all other reasons this could be happening first before deciding to medicate for ADD. If all the physical stuff comes back negative, I would also consider taking him to a pediatric neurologist too, just to rule out any other neurological causes other than ADD. If you rule out all of that and think it is ADD, I'd get an evaluation from a psychologist or psychiatrist to make sure it isn't anxiety, depression, learning disability, or other kind of issue. If you have ADD or ADHD in your family, it is more likely to be ADD than if you don't. They should take a very good developmental history, have you and his teachers do rating scales, and to rule out any learning disability either they or your school's psychologist can do IQ and achievement testing.

If you do get an ADD diagnosis, you can combine behavioral training and medication for the best results. Things like a daily report card from school and a reward system at home can work, among other techniques. Here's some info - good luck! http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-def...

2 moms found this helpful

Please take him to a Neurologist now and don't wait a month for his regular appointment. A sudden change like that means something is going on. This could be physical, emotional, or mental, but needs attention to make sure it is not a tumor, seizures or anything like that. Praying it is a simple issue, but please make sure ASAP. Don't want to scare you, but always better safe than sorry. Let the Dr. tell you it's nothing. Better to be over cautious than under.

2 moms found this helpful

A., two things you said just jumped out at me right away:
"This behavior is pretty new; he was never like this, that I am aware of, until around May" and "Today we had our first soccer practice, and he spaced out in the middle of the field.

I immediately thought petite mal epiletic seizures. Please rule this out with a neurologist before putting him on any ADHD medicine. This sudden change seems rather alarming.

Good luck,
D.

2 moms found this helpful

I am having a similar experience with my 6yo. I am considering this line of product:

http://www.myherbalremedystore.com/add-adhd.html

Particularly the "Bright Spark"

I know very little about the company or the product, but I have used homeopathy for years.

I also have know people who have had great success with this:

http://www.feingold.org/

This is also on my list of things to do with my own child.

Hang in there A., listen to your gut. I know how hard it is to look at your child and fear there is an issue you cant help him with - or worse, worry he will get labeled or you will feel pressure to medicate.

Try to find a good Homeopath, or a Naturopathic Doctor. You can google it for your area, you might be surprised! The holistic community has been dealing with these issues and will advocate for no prescription medication. Support is out there, it just might be a little harder to find.

P. : )

1 mom found this helpful

Like many of your other respondents, I agree that you need to get him to his pediatrician and then to a neurologist AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
This does not sound like ADD/ADHD.
If he is having petit mal seizure activity, you don't know WHY it started a few months ago.
Until he sees a doctor, I would make sure that he eats every couple/few hours in case his blood sugar is dropping.
I would also be careful that he never eats alone. If these are seizures, you need to be cautious about his risk of aspiration when he eats.
Good luck and keep us posted.

1 mom found this helpful

Wow - I could have just about written this, except that my son doesn't have the specific episodes you describe. Since you can pinpoint when it started, perhaps there is something physically wrong.

1 mom found this helpful

I have adult ADHD and I wish my mom would have medicated me as a child if it meant I would have been able to function the way I am able to now that I am taking meds for it. If he has ADHD or ADD it is not something you can punish out of him. So far none of my kids have shown any signs of having it but if they do... I will most certainly give them medicine to help them suceed in school and be focused like all the other children get to be with out medicine. But most of the other posters look like they have some other ideas of what it may be. But you should definitely have him seen by a doctor.

1 mom found this helpful

This sounds exactly like what my niece (she was 7 at the time too) did and she was finally diagnosed with ADD and put on aderall. She was spacing out and we thought she was having staring seizures and her mom had her tested with CT scans and EEGs and everything. She was failing cause she couldnt pay attention in school. It took a year and finally they figured out it was ADD. After she was put on the meds she went from Es to As in 9 weeks and has been doing amazing since. Her mom doesnt give her the meds during the summer and she does ok off them. I would suggest you start with an ADD test and go from there.

PS I wanted to add that they had put my niece on another medicine first but she had some scary side effects from it. She became suicidal so please watch out for things like that if it comes down to him having ADD and you decide to start him on meds. They work very well if you put him on the right ones.

I was surprised to read the advice from the other mothers because most of what you wrote described my 16-year old son as well. The spacing out, at home and school, complete distration, and withdrawal if someone tries to communicate too aggressively (not necessarily yelling either).

My advice is to take him to the doctor. There is the possibility that this can be diagnosed and treated. But if the doctor doesn't find anything, this could possibly just be part of his personality. My 16-year old is extremely creative and he lives inside his head sometimes, writing poems, stories, and raps. I'm creative too so I understand his distraction.

If he is like my son, school will be a struggle. I've had to ask teachers not to be aggressive with him, trying to shake him out of it, and I've had to pay extra attention to his school performance. But my son is a junior in high school now, in an academically demanding program, and he's making it.

Definitely go to the doctor. But also understand that this could simply be the way your son is.

Has anything changed in his life,drastically, that could be causing undue stress?? Has he had a recent round of shots? Punishment is not the answer, but reward when he does good is great! Wheat and gluten are 2 things you may want to watch in his diet. A good multi vitamin with extra B12. Good luck and God bless!

Hi I am a mother of a 9 year old girl who has ADHD. S he takes meds only when she is in school. I do not give them to her on weekends. IT really helps her remember things and has improved on her school alot. I myself have Epilepsy. I take medication for it and have no problems. It sounds to me like the samething I did as a child. I had what is called petitmal seizures. I do not want to worry you or scare you but he needs to be checked by a Dr. If it were my child I would have him checked for both. Even though I had seizures I take meds have 2 wonderful children and live a normal life just like anyone else. IF you need more info go online and check out ADHD and Epilepsy. It might help. Good luck I hope things get better for you. Please let me know how things go.

You don't say he is super hyper. He is probably ADD. Contact a large med Center with a psychology dept. Have him tested. It took several days for my daughter, if done right. You can then, get him help in the school. They may even be able to test him, but to me, it won't be thorough enough. He may need medicine daily during school hours, as these kids have a terrible time focusing. They also need a very structured environment. I also agree with the others, that it may not be add, if it has come on so suddenly, and think a nuerologist is the answer too, and a good place to start. If you have a large med center, see a pediatric nuerologist.

I have two kids that were diagnosed with ADHD but only one has been helped with meds. I really don't like medications and it was hard to come to the decision to medicate. However, Meds don't do it all and you really do need something to help you get started with all the changes you needs to make. I'm in the process of getting my kids tested for dyslexia. All meds don't work the same 1st they were on concerta and now one is on aderall xr 5mg and it only helps him to be able to focus more. You have to 1st don't punish, give ultimatums. 2nd talk to him more and give him only one task at a time. There is great counseling for you and them. I've been given papers on how to micro manage my son and teach him how he can control himself when he's alone. He's almost nine right now, and he just had a terrible week of school. We are back on tract, but his teacher doesn't have the patients to help a kid with ADHD so I might request a change to another teacher. On solution for you might be private or home schooling. They tend to do better with fewer distractions and more one on one instruction. I'm going to have a conference with the teacher soon and ask her to send more school work home. Also don't forget to pray. Our kids need all the help they can get and most of the time that means we have to find it and get it for them.Good luck I hope I' helped.

More than likely your dr will suggest meds unless you have a dr that tries alternative ways. Sometimes it can be your child's diet. All the preservatives and color dyes in food can effect a child's behavior. I have taught for 8 yrs and I have been witness to this. I am not just talking about sugar. One boy could not have anything with the red # dye in it. When he did he would get spacey, emotional, all sorts of reactions. You might do a little research on how foods can effect behavior and try to modify what he eats. It is worth a try before doing meds. Sometimes meds are needed, but I always like to see if there is an outside factor causing the problem and fix that. Hope this helps.

the spacing out really scares me. It sounds like a seizure. not all seizures are people lying on the floor convulsing. call your sons doctor asap! you dont want this to go untreated. if he does need meds for add its not the end of the world. it will make his life sooo much easier.

How about trying some natural supplements to see if that helps. message me if you want the info on what i use for my family. Natural supplements and diet change is where i would start. let me know if i can help you. M.

There are several things that could be going on with a child that age and the symptoms you describe.... the first thing to rule out are physical issues... he could be having seizures... we think of seizures as the grand mal variety but there are lots of types of seizures. I have 4 children .. 2 have attention/focusing problems attributed to ADD... another child of mine has similar features but her inattentiveness is because of seizure activity. The type she has are absence type... sometimes she can fall over...sometimes she stares off or just sort of sits and stares and smacks her lips. Rules that out first... the reason being that stimulant medications such as those used for ADD/ADHD can cause tics, seizures etc so you don't want to experiment on a child that might have a different issue!

I will say that for my two truly ADD kids their symptoms peaked around age 7.... they were somewhat flighty before but at the age they became complete trainwrecks! HA! forgetting things, losing things, couldn'tget organized and so forth. Either way starting at your doctors with a physical is a great idea!

Good luck!
L. B

I would like to suggest to you to try Traditional Chinese Medicine, more commonly known as Acupuncture, for your son. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use herbs, diet and acupuncture to help children with many issues. I have seen children who had been categorized as Autistic "cured" with Chinese Medicine. For more information try tcmpediatrics.com.
Please let me know if I can help you find a practitioner in your area.

A.,
There are many causes for attentional difficulties. Some of the most common are memory and processing difficulties. If a child can not recall something they will seem distracted. If a child's processing of information is very slow, they miss information and can't keep up. Often behavioral problems will occur. Attention and focus can improve with cognitive skills training.
It is a good step to meet with your physician. You can also get a profile of his cognitive skills from multiple professionals and learn about his strengths and weaknesses to gain additional information on contributing factors.

V. Parker, Ph.D.
Learning Rx - Brain Training Facility
www.learningrx.com/charlotte

I can see why you are concerned, it doesn't really sound like this is something that he is doing on purpose or to get attention. It DOES sound very much like the symptoms my cousins kids showed when they were living in a house that had serious mold issues. The family was not aware of the mold (the house had JUST been built and had NO obvious signs of ANY water damage or mold) but each of the kids starting showing various and different symptoms which included "spacing out, inattentiveness, forgetting things (including address & phone numbers!) and also a loss of coordination and muscle control. The 10 yr. old had to drop out of gymnastics because she no longer had good balance or concentration. Once they moved from the moldy home the most (but not all) of the symtoms disappearred over time. Even if it's not a mold issue with your son, this sounds like something you should have checked immediately. If your pediatrician doesn't seem concerned, FIND ANOTHER OPINION, or see a neurologist. Trust your instincts, NO ONE knows your son better than YOU! Best of luck to you and your son!

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