55 answers

My Son Has Trouble Paying Attention in School

I have a 9 year old son who has trouble paying attention in school. He isn't hyper at all so I know that ADHD is out of the question but he does have trouble staying focused and on task. I thought he was doing better this year but after speaking with his teacher the other day I found out this wasn't true. She is also concerned since in the 5th grade they are so much more responsible for themselves and he has such a hard time staying on track. I can tell him to brush his teeth at night and he will go to the bathroom and go pee instead of brushing his teeth!! He gets good grades but he is very unorganized and very distractable. His handwriting is also horrible. Any suggestions to get him a little more on track?

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He may have ADD (Attention Deficit without the hyperactivity. That is what my daughter has and I hate it anymore that they are lumped together. They are 2 different things I correct people constantly. Anyhow, things that you can try are when you tell him something have him repeat it to you. My daugher is on medication because she really could not function at school no matter what we or the teachers did and was falling way behind because of it.

If you would like more information about medications or things to do I will be happy to talk with you. My email is ____@____.com


Have you considered his diet? My son was having concentration issues & I began cutting out foods with RED 40 dye & most preservatives. I don't know if its possible, but dyes in foods & preservatives are causing behavioral difficulties in kids who otherwise don't/didn't have them.
Also something I've started using for my kids is MonaVie, its a juice that gives them the basis for all nutrition (including Omega 3's etc.) & rebuilds brain cells, helping them in areas of health & brain function... worth a look? www.juice-moms.info

You may look into CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder) or at least different aspects of it. He doesn't necessarily have to have the whole gammit, but with the proper testing/screening, you may be able to identify more of what the problem is. CAPD is where a person may only hear every other syllable of what you're saying or every other word of what you're saying, therefore, their responses may be odd/different. This greatly affects schoolwork, as with CAPD, the child can not decipher between what the teacher is saying (her/his voice) and the extraneous noises of what's around him (i.e. another classroom, students around him, the clock ticking, etc).
Just a thought?!

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Word for word you could be talking about my son. I had the exact conversation with his teachers in 4th grade. Just because he doesn't have ADHD doesn't mean he doesn't have ADD. You should have him tested. There are different levels of ADD. My son is borderline. My problem is that my sons school would not work with us to help him find a education plan that works for him unless we had it documented in his permanant record. We made the decision not to because in 3rd grade his teacher read his record before meeting him in which his 2nd grade teacher at a diffent school had noted that he should be tested and decided he was going to be a problem. He ended up being her favorite student once she got to know him. Now he is about to enter high school and I'm not sure if we made the right decision. He scores a 98% on standerized testing but is getting C's and D's because he can remeber to turn in his homework.

So to answer your question, the thing that has worked the best for me is LISTS. List everything step by step. There is one one the bathroom door What to do when you get up, What to do before bed, There is one on his bedroom door What to do WHen he gets home from school. There is even one that says What Must be done before you ask to play video games. By thye way video games are great for hand eye coordination so it may help with the handwriting. But most of all PATIENCE. I find that my son remembers more when he has less stress and he has less stress when I try to be more patient. And Lots of praise when he does remember things with out being told 100 times. Good luck. I know how stressful and hard it is to raise a unorganized forgetful son.

1 mom found this helpful

I am an elementary school teacher, and I have had several students with the same issues as your son. My most important suggestion is to have a lot of communication with your son's teacher, maybe even daily e-mails home about his behavior. It really makes a difference in student achievement when the parents are involved! You could try rewarding him with something special for good days, or losing TV, video game, or computer privleges for not so good days. Obviously, I'm not an expert at diagnosing attention problems, but it does sound as if your son has some ADD symptoms. Children with ADHD have the hyperactivity, but children with ADD can be disorganized, have trouble focusing, and have trouble following directions. (Not all kids that exhibit these behaviors have ADD, but it's always possible and it never hurts to check with a doctor!) I suggest taking your son to his pediatrician, and he/she will give you a form for you to take to your child's teacher. The teacher will write down what she observes about your son's behavior, and then the pediatrician will evaluate it. If they do decide that he has ADD and reqires medication, they will probably have to try several different medications and dosages before they find what will work. Good luck with everything, and I wish you and your son the best!

1 mom found this helpful

M., Your son may not be ADHD, but he has ALL of the traits of a child with ADD. Been there, done that, survived! And we now have a 23-year-old son who is doing ok. If you don't mind, I'd like to share some things I learned about my son (and myself) as we worked our way through those years.

When Andrew was in 2nd grade, his teacher complained that he had difficulty paying attention in class. We were already aware that he was a fairly bright kid - wanting to read in kindergarten and quickly learning to do so. My initial thought was that because she was retiring at the end of that school year, didn't have the "love" for teaching as she once did, therefore she wasn't putting in the effort that perhaps she one had. There were also several challenging youngsters in this class. We talked with our son about the importance of paying attention and following directions, and while he seemed to understand, the teacher continued to let me know about every little thing that he did or didn't do. The proverbial "straw" was when she attached a note to a timed test of math facts. On this particular test, our son had done poorly. All his previous tests were 100%. What he had done was complete only the problems around the perimeter of the page and left all of the others blank. When I asked him why, he told me that he was tired of doing those simple problems over and over. Aha! He had mastered this skill and was ready for something more challenging. (He was bored with the same old timed tests of simple math facts!) When I followed up with his teacher and told her what he'd told me, she refused to believe me, preferring to believe that he was instead lazy. Third grade went much better. Part of that I credited to his maturing a little bit, and much of it was due to a teacher who offered challenges to those students who were ready to move on. When I told this teacher about the math test from last year, she laughed. At conference time, she told me that he was having some difficulty following instructions, but he was not disruptive. This was a good year for him academically.

Unfortunately, fourth grade was a disaster! Not only for our son, but also for my husband and I in trying to deal with what was happening at school. I felt we needed to do something to help the situation and my husband initially laughed it off, saying boys will be boys. One time after getting a call from the teacher for a meeting with my husband and I, we sat Andrew down for a serious talk. I knew there were several rambunctious boys in this class and that didn't help the situation. They tended to "feed" off of one another. Misbehavior in class had not been a problem for Andrew previously, but I knew that if he wasn't "busy" he could get into it! And he did. We told him what our expectations were concerning his classroom behavior. He got upset and felt that we weren't listening to him and were "siding" with the teacher. (Some parents - like me - still give the teacher the benefit of the doubt.) So, we asked him for his side of the story. He told us that the teacher yelled and threatened them with no recess. She also gave them so many "orders" that he couldn't remember them all (there's a flag), and he WAS finished with his work and had checked it and was still waiting on others to finish, he didn't have anything to do. Now, my son who pretty much liked school and loved learning, was "sick of school" and hated his teacher. Because I knew a number of the other parents whose children were in this class, I spoke with them and asked if their child had ever complained or mentioned that the teacher yelled and threatened. I got a resounding yes. And because I knew several of the rambunctious boys because they were often at our house to play, I could imagine how they might take advantage of a frustrated teacher with a raised voice. (I chuckle now, but back then I was mortified that my child was not a model student, and in some respects I have to agree with my husband that boys will be boys.) Early in the spring of that year, 4 sets of parents were summoned to school to meet with the teacher and principal. Our boys had staged a boycott on doing something the teacher assigned them to do. No one boy was guilty, and no one would rat another out. They were in this together. I don't even remember now what they were supposed to do, but they'd decided not to do it. I was at my wit's end and actually thought maybe the 2nd grade teacher was right when she said that my child might do better in school if he were on medication. But I wasn't ready to bow to that. (We did however, try medication for awhile, but our son didn't like how it made him "feel". He was also sometimes groggy during the day and couldn't sleep at night. After consulting his doc, we discontinued the meds. Personally, I feel like they are over-prescribed - everyone has their own thoughts on this - and we found others ways to deal with the situation.)

Instead, we spent a lot of time at home talking about proper school behavior. I was also noticing some of the same things that the teachers had said about following directions and being on-task. Our son was VERY into LEGOs! And he spent many hours building and playing with them - not a bad thing at all. But I started to notice that if I asked him to do something when he was engrossed in the Legos, he may have answered me, but gone right on playing. I'd ask again; still no action. Next time, I'd raise my voice, he'd answer, but still not get up to do it. Finally, I'd yell, and he would yell back - "Why do you have to yell and be mean when you want me to do something?" I explained that I'd already asked him 3 or 4 times in a nice tone, but he didn't get up and do what I had asked. He'd say he didn't hear me - even though he had answered. This same scenario occurred at dinner time too, if he was reading, or doing his homework or playing. This cycle continued with Andrew and us being at odds frequently. In the meantime, I had been reading about ADHD and ADD - the differences and similarities. One thing that literally shouted at me was that children with ADD (attention deficit disorder) have trouble doing is focusing, changing focus and/or re-focusing. The light bulbed flashed on! I finally had an answer to our situation - not only at home, but I also understood how it was affecting Andrew at school.

At times he was slow to begin focusing on his work - other things distracted him - thoughts, the sound of an AF cargo plane flying overhead, the squirrel in the tree outside the classroom window, children shouting on the playground, etc. I learned that his head was filled with thoughts and they came at him so fast sometimes that he couldn't decide what to follow through on.

Then once he was focused on something, ie Legos, he was DEEPLY focused and it was very hard to tear his thoughts away from the Legos. Same things happens in the classroom - the student is working on a math assignment and it's time now for social studies. The teacher instructs them to put their math books away and get their social studies books out of their desks. An ADD child is likely so focused on math that he didn't hear the instruction and goes right on working.

Once the focus on math is finally broken, there is the need to re-focus on social studies when thoughts of math are still firing in the brain. So you see, this can be a vicious circle for the kid.

I was also enlightened by what I read about the ADD child's ability to follow instructions. The focusing issue aside, it's time to prepare for leaving school for the day. The teacher instructs the students to check the board for assignments and to get those books from their desks that they need to complete any work they didn't finish in class. She goes on to say, "There are papers in your "mailboxes" that need to go home. One of them is the permission slip for the field trip which is coming up in two weeks. Be sure to have mom or dad sign it and bring it back to school tomorrow if possible." She's interrupted by a PA announcement that Bus 4 has been delayed and those students are asked to wait in their classrooms.

You get the idea. There are so many instructions to remember. For the ADD kid who was "torn" away from his math work to begin social studies, he probably didn't write down the assignment or now doesn't remember that he didn't finish the math homework. And even if he is able to focus on getting the books he needs to take home, the teacher is already on to the mailboxes having papers in them that have to go home, to field trip, to bus delay - which bus was it? I was practically in tears as I read - remembering myself in 4th & 5th grades when changing subjects and trying to make sure I had everything I needed to take home at the end of the day. I somehow learned coping mechanisms - there wasn't any explanation for what I was dealing with in the 60's. But now I understood, remembered my frustration, and could help our son.

What I read also led me to recognize what kind of learning situation/teacher would best suit Andrew's situation. So, I made an appointment to meet with the principal to talk about our son's placement for 5th grade. It's generally frowned upon to request a specific teacher - unless of course you are on the school board and I wasn't. So without mentioning any teacher by name, I described some of the difficulties we had encountered during the school year, shared some of my insight from things I had read, and described what I felt would be the most positive learning situation for Andrew. God willing, the teacher whose classroom I felt would be best for him was the one he was assigned to. She was open to hearing what I had learned about my child and willing to do what she could to help insure his success as well as that of all of her students. What a gift she was!

Throughout jr. high and high school, his teachers repeatedly told us, "Andrew has way more potential than what he shows in the classroom." We know it, but he has to see it for himself. Changing classrooms in junior high and high school made it easier to change subject focus, but the mind is still at work - racing faster than thoughts can be put to words or to paper.

Today, our son is 23 (24 in July). He started college, took some time off to work when he "wasn't into school", and is now back in school, slowly working toward finishing his degree in Political Science and Communications. Yet when he is interested in pursuing something he goes after it 100%. He was on the debate team in high school and played ice hockey since 5th grade. Now he's into cars and sports. He even landed an internship with a sports radio station that has turned into a paying job.

I'm sorry if I've given you way more information than you asked for, but I hope it is helpful to see the long term results of the challenges you may face with your child. Just keep loving and supporting your child and learn what you can about how he thinks (ask him sometimes).Iif you think your son might be ADD, read about it, and finally pray!

I am currently mom of 2 college students, previously taught school and ran my own business. Today, I'm a free lance writer and do the books for my husband's business.

1 mom found this helpful

He may have ADD (Attention Deficit without the hyperactivity. That is what my daughter has and I hate it anymore that they are lumped together. They are 2 different things I correct people constantly. Anyhow, things that you can try are when you tell him something have him repeat it to you. My daugher is on medication because she really could not function at school no matter what we or the teachers did and was falling way behind because of it.

If you would like more information about medications or things to do I will be happy to talk with you. My email is ____@____.com


I do not know if your child is inattentive or Hyperactive/Impulsive but he sounds like he is primarily inattentive. I have a blog of information on the inattentive subtype of ADHD. For the primarily inattentive type sometimes behavioral and diet interventions work as well or better than stimulants. I have written about the behavioral and diet interventions that scientist have proven help ADD and ADHD. The URL is http://primarilyinattentiveadd.blogspot.com.

Nuchelle Hi

I am a first grade teacher and ADHD is not out of the question. This stand for Attention Deficiet Hyperactivity Disorder. He may not have the Hyeractivity side, but the attention deficiet side, meaning he has a hard time staying focused and on task. You need to take his report card and remarks from his teacher to his doctor. There they should give his teacher a form to fill out on his performance in school. The could be a possibility that some form a medication would help your son stay on track.
Parents often don't see this in their own children, teachers on the other hand can pick this up real quick. Hope this helps, but really take him to the dr. L.

There are two types of ADHD with and without hyperactivity...I would talk to your pediatrician--school districts can also have you fill out behavioral scales which rate things like distractibility--the Connors is a good one that relates to the DSM-IV which doctors use to diagnose such issues. You could also take this to your pediatrician--good luck!~
M. (behavior specialist for local school district!)

i have four sons,,two of which have a.d.h.d. One with hyperactived and one without (a.d.d.)my son that is a.d.d.
Couldn't focus and get school work done,after he was tested
they put him on addurall which worked wonders and he was in
first grade. Today shayne is in 11th and doesn't take meds.
And they have him in speicel ed. Just!!! To give him more time to conplete asignments. Shayne is almost a straight a
student!! So don't give up on him!!!!

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