Child Having Trouble Focusing in Class

Updated on November 14, 2010
J.P. asks from White House, TN
13 answers

I need some advice on how to get my child to focus in class. He is almost 7 and he is in first grade. He does not have ADD or ADHD. He just doesn't wasnt to do his work. He likes to play and not listen. His teacher has tried candy, treasure box. He is on a point system and if he does certain things he earns points. If he is bad he gets points taken away. Depending on how many points he has depends on what he can do when he gets home. What can the teacher do to motivate him to do his class work instead of waiting for the teacher to give him the answers. She has moved him away from all the students. We also have started him in karate, he is doing well in this with dicipline. Please let me know if you have any suggestions...... Thanks a bunch.

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So What Happened?

He does not have ADD or ADHD and Yes I have had him tested. I am a nurse for a Peds and I have been throught the whole evaluation plus have been to a therapist........

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Chicago on

well we also have this problem...our son is in kindergarten and if he does not want to do something....batten down the hatches and prepare for a battle. I think that this stuborness is a quality that will serve him later in life...if we can teach him to use it for good rather than evil...(ha! ha!)

In any case we have been working with the teachers and trying to find what will motivate him to do his best work. I think that we have come accross something that is working...focusing on the positives only. So everyday when he gets home from school I ask him tell/show me something good that you did today and school then we make a big deal about this. You should see the kids face light up. We are moving the reward (our attention) from the negative to the positive. Teacher is also doing when he is doing his work she says... Ryan great job paying attention and getting that work done, fantastic writing, good job finishing that up before recess....etc. Giving no attention when he is beign "lazy". We have seen a turn around at home and school.

I will not take the credit for this idea.....bought it on a CD from love and logic which is a group of educators that have some really great ideas on how to raise happy healthy kids. It took me several times listening to the CD and then spent about a week internally processing the concepts/suggestions. My first reaction was what do you mean you ignore the negatives. But we have seen it work. Now there is not tears, screaming and negativity surrounding school work. I think most libraries also have these CDs so you could check out for free. I bought "winning the homework battle" on CD for about $13 - best money I have spent this year.
They also have a live webinare that I am also thinking of taking - here is link

Good luck.

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answers from Wilmington on

I would have him tested by other folks, a Dr's Vision Center can test for learning issues, Huntington Learning can test for learning....My child had trouble and was diagnosed with auditory processing issues. He had a hard time making things process through his brain to paper......but was VERY verbal and learned by watching shows/documentaries. He had a hard time learning to read. We had his ears tested and speech. Ended up going through speech therapy as well. I definitely would get his eyes checked but it could be more than just his "seeing" with his eyes......Dr's vision has some awesome scholastical tests. And I also agree with the diet. Take sugar out and my nephew was intolerant to peanut butter. Sugar is in EVERYTHING. Also be careful how much white food you are eating. Those turn into sugar. Forget that candy incentive because it may be backfiring on you. Karate is good. Keep us posted. Good luck!

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answers from Lexington on

Wow. You have gotten some terrific responses! I'd like to add you might check out, although I would not rule out that it is "mental" i.e. a behavioural problem. In my younger daughter's case (she was erroneously diagnosed with ADD and medicated with disastrous results), her lack of focus included many aspects already mentioned in other's responses - such as undiagnosed vision issues, and problems with food sensitivities. That website link mentions books you might be interested in that talk about issues like food allergies.

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answers from New York on

I wish I could help you but I dont know your son. How do you know he doesnt have ADD?? How is he at home if you ask him to put away his toys or go get dressed? Does he do it or just keep playing and what are the consequences if he doesnt follow directions at home? Can you get him to help you at home, take this out to the recycling, put the spoons out on the table etc. You should work with him at home (a lot) on helping you and praising him when he does. If you can get him to "be a big boy" at home it should carry thru to school. Does it ever seem to you that he pretends not to know something? (for attention or because he want to stay the baby-? I s there a new baby in the home? Is the work difficult for him? does the teacher have any ideas as to why he is not paying attention? Keep communicating with the teacher and try to answer all these questions with her help to get to the bottom of what's going on/

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answers from Dallas on

I know someone who had her son tested and discovered he was allergic to dairy. When she took him off dairy suddenly he could focus in school and all his grades went up. Consider having him tested.

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answers from Columbus on

While RTI is the prefered modle in IDEA, that does not mean that schools never test for LD anymore. The can use any evaluation that is appropriate for the situation. It does mean that there are school district lawyers that have done seminars for administrators and staff and have told them that they "can't." I have seen that manuver...nice! Schools should, and do still evaluate for LD's after they have tried RTI. The preference was placed in IDEA to stop schools from manipulating the data of the descrepancy modle so they could deny intervention services. RTI has proved much easier for them to use for this end, unfortunately.

RTI works for kids who present in a particular area of learning, say, reading, and the IDEA preference is that schools provide serivices for the child as if they are learniing disabled, without testing them, such that they are remediated and therefore, never identified. In theory, that mean that children get dyslexia intervention programs wtihout being identified as dyslexic, but just having trouble with reading. I would be remiss if I did not point out that this is not happening in huge numbers all around the country, and I still know many parents fighting to get dyslexia intervention. There is no RTI for inattention at all.

If I am reading your post right, you are talking about quite difficult behavior that you beleive to be deliberate and you have rulled out the neurological issue ADHD with an evaluation. The focus problem is quite severe, and is not responding to repeated in class intervention inspite of additonal diciplinary concequences at home. That is how I am reading it, and your post sounds like you are having a big issue to me, so if you have exaggerated, please feel free to disregaurd what I am about to say. If it is not exaggerated, you may not want to ignore it.

If your son is in the first grade, and you have seen these issues in other situations, I would suggest that you really need a new evaluation for your son. I suggest that it be done as soon as posible by a Neuropsycholgist, and that you take that evaluation report to a board certified child psychiatrist. I would want to get a second opinion on your evaluation, having ADHD would be a lot easier issue to help him with than other issues if he is doing this deliberately.

If you have had and evaluation done by a neurpsychologist, or had a full evaluation by a Developmental Pediatrician that is about 15 pages long, you cannot say that he does or does not have ADHD. ADD no longer exists as a diagnosis, it is all ADHD of various types.. If you have this evaluation, and you have all the IQ, processing, academic, speech-language numbers, and they are all indicative that there are no issues, then you should probably explore a more indepth psychological evaluation for the cause of this behavior and resistance. Emotional issues can have impact as well.

Learning disablities can cause students to refuse to work, as can visual motor issues, sensory issues, and many others, in addition to ADHD. Giftedness, with a relative weakness in one or more processing skill areas can cause inattention and work refusal. All would be identified by a neuropsychologcial evaluation.

Do you have a bunch of pages of evaluation data in your evaluation report that ruled out ADHD that you can look to for answers? If you have those numbers, and you need help to sort them out, PM me, I would be happy to try and explain. Standard scores and subtests are really confusing if you have not ever dealt with them, and sometimes you really do not need to know what the "digit span" sub test means, but I can tell you. If you want to learn about it yourself, you can log on to and read the article Tests and Measurments for Parents and Advocates, it may help you sort out all the pages in your evaluation report. Again, if you don't have an evaluation, and focus, attention, behavior and work refusal is an issue inspite of significant and consistant dicipline and concequences, you really need an evaluation to determine why, if it is not ADHD, you need to know what it is, and a full evaluation will give you the answers you seek, most likely.

My experience is that most kids don't do this kind of thing on purpose, they please when ever they can, and they just are not that lazy. One book suggestion for you would be The Myth of Laziness, by Dr. Mel Levine.

I am suggesting a private evaluation, but that does not mean that the school is off the hook. You need it to keep the school honest, so that they do not pull the wool over your eyes like some are doing with RTI! Write to them about an evaluation for him, your teacher has already tried in class interventions, and they do not appear to be working. If he is just in Kindergarten, you will probably have to wait for first grade. Certainly, if this continues, you should seek more information as to why, it will help you target your intervention so that you are not stabbing in the dark.


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answers from Dover on

Boys tend to be harder to motivate where school is concerned. Maybe he is bored, maybe he is too challenged. Talk to the counselor at the school.



answers from Hartford on

I think everyone needs to remember that he is 7. Testing is no longer used to determine if children have learning disabilities anymore. The response to intervention model is used and that is based on academic skills not behavior. Maybe the teacher needs to use the point system to implement rewards in school, he may not be able to wait until he gets home to have the reward. There are so many things that can influence behavior and focus, I would look at his diet and his sleep patterns, but I think it's nuts to take all sugar and white flour out of his diet- everything in moderation. You may want to bring the issue up with the MD, it could be ADD, or it could be that he's a 7 year old boy.



answers from Knoxville on

People, children and adults, have different learning styles. Some ppl can read a text and understand the material, other people have to do it hands on or they don't get it. Some need to have complete quiet to understand, others need some background noise. Talk to the teacher about his learning figuring out what his learning style is then see if that can be incorporated into his school day. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

A few things 1. has he had his eyes checked by an actual optometrist not just the chart at the pediatrician's office? My oldest had a problem in first and second grade and although he passed the eye exam all the time it was found out that he needed glasses. Much easier to pay attention if you can see. 2. how are the desks arranged? My son cannot get work done when the put the desks into groups of 4 to make little squares it is too distracting for him. 3. How do you know he does not have adhd has he been evaluated? My son does and during the evaluation the school does one of the special ed teachers sat in an observed the classroom and discovered a few things one of those being that he does not pay attention to classroom directions unless he already has the worksheet or test in his hands so his teachers know they must give him the work first. 4. Is he being overwhelmed? Part of my son's problem in first grade was he could not get himself organized to get the work done he needed a lot of assistance and encouragement from his teacher. 5. It got to the point in first grade that if he did not complete his work he stayed inside to finish it and he never really minded missing recess because he is very laid back. 6. If he likes to play and not listen he should be in the front right next to the teacher and they should come up with some sign that tells him he needs to pay attention like tapping his desk or something else. 7. I have heard that karate is very good for kids with adhd unfortunately it is outrageously priced in my area and they really aren't close by so if he is doing well and benefiting from it keep it up 8. boys with adhd that are inattentive tend to play during class which is what you say your son is doing.


answers from Naples on

I am in the same situation. My son is also 7 in second grade. This started in the first grade and we thought it would get better. This year I asked his teacher for help. She is also trying the reward system at school and I have a sticker chart at home. I reward him with a sticker when he reads an entire book, cleans his toys up without trouble, does his homework without a fuss, follow directions etc... I also have another chart with Xs. When he misbehaves while doing homework or doesn't follow directions etc he gets an X. He doesn't like getting an X so he is really trying. I am not saying he is doing great, he still gets Xs but it's a start. I am trying to make him slow down and focus. Also, trying to help him "like" school work by rewarding him when he figures things out or finishes homework, projects etc. I also requested for him to have a tutor at school. There are a few kids in his class that attend during "specials". He starts Monday. I hope this helps.



answers from Louisville on

I am interested in why you say he doesnt have add. Have you had him tested? that is the only real way to know. i suggest doing it. it sounds like it could be add

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