Focusing in the classroom: In the... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Focusing in the classroom


In the classroom, my Freshman son just can't find it in himself to focus. At all. He can't complete in class assignments and his teacher today said when she walked over to the computer he was just playing with the fonts.

He is currently on a low dose of Ritalin but he was on a higher dose of Adderall in middle school and this behavior was never curbed. How do we know when this stems from ADD and this child truly can't focus versus his personality needs A LOT of discipline? We do try to walk that line between discipline and empathy.

Thanks all :)

12 Replies

caeeiej- Thanks for posting this message. I assume all parents/guardians have heard this out of a teacher ( before we hear anything positive about them) about their child. A few thoughts come to mind.

1. Does your son have a 504 or IEP ( these are educational plans) both assist your child in an educational system. It is clear that when a teacher says something like this they are unclear on what children with ADHD are like in class.

2. Is your child taking any medication to help him with focus? Being unfocused in class is a result/symptom of ADHD. Many children can not focus without assistance. This struggle will only become harder with the higher demands of high school .

3. Is this a class that is to challenging for your child or is he able to do the following: listen while paying attention, take notes, turn in assignments, know what to study for an exam and then take and be successful on the exam. If the answer to all of these is NO. Then your child needs some assistance from the school. This comes in a formalized plan, which can include things to help him.

4. Is he seeing a counselor to help him deal with the stresses of being successful in school/life?

5. If he is not taking a medication to assist with focus ( Guanfacine/Intuniv is one) then you may need him to see a child psychiatrist who can help you manage his symptoms and what dose, type and timing of medication. (Ritalin helps with impulse control)

6. ( Sorry this ended up being longer than I thought...) education of each teacher who he has in school and the person who helps with his educational plan.

Hope these help, please ask more questions if you need to, just know that he is not trying to be "unfocused" in class.

Take care

Thank you for your comments. He does have a 504 which gives him extra time but perhaps we need to seek further accommodations.

He was seeing a therapist but as my son said he just wanted to talk to him about his day so that was not helping manage ADHD symptoms.

That is an interesting point you made about Ritalin vs. Guanfacine. He was on Metadate for awhile. It did nothing but make him tired and he gained 15 pounds.

I need to step up my parent game at school. Asking the teacher if she realizes he has ADHD would have been good to do.

Thanks for posting back. Yes there is a big difference between taking a impulse control drug ( Ritalin, etc.) and a focus drug. Our son takes a 24 hour focus drug which also helps him sleep. This was recommend by our child psychiatrist ( we had a single dose before and still had lots of issues ) and he has been very successful ( 4 A's, C- and 1 D) in school. We dream of no low grades and we will get there. But I have had at least 2 504 meetings to educate the teachers that " NO, he is not lazy".. you have to help him, go over what is missing and give him that extended time to help him be successful.

It is a long journey with so many responsibilities for parents.

Let me know if you have any questions. If he is not successful right now then the 504 plan does not have enough in it to help him.

Take care

Thank you so much. This feedback helps a lot especially your last line about the 504 may not have enough to help him.

Pennywink in reply to carriej

That’s interesting that you said he gained weight on Metadate, as that is an atypical reaction for stimulants, to my (albeit layman) knowledge. My son was sleepy on it for about 2 weeks, then adjusted, and we’ve definitely had to make sure he eats well to keep his weight from dropping.

Who is your prescribing physician? If it’s the pediatrician, it may be time to talk to a psychiatrist. My guess is he may need a med / dosage change - or possibly even a misdiagnosis or overriding comorbidity to look into??? (I say that with extreme caution - please take it with a grain of salt, given my “stranger on the Internet” status.)

That being said - you can drive yourself crazy trying to pinpoint what is ADHD vs comorbidity vs growing boy. When in doubt; just focus on the behavior & the tools to help it. I recommend checking out Smart But Scattered Teens by Peg Dawson, if you haven’t yet. The school psychologist may also be a valuable resource.

Ldydy24 in reply to Pennywink

Definitely agree working with a psychiatrist vs. a pediatrician. Finding the right medicine is a journey but there is hope in most cases. When you find the right mix of meds, it makes a big difference.

carriej in reply to Pennywink

We do see a psychiatrist. I will check out that book thanks!

You've gotten some great advice already, so there's not much I can add--I'm in the same boat. I have a freshman son as well and I've received some of those same comments from teachers. Right now I'm on pins and needles because there's only a few weeks left and here comes the last projects due and finals. My son comes home with blank papers or partially completed papers 90% of the time, so we have to do a "homework weekend". We've tried some medications, but they made him sick and we haven't gone that route again just yet. I plan to try again this summer to see his reaction. It's so hard having a teen and adding ADHD to it makes the road even more difficult. I pray daily and continue to seek out help. I found an ADHD coach in this area, but he refuses to go--he thinks he can make it on his own! He's very stubborn and that doesn't help. Like all teens, he wants to be just like everyone else and he feels going to an ADHD coach makes it appear like something is "wrong" with him. I've told him a million times that ADHD has nothing to do with intellect, he will tell me "okay Mom!" But I know he still feels that way. I plan this summer to bring up the coach again and see if he will just go for one visit. I sure miss the days where it was easier to get a child to go through with something. It's just so hard, and I constantly worry daily. I pray to God and Hope we will find the breakthrough that will work for him. I'm sorry to go on--I really just wanted to let you know that we all understand what you are feeling and going through. I wish the best for you and your son.

Hi Christina!

People with ADHD are frequently unaware of their behaviors and also overconfident in their abilities.

They also aren’t always great candidates for therapy, as they seem to struggle with working memory - they usually know what to do, they just can’t access that information when they need it - interventions need to happen where the weaknesses are occurring. So if your son is still resistant to seeing an ADHD coach, it might be better for you to talk to the coach or a psychologist or trained professional who can guide you through helping your son & teaching you to be the “coach” at home, which is where the training would be much more effective for your son. Does that make any sense?

Best of luck for this summer!

Thank you for reaching out! I wish the best for you too. I know our kids will lead successful lives - it is just getting there!

We asked for full academic testing to see if my son had a learning disability on top of his ADHD. They agree he has an issue, but because he is intelligent they cannot provide special education services. Which made me angry at first because he grades clearly do not reflect his intelligence, but then they said they are going to use those results to select better accommodations for him next year. For instance, extra time is not a good accommodation if it puts him behind on the next task or if he uses it to go further down the rabbit hole. After a year of being told he isn't paying attention and doesn't listen (uh yeah duh he has ADHD), I also asked for only teachers who have training in ADHD and they have agreed. They also agreed to have his start of the year 504 meeting before classes start. So I threw out 6th grade and I'm hoping 7th grade will be better. I don't think my kid needs to be disciplined (as in punished) but he does better in classes where the teacher is organized and disciplined. We hired an Adhd coach and at the beginning of the school year, I want her to work with him on organizing his work and time.

All that to say I get what you are saying all too well :) and I'm hoping we both have a better school year next time!

Thank you for your message! That is a great point about the extra time. I find it may not do my son any favors so I will have to bring that up. And definitely see if we can have that 504 meeting before school starts.

Happy Summer!

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