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Saturday, May 22, 2010

To Focus or Not to Focus Part 1

To focus or not to focus, that is the question.  Or is it the problem? The answer, maybe?

Attention.  One word with so many feelings, thoughts, opinions, and fears attached to it.  Some say attention is the new fad and children just need more discipline.  Other will say how real and debilitating living with a child with attention weaknesses can be. 

So, before touching this often controversial and always emotional topic, let me be clear that this is my opinion.  One opinion.  I also reserve the right to change my opinion with the revelations of new research or information.  (I often change my mind, but that’s another topic and not really appropriate.  Ahhh, alas, I’ve gone and lost focus.  Back to the topic.) 

Attention. 

A friend recently asked me, “What do I do about the daydreaming? My daughter is always daydreaming instead of listening to me when I tell her to put her shoes on or brush her teeth.  Every morning I have to tell her to do the same things over and over again.  I get so annoyed.  Do you think she has AD/HD?”

Before I answer the very weighted question, “Does my child have AD/HD?” I’d like to take my readers back in time.  I’d like to ask you to travel back and become your daughter or son’s age.  I want you to remember what it was like to be 7, 8, 9, 14, 16, and so on.   I’ll give you a moment.

An 8 year old boy doesn’t think or care about brushing his teeth or making a bed.  A 14 year old girl is too preoccupied thinking about yesterday’s social events to hear anyone bark orders.  Just as we space out and don’t answer till the 5th “Mommy” or “Daddy”, our children are in their own worlds.  They are too busy staring at their cool Lego spacecraft or fiddling with a toy to be bothered to brush their teeth.  Getting to school on time is a parent’s priority; it is not a child’s. (Although there are some children who get nervous about being late for school.) 

In addition, if every morning the routine is different, then children have no sense of urgency or responsibility.  For example, if the rule is established that breakfast doesn’t get eaten until kids are dressed, then obstacle one (getting dressed) is taken care of without a fight.  Figuring out a routine and a system establishes expectations.  The key is sticking to the routine.  The sticking to the routine is tricky, but doable.  A future post will discuss tips for establishing a routine.

Now, back to the question at hand, “Does my child have AD/HD?”  I believe that attention exists on a spectrum.  We all have moments of more focus and less focus, more impulsivity and less impulsivity.  However, there is a set criteria for diagnosing AD/HD. http://www.help4adhd.org/en/treatment/guides/dsm  The criteria clearly states that these behaviors must be present in at least TWO settings.  This means home AND school AND persist for at least 6 months.  Living with a child with AD/HD can be difficult and frustrating.  It’s much much more than just having a child who won’t brush their hair in the morning or forgets to turn lights off.  

To be continued...

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