Ask the Expert: Why Is My Son Less Focused in School Than at Home?
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If in fact it’s an attentional problem, the parent should be considering if there is an attention deficit disorder, which certainly can be reliably diagnosed at that age. It’s premature to suggest an evaluation, but she should discuss it with his healthcare providers. He’s old enough that he’s already gotten classified as having special needs, so it’s by no means too early to intervene.
Part of what this parent will want to do is make sure the child's IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) is addressing attentional issues or persistence issues. At the next IEP meeting, she should bring anecdotes from the teacher about his behavior and ask, in an advocacy sort of way, how the IEP address these specific issues that are being observed.
Finally, ChildMind.org would be a great resource for the parent to help her better understand her child’s behavior and its possible causes.
Steven Kurtz, Ph.D., ABPP, is senior director of the ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorders Center and director of the Selective Mutism Program at the Child Mind Institute, a Manhattan-based organization dedicated to bettering mental health care for children everywhere.