In my previous blog I’ve mentioned some of the elements that may contribute to concentration problems and why it is important to first consider them before consulting a medical professional. Let’s discuss each one of these points in more depth:
- A preschool and even primary school child should not be diagnosed with ADHD in a hurry. The reason for this lies primarily in the fact that they haven’t learned to control their abilities to stay focused optimally. They are still in the process of extending their attention faculties. Furthermore, children of this age is still very active – some more than others – which is natural and should not be misconstrued as being hyperactive or having an attention deficit. Before a child at preschool or primary school age is diagnosed with ADHD a thorough intervention program should first be implemented to ascertain that concentration problems may not be due to other factors than a chemical imbalance. More information on this will be provided in future blogs.
- The second possible reason for inattention provided in the previous blog was the possibility of a lack in structure and organised routine causing concentration problems. Some primary school children had no formal education before they’ve entered Grade 1 and in addition to that many children did not have the necessary structure and routines in their lives enabling them to adopt a way of doing and thinking that is more organised. If a child’s life is characterised by unpredictability and a chaotic haphazard way of dealing with the demands of everyday life, not much can be expected of the child regarding organisation and structure. Such a child learns to deal with things as they come up instead of being prepared due to the predictability of how to handle what comes next in an ordinary school day. This filters down from practical tasks to more complex abstract thought processing that needs to be aligned according to the task at hand. Parents and the preschool environment provide preschool children with much of the structure they need before entering Grade 1. If they didn’t attend a preschool class and the parents are also disorganised, then such a child will most probably appear to have concentration problems since he doesn’t know how to organise and structure his tasks and thinking processes.
- Some children, not only the very young ones, but also older children that should have outgrown the very energetic stage of pre- and primary school, are very unmotivated to learn and to be involved in school work. Although a learning disability or difficulty, or emotional problems may be legitimate reasons for not being interested in school work, there are a large portion of children presenting with inattention that are merely unmotivated to learn due to growing up in a culture where learning is not highly prioritised. At home the parents do not portray the importance of learning through role modelling and many times a climate of learning is not properly cultivated at home due to parents who are not interested in what their children do in school. They rarely attend to their child’s homework or even parents evening opportunities to learn more about school, the learning material and what is expected of the children according to the curriculum. Children reared in such an annihilated learning climate will rarely show any interest in school work. Consequently they do not see the reason for learning and maybe even going to school. School has become a prison to them from which they escape by acts of inattention – either daydreaming or being involved in other activities than school work.
- The fourth fact mentioned in the previous blog is that some children on entering school are emotionally not ready for the more formal tasks of Grade 1 work. They still want to and actually need to play more. If they are still very young and if the opportunity is granted to still “play” for one more year before going to Grade 1, they are many times more mature on an emotional and neuro-cognitive level to be able to adjust to the work demands of formal education. If this is not granted such a child may perceive school as a harsh unfriendly environment since he will continually be addressed to keep up with the work, to pay attention and to work harder. Again the school may become the child’s prison. Whereas when a child enters school when he is ready he/she may experience it as a stimulating challenging environment where he can portray his strengths and abilities. Parents should make very sure that their children are ready for the school environment when they enrol them in Grade 1, since it causes a lot of upheaval on the school’s, child’s and parent’s side when they discover in the course of Grade 1 that it would be better to take their child out of school to only go back the next year. However, even if this should be the case it is still better to remove the child from Grade 1 to “play” another year in preschool than facing the possibility of retention or all the other negative consequences mentioned above.
- In the fifth instance some children are exposed to emotional stressful situations or even abuse (physical and/or emotional) at home due to various factors. These children obviously find it very hard to stay focused due to constantly intruding fearful thoughts. Parents going through transitions such as divorce, moving to another house or area, changing jobs, illness and financial and/or family/relationship related difficulties must make sure that their children are supported on all levels, since all these factors can have a profound influence on a child’s ability to stay focused in school.
- The last point mentioned in the previous blog refers to authentic ADHD, which is due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Since this cannot be tested directly it has become a truly complicated task to determine whether a child has ADHD or not. Mere observation is not enough and a consultation or two at the doctor will not provide with the answers to make an informed decision regarding taking schedule 7 medication. As parent you can rule out many of the factors mentioned above so that by a process of elimination the cause of inattention can be narrowed down as far as possible to one or two factors. Even then just relying on a diagnosis and prescription medicine may not provide a viable solution to the problem. If all has been done and said as mentioned in the various possible causes of concentration problems above and the problem seems to persist to the extent that the child’s or the family’s functionality have been disrupted, then I would suggest that an Educational Psychologist undertakes an investigation in determining the possible causes and solutions to the problem. Carefully choose a thorough Educational Psychologist who will go the extra mile.
As you may realise by now, parents can play an extremely important role in eliminating possible factors negatively influencing their children’s concentration. If you have any ideas or solutions that you would like to add, please add your comments below.
My next blog will be about how you as a parent can help structure your child’s life with regard to school work.