Our 5yo son seems to be falling behind in school. He has a very short attention span and it is becoming very frustrating for my wife and I to teach him. He has a tutor from the school come over once a week, but even she says that it is a problem to keep him focused for more than 10 min at a time. She seems to only be playing games with him yet we see little progress. He is bright, however, with an excellent vocabulary, imaginary thinking and is able to exptrapolate on ideas. We had him tested by a child psychologist last year who said he had a strong memory and he scored in the 80th percentile, but he just gave us the diagnosis of ADHD and no recommendations. Many tell us that it is just a phase and that he will out grow it. My wife wants to hold him back a year to give him time to outgrow the problem and grow emotionally. I feel that he justs needs more attention and some tutoring.
As Physicians, my wife and I don't want to "label' or self diagnose him.
It is so hard to be objective about your own child, after all, you would give him your kidney at the drop of a hat! I am disappointed but not surprised that the psychologist gave a diagnosis and no recommendations. I wonder if the assessor actually performed any tests of sustained attention (beyond checklists?), such as the NEPSY-II or Kidde CPT? If not, I would keep an open mind about the diagnosis, and possibly seek a second opinion. Some psychologists do not know much about education and pedagogy, and may not know what should be happening on a practical level in the classroom to help a struggling child.
There are many reasons your son could be having trouble, and one of which could be that he has a high activity level and is just not ready for the heavy demands many school systems have been placing on kindergarteners (reading, extended seatwork, homework etc). Kindergarten now looks more like first grade used to, with less attention given to the children's needs to move their bodies and be active. This classroom may not be a good fit for his temperament.
The current lit reviews regarding retention do not support its efficacy for most children. Kids tend to get a 'boost' in the beginning of the year and then loose those gains as peers pull ahead. That said, if you are going to try it, this is the time to do so because you could do so with the least social/emotional cost to the child. Tutoring usually does help for children with ADHD if it is individualized (not the generic type where they drill children with worksheets as is the case with the most widely advertised tutoring companies you see on TV and in magazines).
It is still early in the school year, so not the time to panic. I would keep a close eye on what is happening and develop a really good relationship with the teacher (join the PTA, volunteer to make cupcakes--the whole thing). If he is making progress towards kindergarten 'benchmarks' then great. If he is not learning or if his behavior begins to decline, then after mid year, I would seek a second opinion from someone with training in both school and clinical psychology. Meantime, check out the book Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents of Children with ADHD. Its a great resource. Another excellent book about neuropsychological development is Your Child's Growing Mind by Dr. Jane Healy.
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