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Avatar universal

Focusing Issues

Our daughter, 9, is in 4th grade and her teacher recently called a conference regarding her grades.  In the past, she attended a Montessori school up to kindergarten.  Grades 1 & 2 were attended at a small, private school.  Grade 1 was unremarkable, grade 2 unremarkable. She was tested and passed, but barely, for the gifted program in the public school system.  We enrolled her in the gifted program, but pulled her out. It wasn't for her. Too challenging. Last year, third grade, I saw that she was having some problems.  Her grades were dropping.  On tests she would rarely get an F, some D's and C's and B's.  Her teacher and I talked several times (at the teacher's request).  Now, her 4th grade teacher says she is having major focusing problems.  She needs a lot of think time.  She does not get her morning work done on time.  Her tests and quizzes lately have been disasterous.  But, the grades are over the place.  She will get a B, then do horribly and get F's.  I am talking in the 30% range.  She can read well, but I don't think she is comprehending all.  When she writes her answers for homework, she will answer in a one word sentence.  Just enough to get it right.  She misspells words constantly, even if the word she is writing is already on the page she is working on, or she has written it before on the same page.  She is constantly erasing and rewriting due to the words being misspelled or the context of what has been written.  She forgets to capitalize and punctuate sentences. Two days ago, she ripped up 4 tests that had failing grades and placed the ripped pieces into a garbage can in the bathroom.  I found the  little pieces of paper on the floor and confronted her.  I was to sign these tests and she was to return them to the teacher.  She was extremely upset when I asked her why she tore the tests up.  She says her brain is stupid.  She felt horrible, truly miserable.  Her teacher has a masters in learning disabilities and does not think this is the case.  She does have focusing issues and I felt that way last year.  She will be doing her homework, and then ask me a question totally unrelated to what she is doing.  Or tell a story about a friend.  Her mind is not on her work and is playing elsewhere, if you know what I mean.  She idolizes a friend in her current class, that was in her class last year, and constantly talks about her friend and how funny she is.  She wants to be like this friend.  I think her mind is elsewhere and not in school.  She says she is trying.  I am working with her everyday during homework time.  The teacher says it should not take longer than an hour to complete.  Yet, it will take her sometimes almost 3 hours.  I don't want to hold her hand all the time with the homework.  I think at this age she should be working on becoming more independent with that.  Is this ADD?  What is your opinion?  Should I have her evaluated for a learning disability?  Thanks for your time...
21 Responses
242606 tn?1243786248
Yes, by all means have her evaluated for both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Learning Disability. The symptoms you describe could be explainable by ADHD alone, but it is unlikely. Sometimes a learning disability goes undiagnosed until the curriculum becomes a bit more complicated, as it does in the fourth grade. It is not uncommon for children to 'sail through' the first several grades, even with a learning problem, and then struggle once they reach the more demanding (re: curriculum) environment of the fourth grade.
Avatar universal
Sounds like high expectations were on her from all around, and her self esteem fell  when you pulled her from that class.  
Kids know all around and maybe teasing her?  At recess, at lunchtime, kids can have this amazing affect.
She came from a Montessori background and then sailed through the first couple of grades, then found out school is becoming hard, 'work' and not so easy.  But the expectations from teachers and parents and herself still stayed very high.  Everyone focusing on the grades, and pushing.  That is what is 'sounds' like, I probably am off but anyway....  I feel so sorry for her, with the erasing thing going on.  My stepson is incredibly gifted in math, but really really nonworking when it came to anything to do with creative writing or English or something like that.  He would and could if you let him sit for hours and be totally blank if you asked him to finish a story, or finish a poem line.
It does sound like she is now in the upper primary grades experiencing understanding and it is not sounding like LAZINESS.
I would definitely get her tested and maybe it is  a mild if there is such a thing, but a mild form of learning problem going on.
Maybe she needs glasses?.  But with the erasing , it sounds like she has her OWN ideas of perfection and when nothing is coming easy, she will erase the page, hoping to erase HERSELF.
I would get her assessed for learning problems, and then the help she needs without regarding it a major major issue, or she will crown herself Queen of Stupid, maybe not outloud, but deep in her psyche, she will have more of a flop of self esteem.  So to keep this whole thing LIGHT and 'NOT AN ISSUE', and don't talk in front of her, with her around, or about her , as she will pick up everything every little thing negative and grind this too, into her own self.
Avatar universal
Also, it is her teacher's words "focusing issues" and "think time" not my words.  This teacher has been teaching for some time.  I think she hit the nail on the head with the words regarding our daughter.
Avatar universal
One more comment, she was in gifted no more than 3 weeks.  Coming from a private, Christian school, and going to public, there were gaps in the curriculum.  I did not want to have to push her, to make up for the gaps, so she transitioned to a regular class at the very beginning of the years, three weeks into third grade.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your response.  I looked up the symptoms of ADD and her behavior fits right in there, except for blurting out, and not being able to play quietly, etc.  She is not overly active and is well-behaved.  Her teacher mentioned having her tested for ADD.  I guess that is what we'll do.  Thanks again.  This is a wonderful website.
Avatar universal
Last year, she did not have a self-esteem problem regarding the switch from gifted.  She was more relieved and very happy in the regular class.  We have never pushed her with her grades.  She always excelled on her own.  It's just that her past two teachers have said there is an issue here, and this year, especially.  She has lots of friends, has a good, goofy sense of humor and does not get teased.  She has been a delightful child always.  But, her self-esteem, at this moment in time, is low.  She sees the kids in her class doing well, and she is not.  She is not getting it and knows it.  She is too smart not to know there is something going on here.  I felt so bad for her the other day, when I had to confront her with what she did with those tests.  She was so upset with herself.  We grounded her for two weeks and have postponed her ice skating lessons until Jan.  She knew that if we saw those tests there would be repercussions regarding the skating, which, she wants to do in the worst way.  She is good on the ice, and we live in FL!  I am wondering if this is just a bad case of daydreaming, or laziness or ADD?  Is this just becoming apparent now that we are in the upper primary grades?  If there are these issues now, what does the future hold for her.  I know it does not get easier...
Avatar universal
Thanks for your input, too.  She is definitely overwhelmed.  I have even thought to go back to the smaller school.  It is different there, and they do not have the resources that the public school has, but they do offer a protective, nurturing environment.  But, on the other hand, I don't want to be too overly protective.  Kids have got to learn to adjust to different settings, and I don't think attending the bigger, public school should create such an issue, but maybe it is an issue for her.
Avatar universal
I also have a 4th grader this year.  Fourth grade is a difficult year.  My son also coasted through all the other grades and did well with very little help from us.  Fourth grade has been different.  He started out the year bringing home forms I needed to sign because his homework wasn't done.  He would completely forget to bring the homework home!  Now he writes everything down and reviews it before coming home.  He was very upset and took all evening to study for a test that should have taken one hour.  What I discovered is that he needed to learn how to get organized.  He needs to study a little every day for an upcoming test.  He needs to start on a project immediately, not at 8:00 PM the night before it is due.  It is very hard to get a "F" on a test that you have been slowly preparing for.  

If your daughter can't focus in class, then she needs to read the chapters, practice the problems, etc. etc. twice as much at home.  You may need the teacher to help you with this at first.  She may be overwhelmed with everything and have no idea how to get organized. There is more work in 4th grade.  You won't know the social studies answers without reading or listening in class.

It sounds like your daughter is a smart girl she may just need some help getting organized.

Good Luck!
Avatar universal
hello,  it is me shubunkin from the maternal child forum. I have a 10 year old in 4th grade and your daughter sounds SOOOOOOOOOOO much like mine. First off let me say this, I had my child tested for the add and he tested positive. With that he was put on meds. We went through 3 meds and the results were horrible. Either they made him jump off the walls or fall on the floor asleep. I know the meds help alot of kids but they wee not for him. He was tested for a learning disabilty and he had one. His weak subject is reading/language. He is smart as a whip in math. After being diagnosed he sees a special education teacher outside his regular classroom and his grades have improved dramatically! Ths particular teacher shows him different ways of going about things that is much easier for him to understand. I have to say that when he started getting it his behavior improved. He was just frustrated at himself and lashing out. I would get your daughter tested for both but try talking with the school about getting her a little special help before jumping to the add diagnoses that is SO over diagnosed. Just to see if it helps any. Good Luck! I know how it is, I have been there, Danielle
Avatar universal
Thanks for the input.  I am not going to jump to a diagnosis of ADD or anything immediately, but am considering having her evaluated.  I will work with her very closely with her homework, etc., along with her teacher, who is sending home a daily performance sheet.  But, this actually started last year, and I attributed most of it to adjusting to a new school, having come from a very small private school.  Her teacher at the private school in 2nd grade only made one comment to me the whole year, and that was that she was not organized and her desk was messy.  So, we worked on that, but hey, it is only 2nd grade and I was not too worried.  Third grade, new school, she had a hard time.  Again, I thought well, new school, different curriculum, she'll adjust.  But, her teacher said last year that she is a daydreamer.  So, we talked about it. Her grades would go in cycles.  Average, to low.  There were alot of unhappy times last year, too.  She passed the infamous FCAT, (mandatory to pass in 3rd grade, FL) and went on to 4th grade.  Now, her 4th grade teacher, who is really on the ball when it comes to teaching, couldn't ask for a better teacher, says she has major focusing issues, and needs a lot of think time.  So, I am now working with teacher and daughter very closely and we will see where it goes.  I don't want to incorrectly label and diagnose my daughter, so we are just going with the flow and see where it takes us.  My other daughter, 2 years younger is an egg head (smart) never needs help, and this is really frustrating the older one.  Her peers in class are doing well, but her, so she is suffering right now.  Hate to see that.
Avatar universal
Your daughter has similar behaviours as my son did when he was entering the 4th grade.  He too "sailed through" the first few grades, and was in fact highly intelligent and a good reader by age 4.
Then it all fell apart.  I know the nightly homework struggle-HOURS upon hours to get something done that would have only taken 10 minutes had the crying, erasing, whining, pencil dropping and paper ripping not ensued.  EVERY night.  

Long story short--he wound up having ADD and a sensory integration disorder.  Once he was diagnosed and receiving both medical and behavioural therapy, he did very well.  One thing that helped us greatly was reduced homework assignments.  If the assignment was for 10 math problems, he had 3--just enough so that I (and the teacher) could be sure he had the gist of what was being taught.  Spelling lists were reduced to just a couple of harder words instead of 25 more common ones, and he had oral spelling tests, too (that helped a LOT).  I can't think of all the things we did right now...there were a lot!  He was encouraged to do a lot of his work on the computer--he was fully capable of spelling most words correctly on the computer, but something about putting pencil to the paper that he just couldn't do well.  Most of his reports were to be done on the computer.  

It was very, very hard and required a special IEP for him after he was diagnosed.  Things went well until I'd say 7th grade--he could not handle the junior high routine and fell apart despite numerous attempts to modify his schedule.  Things did not end well for him scholastically, emotionally, socially, or mentally is all I will say.  Not that this is inevitable, but ADD and learning disorders are very complex, and I believe he did and does have a mental illness in addition to everything else.  Add illegal drug use into the mix, and you have a recipe for a ruined life.

Get help early, stay involved, and BE WARY of middle school and its changing routine and how it affects your daughter.  If I had it to do over, I would have pushed to keep him with ONE teacher in junior high instead of several--though this would have marked him as different, a key problem was so many teachers, teaching styles, expectations, and perceptions of what he "should" be doing.  

Good luck!
Avatar universal
Thanks for sharing your story.  My heart goes out to both of you.  I hope things are better now.  Parenting can, at times, be a scary thing.  There are no guarantees.  We can do all the right things, make the best decisions, and still struggle with problems.  Well, I am paying close attention, am involved, working closely with teacher and dd, and take one day at a time.  I know things will get better.  They have to!!!  She does not exhibit any of the hyperactivity issues, and I've read that that happens more with girls than boys.  If she does indeed have ADD (or a learning disability) I wonder if the standard medication would have a positive effect on her, because she is not hyperactive.  And, I am wondering if I should have her evaluated by a private doctor or go through the school.  I am leaning towards investigating this ourselves and see what results and go from there...
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