Does my child have ADHD or is there something more going on?

Many people think of Attention Deficit as the proverbial hyperactive child in the classroom, running and jumping around with lots of energy and enthusiasm, but ADHD is much more complex. The core symptoms that define ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Learning Enhancement Centers knows that not all kids (or adults) with ADHD will have these symptoms in the same way or to the same degree, and you will certainly see differences in the way the symptoms present themselves.

Hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention are really just the tip of the iceberg for kids who have ADHD. There can be additional impairments that may not be as obvious. With the hyperactive example, it may be that the individual has trouble slowing down enough to process information accurately. It might also be that he processes information so slowly that he has already acted before thinking through the consequences.

For others, it may be that the individual is having difficulty processing what he hears. It can be like having a bad cell phone connection – getting “a piece here” and “a piece there.” If someone is having a hard time hearing the other person, they can ask to call them back when they are in a better location and getting a clearer signal. Unfortunately, individuals can’t say that when they are listening to a lecture or speaking with someone else. So, they might tune out or have difficulty staying focused on the conversation.

What if you went to the doctor because your foot hurt? He prescribes morphine and sends you on your way. The pain does subside with the medicine but, had he looked at your foot, he would have seen there was a nail in it. Wouldn’t it have been better to remove the nail – the cause of the pain in the first place?

The same is true with attention problems. It is important to recognize that there are many possible causes of attention challenges. The outside symptoms might be that the child is energetic and active or that the individual is always daydreaming. The individual might truly have ADHD or there might be another cause of the attention challenges. This is why an evaluation that looks at all of the possible causes of the attention challenges is so important. In addition to the typical checklist that parents and teachers fill out, students can also do a computerized continuous performance test. At Learning Enhancement Centers, we evaluate five possible causes of attention challenges. While we are not opposed to medicine, we feel that it shouldn’t be the first thing that is tried. If the cause of the attention problems is due to auditory processing, for example, medicine isn’t going to help.

In our next few posts, we will discuss other possible causes of attention challenges and how to address them.

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Sometimes It Takes More Than A Tutor…

When a student struggles, there can be many reasons.  Some students have just missed some information along the way.  Others simply take a little longer to “get it.” And sometimes some information is just difficult. But none of those characteristics should be on-going.  Getting “a little behind” should be a very temporary condition.  It shouldn’t last months or years.  If it does, it normally means that something else is going on.

One of the things that really frustrates parents is when they can see that their child is bright, but certain “roadblocks” keep making school difficult. Things like:

  • Taking 3 hours to do 45 minutes worth of homework
  • Need someone sitting right there with them in order to get their work done
  • Can’t keep their attention on their work for more than a few minutes
  • Don’t get it, in spite of lots of help and repetition
  • Appear lazy or unmotivated
  • Don’t recognize words from one line to the next
  • Can’t seem to get the “big picture” in a story or textbook
  • Seem disorganized
  • Can’t follow directions

When time and attention don’t solve these roadblocks, what can parents do? Frequently they hire a tutor…someone to provide academic help for their student.  When that doesn’t work, they start “tearing their hair out!”

Often, the characteristics listed above (and others) can indicate simply underlying thinking and “executive function” skills that are weak or have not completely developed.  These are the skills that allow “academics” to make sense.  They make it possible for a student to process all of that information that is covered in school, in their reading, and even in their life experiences.

 

What are these underlying skills?

Here is a list of the technical names for some of these skills:

Auditory Processing: to process sounds. The major underlying skill needed to   learn to read and spell.

Divided Attention: to attend to and handle two or more tasks at one time.  Such as: taking notes while listening, carrying totals while adding the next column. Required for handling tasks quickly as well as handling complex tasks.

Logic and Reasoning: to reason, plan, and think.

Long Term Memory: to retrieve past information

Processing Speed: the speed with which the brain processes information.

Saccadic Fixation: to move the eyes accurately and quickly from one point to another.

Selective Attention: to stay on task even when distraction is present.

Sensory-Motor Integration: to have the sensory skills work well with the motor skills -such as eye-hand coordination.

Visual Processing: to process and make use of visual images.

Visualization: to create mental images or pictures.

Working Memory: Holding information in your memory while deciding what to do with it.

 

While these skills develop naturally in some students, others have a number of areas that need “exercising.”

So how can someone strengthen these skills?

Through the years there has been research in each of these skill areas.  Programs have been developed and implemented.  These are the types of programs that Learning Enhancement Centers have been using for over 10 years.

The focus is not on academic subjects, but rather on building those skills that hold some students back from the kind of academic success they are capable of.

The best part of this kind of approach is

that the goal is for students to become

INDEPENDENT!

And because those underlying skills are brought “up to speed,” they start supporting a student’s academic work, and the need for extra help diminishes or disappears.

“Will this brain training ‘fix’ all learning problems and my student get A’s?”

What the brain training can do is strengthen those underlying processing skills.  After any “program,” the next step is always to transfer/transition those skills into academic work.

How do I know if my student needs processing skill training?

At Learning Enhancement Centers, an evaluation is done to determine a child’s areas of strengths of weaknesses.  This evaluation helps to verify which program(s) would be best to meet the child’s needs.  A plan is made for each individual student, and if we aren’t the right place, we will tell you.

I am tired of watching my child struggle, what should I do next? 

Call or email us today, we will talk about your child and your concerns.  If we think we can help, we can schedule an appointment for an evaluation.

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