Friday, October 3, 2008


I need some help. Some advice. Some opinions. Anything. I know a few of you are teachers...maybe you teachers and other parents have had experience with this with your own kids and can point me into the direction of some information or resources. Cuz I just don't know what to do. My little boy is struggling and it's breaking my heart.

My little dimple faced sweet and adorable son is having some problems. These are problems that have been going on since toddler-hood and seem to be coming to a head this year.

Dreamy Smurf has been given that pseudo name for a reason. He's quite dreamy.....spacey, if you will.

Dreamy's teacher and I have been communicating daily in response to a growing problem with his focusing and losing homework and being easily distracted at school. We are trying to use positive reinforcement to improve his organizational skills (among other things) in the classroom. This is a method that Dreamy has responded well to in previous grades (as this problem goes back to 1st grade). But it just doesn't seem to be working so far this year.

Here is a portion of an email from his teacher:

I am really working with (Dreamy) in class to help him stay organized too. On a daily basis I am going up to him, to make sure he is following directions, and at the end of each day we go over everything together. I also repeat directions for him when needed.

In class, he has been having difficulty following whole group directions. I'm also not sure if he's really remembering where things are, or if he is just panicking when I ask for things... It seems that focusing is an issue, was it last year too? What are your thoughts? I feel that I am doing everything I can to help.... and am willing to continue. (Dreamy) is a smart kid and I feel he does need to be held accountable for following directions etc. I am looking forward to hearing back from you, and appreciate you communicating with me.

Here's a portion of the email I sent back:

The focusing issues have been a noticeable problem since 1st grade. They have been a problem not only at school but at home and gymnastics as well. I do believe that he has ADD tendencies but have resisted taking him to be evaluated for fear of labeling him. And the thought of putting him on medication long term is very difficult for me as I'm sure you can understand. He has been doing very well in school and has been nearly an all A student thus far. I know this must be difficult for you teachers and I'm sure makes your job more frustrating and difficult.... but .....since the focusing "issues" have not affected his grades or his ability to learn I thought that maybe he could get by without taking my concerns any further (ie. taking him to be evaluated).

My concern has grown, however, after seeing a paper in his Friday folder with a 63% on it. He's never received that low of a grade before. I know it's only one paper. His other test scores and papers seem to be good. Maybe I'm overreacting on this?

I'd like to give you a little background on (Dreamy Smurf). I honestly don't know if this is relevant to the focusing problems he's having today but I'll share it with you anyway. When Dreamy was a toddler I had him in the MIPPS program for delayed speech and sensory integration problems. At the age of 2 he still wasn't all....not even babbling...not even "mama". When I brought him in to be evaluated they explained to me that delayed speech goes hand in hand with sensory integration problems. (Dreamy) wouldn't eat foods with certain textures or tastes...still won't, he wouldn't touch things with certain textures, and would freak out when in a crowd or when music was being played loud...etc. He became very overwhelmed very easily and would just....freak out (forgive my inability to come up with a better way of describing it).

They explained to me that he would never be "cured" from this but that these children will instead learn to cope with it in a functional way. He was kicked out of the program after 18 months because his speech came along quickly and he was deemed age appropriate and they couldn't keep him in the program any longer based on just the sensory problems alone. I sometimes wonder if Dreamy's way of "coping" with it is to just tune out. I wonder if when he gets overstimulated and overwhelmed he just tunes out and enters his own little "happy land" (as we in this family call it).

I honestly don't know where to go from here. I don't know if I should just continue to help him with his organizational skills through reinforcement and hope that his easy distractibility and difficulty focusing will correct itself with time and maturity or if I need to take this further. And if I DO decide to take it further I don't have the slightest idea of where to start or who to go to.

Any and all suggestions and opinions would be welcome and appreciated.

Here's the teacher's response and where it has been left:

Thank you for giving me some background information about (Dreamy). You could be right, (Dreamy) may be tuning out in order to cope with the overwhelming demands of school. I notice transitions seem to be challenging. If he is involved in doing something and I ask the class to stop and go to something else, that is when he gets a little lost.

Some things I am going to try in class- I will move his desk closer to me, so I can get his attention by making contact with him, etc. I will also start to give him a verbal warning before we are going to move to the next task. I will continue to re-direct him to be sure things are put in the right place in his desk.

As far as where/who to go to for outside help if you decide to, I would turn to your pediatrician to start with. Maybe he/she can give you some more input on the sensory issues/side effects. There may be resources out there that I can get a hold of for you as well. Next week, I will look into that too. I think we are already off to a good start by communicating daily. It seems like you really have a good routine at home and (Dreamy) is remembering to come up to me each day. The positive reinforcement seems to be helping. Another thought- next time he comes to tell me that he forgot something, or can't find something, I am going to have him take a deep breath, count to ten, and try to refocus. Let's give these things a try, see if we notice any improvement, please continue to keep me posted.

Anyone out there have similar problems? Anyone out there with advice? Anyone out there that can help me sort out the pros and cons of having him officially evaluated? What about medication? How do you all feel about medicating these problems? I honestly don't even know if this is what "ADD" looks like. I could go on and on about the issues this child has had with focusing. But since I've already written a book I'll spare you.

He's such a smart boy. And he's really trying hard to get it together. But it just does not come easily for him and I worry that if I don't nip this in the bud it will snowball into a larger problem.




Breanne said...

Hi. Ok - well I am not sure where to start. I would not worry about him being labeled. I would be more worried that if he does not get help he will fall behind. This happened to me. I had learning disabilities and add. This was at a time when they did not test for such things so I just got ignored and passed to the next teacher.
There are many ways to teach him to learn how to be organized and how to focus, etc.
This will take a lot of effort on your part. I have lots of info - it may take me a bit to get it all to gather but I will try and then send to you.
I know this is really hard for you but I do recommend seeing a specialist who can test him. I can not tell you how much this helped me when I was finally diagnosed. Once you know what he is having trouble with then it will be easier to help. If you wan to talk or have questions about it - just email me. Will be praying for yall.

Mama Smurf said...

Thank you so much Breanne! Who qualifies as a specialist? I really don't want to just take him to his pediatrician. I really want to talk to someone who knows about this and specializes in this but who? I mean, I know you can't give me a name...but is this something that I would take him to a psychiatrist about? Or are there people out there that specialize in ADD or learning disabilities (just saying that breaks my heart)....what are they called? Who do they work for?

Any resources are very much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time. If you have the time that is....

April said...

You might also want to look into brain-wave therapy. There are two types of tests that can be taken to see if there are issues in the way his brain takes things in. I had these written down, but sadly, I don't have that anymore. Basically, it re-trains the brain for focusing, and is considered an alternative method for dealing with ADD and the like instead of (or with) medication.
I also think it's important to remember that all children learn and focus a tad differently. Very few kids fall into what's classified as "normal." Keep the positive reinforcements going.
I'm glad his teacher is at least talking with you about this.
Now, I know this is extreme, so don't freak out completely - friend with a high-performing autistic child had great luck with the diet. If your child is having trouble processing certain foods, that can relate to what the brain is able to process as well. See if you notice a difference based on what he eats.
You also might want to pick up some homeschooling resources - not to homeschool, but to check on what supplemental things you can do at home to help out in the school atmosphere.
I wish you both luck. School can be very very frustrating, even with well-meaning teachers.

Kash said...

Nor a teacher nor a parent, so I don't have any good advice. I can assure you however that some of the brightest minds that have discovered notions essential to our society were those who had some kind of learning difficulties. Learning difficulties are nothing to be ashamed of, I feel like most of us have several to an extent, including myself, and continue to tackle them through adulthood fine. My heart goes out to you in trying to help your son have easier days though.

Kash said...

P.S. Sounds like a great teacher.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry I don't have any advice - I think you are very lucky to have a teacher that is so proactive into helping and finding a solution.

Anonymous said...

Hey MS~ My mom is a school psychologist. Want me to talk to her for you? Would you like to talk to her?

Kate @ Life As I Live It said...

T, I don't have any answers for you. Just a virtual hug and reassurance that you're doing the most important and best thing for him: staying involved.

I hope you get some answers. I would also suggest the school counselor/psychologist. They would have the proper resources for you.

Carol said...

I don't have any advice.

But did want to say that dreamy is so handsome and that his teacher sounds terrific. I'm glad she is being so proactive.

Dana said...

i too suggest a school counselor... maybe they could help talk to him.. have you ever thought about maybe having him evaluated by a child study team to see if there is a problem? I know you don't want to hear that but maybe if he is diagnosed or classified he will get the 1 on 1 help he may need for his attention span. He may not be able to focus for the time span his teacher wants him to and she may need to scale back for him! I know I need to do that in my classroom and with my lessons! Some children just aren't ready or may be a little behind. But that's ok!!!!

My advice would have the school get involved so you could have him tested... You don't want him to feel as if he is struggling - and he may be able to recieve services that would help him in school!!

Tracey said...

I think the pediactriacian is a good start...also my husband had a lot of focusing problems in school and KARATE helped him a lot....also I think focusing on what he does well...some kids just are "scholars" in the normal sense of the word, but will be very successful later in's good to know what your not good at as well as what you are good at...and what areas you just have to work more at then can be very husband didn't do well in school until of luck and prayers.

Kelly said...

Hey Tammy,

Just a couple things to think about before considering medication. I've worked with kids in lower and upper elementary as well as middle school now...organization is a big issue across the board. Trust me when I say he's not alone. If by organization you mean losing papers or forgetting to turn them in I can drop off an organizational binder that all of our students are required to use now. It has been a BLESSING to many students, their parents, and of-course the teachers!!! Another thing I would ask the teacher is if he's wearing his glasses in class. I know that sounds strange, but I've seen many kids struggle because of that. They automatically get tired and lose focus easily. Diet can play a big role too, but with your Italian cooking I'm sure he's fine!!! LOL. If you do decide to have him tested I would suggest talking to the school counselor/psychologist. All they'll do is ask the teacher to fill out a report that you can take to your pediatrician. He wouldn't be labeled, the school would only be acting as a support system for what they see on a daily basis - it would be up to you and the doctor on how to proceed. I can certainly understand your concern - and applaud the positive reinforcement. If you and the doctor do decide to actively persue meds, don't feel he would be labeled. He will become is own worst enemy if he continues to struggle and he can't help it (which is much worse). His self-esteem will plumet and he'll start to throw in the towel. Moving his seat was a great idea, if the teacher is willing maybe he could do a quick morning and end of the day check in/out to make sure he's on track. Positive reinforcement at school is key too, if he knows she's going to touch base with him daily he won't want to let her down (she sounds like a great teacher and he's probably pretty fond of her). Call me if you want to chat more about it.


Kelly said...

One more quick are kids...they are scattered, disorganized and distracted by many curiousities. I would never jump at meds or testings unless you've ruled everything else out and his learning is really suffering. He's probably just being a kid (which he should be)!


Anonymous said...

Tammy- Dreamy sounds a bit like little P who has had diagnosed sensory problems since forever. Sensory issues and attention are often intertwined and difficult to separate. I would discuss this with the pediatrician, too, but an occupational evaluation may shake out the sensory piece. Little P has a special wiggle seat on his chair to help him focus. Routine is EVERYTHING for this guy. Setting up sequences for him to follow strictly helps him with organization. Increasing his sensory "diet" helps too.

Here's a link for you:

Don't worry about medicating him until you know what you are dealing with. It could be with either the sensory piece or attention issues that you could compensate with other strategies before you move on to a more aggressive route.

I feel your pain. This stuff is hard.

jodieboedie said...

Tammy - Sounds like your dude has a wonderful teacher! And that you're doing a great job of stying involved and trying to figure this out.

I have no suggestions for you - just know that I'm thinkin' about you and your little dude . . . it can't be easy for either of you :-(

Colleen said...

I'm sorry, hon - I don't have any answers for you, either. But I think this is a case where the right kind of teacher makes all the difference! Imagine if he had a teacher who didn't care! Will keep readin' to see what you find out!

LittlePaintedPolkaDots said...

It sounds like Dreamy's teacher is amazing. I am happy for you that he is in a class with someone like that. I hope you get things figured out! ((Hugs))