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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Laziness or ADHD

04/12/2010

Question:

My son is 6 years old and is in the first grade. He seems to be very bright. His teacher said he reads on a 3.4- 4.4 grade level. He aces all of his spelling and math tests.

However, when it comes to writing or coloring he doesn’t seem to like it. He won’t get going on it. He procrastinates and seems to just zone out during writing. It’s almost torture to get him going. His teacher and I have tried all sorts of things. We are currently using a behavior chart, and I’ve promised to award him if he writes every day for 5 days.

What do you think? Could this be a "medical" issue? I don`t wants to push him if he can’t help it. Is there any way to know without taking him to a doctor? Thanks!

Answer:

This could be boredom rather than either laziness or ADHD. It is possible the work comes so easy to him that first-grade work seems boringly childish and he does not want to bother with it.

Has someone asked him why he does not do the written work? Since his spelling and reading are so good, how about letting him try the next grade higher for written assignments?

Attached is a relevant article to show the school. Although the case in the article had a problem with aggression rather than work refusal, the same principle could apply, the need to challenge a bright child who is not following the rules.

Another possibility might be to find him a calligraphy class, and have him apply what he learns there to his written assignments. If he does have ADHD (and you have not said anything to convince me of that, but I could not be sure without an actual evaluation), then he should not be expected to delay the reward for 5 days; kids with ADHD do not have that much of an attention span.  Start by awarding points each day, which could either be spent immediately or saved for a larger prize.

For more info on the daily report card and home token economy, see Professor Bill Pelham's web site or the handbook "A Family's Guide to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder" from Handbooks in Health Care Co., Newtown, PAhttp://www.hhcbooks.com/.  

Although both present behavioral strategies targeting ADHD, the strategies would also work for children without ADHD, and you do not need a diagnosis (or health insurance) to try them.

For more information:

Go to the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder health topic, where you can:

Response by:

L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University