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School troubles may be sign of attention disorder

Helen Ginandes Weiss and Martin S. Weiss

Your teenager did poorly in school this past year. For the first seven grades Greg was a mediocre student passing in most of his courses. He was always like an unidentified flying object landing here or there but exhibiting no staying power when it came to task completion.Last year however, he just couldn’t keep it all together and he failed a number of subjects. He just couldn’t concentrate on what was going on in class or his reading assignments. He was anxious, moved from one activity to another when at home, got into trouble at school because he blurted out answers, spoke out in class and couldn’t seem to sit still. He was losing confidence in himself, losing friends and trying everyone’s patience at home. Mary’s parents brought her to our office this summer because she seemed to be able to handle her schoolwork until this year. The past semester was a turning point and she failed two of her courses, ninth grade English and social studies, because they required so much reading. She said she just couldn’t concentrate in class. A quiet well-behaved young lady of 15, she retreated from her friends and was lonely and depressed at times. What strange malady were these two teenagers experiencing? National Institute of Health experts say that statistics indicate that attention deficit disorder, also known as ADD, is one of the most prevalent disorders in the mental health field, affecting more than 5 percent of children and young adults in the country. Although formerly thought of as only a childhood disorder, findings suggest that many children continue to be inattentive, impulsive and distracted throughout their adolescence and even into adulthood.Our evaluation indicated that both teens were exhibiting symptoms of the disorder and accompanying learning difficulties as well. Some of the symptoms both of them::• They had difficulties following instructions. Any school assignment that was not written down was often forgotten and they received failing grades.• The assignment book provided at the beginning of the school year was missing by Christmas and long-term assignments were forgotten as well.• They often lost schoolbooks or wasted a good deal of time trying to find the materials they needed to complete an assignment.• Disorganized and scattered behavior led to all kinds of disasters on a daily basis, frustrating them and trying their parent’s patience.• Greg had a student driver’s license and his inattention had already resulted in two minor fender benders on his parent’s car.• Mary had just gotten a learner’s permit and took the paint off the right passenger door of her mother’s new Toyota.• Both Mary and Greg were described as underachievers with average abilities, but their school performance was poor and their work habits led to the use of the word “lazy” on many of their school reports.• Both of them looked for acceptance among their peers and sought out the out-of-bounds kids who exhibited similar social alienation. This led to thrill-seeking behaviors and often got them into trouble.Greg’s mom, who is single, was worried about his getting into trouble. His behavior had led to a number of incidents of questionable legality. He borrowed a friend’s car without permission, was found in school after hours and was picked up for shoplifting with a friend.Mary’s parents worried she might seek out premature sexual experiences to gain acceptance by her so-called friends. Both young people needed academic help, in-school remediation, counseling and possible medication to deal with their problems. Both needed to develop good work habits. Some of our suggestions are as follows:• We tutored both youngsters in basic skills and study-skill strategies.• We set up a schedule for pre-exam reviews and worked on test-taking strategies.• We suggested use of a daily planner and a realistic time schedule for homework and pre-test reviews. We showed them how to organize these planners and set up sections for assignments, appointments and also telephone numbers.• We asked teachers to allow them to use tape recorders to tape lectures in class.• We suggested that homework assignments and reading be done after eating and well before bedtime so that they could focus attention to task without being hungry and tired. • We showed them how to break long assignments into smaller tasks in step-by-step process.Teens with this disorder can get into serious trouble without support. These two young people received help and are on the road to improving behavior and performance. For further information contact: Helen Ginandes Weiss, M.A & Martin S. Weiss,M.A. Learning Consultants, e-mail: eduworks@chaffee.net; P.O. Box 38, Twin Lakes, CO. 81251; (719)486-5800.Vail, Colorado


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