Reply To: How to help my son focus and complete work in school

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I would ask him if the journal topic was interesting. It might be that he couldn’t focus on it because it wasn’t something that sparked ideas in his head. For someone with ADHD, having to do something “boring” (i.e. not something that naturally catches our attention) is literally almost painful to do. It’s like you are 5 years old, sitting in front of a huge pile of stinky, cold, mushy, over-cooked spinach that almost literally gets nastier the longer you sit and stare at that mountain of gag-worthy glop. (I think I dry heaved a little there)

I struggled with this as a kid. I wish I could tell you a solution, but I hadn’t been diagnosed until my 30’s. However, I have studied education itself, and honestly, that teacher should already know that punishment doesn’t work when it’s something related to a cognitive/developmental disorder. Bribes don’t work for long. However, a consequence that makes sense for not completing his work at school is perfectly reasonable.

I know… sounds like splitting hairs… “punishment” vs. “consequence”, but they really are separate things. A connected consequence for him could be not only making up all of the sentences he was supposed to write, but also write a couple sentences on why he didn’t write them on time. This could be constructive not only for him (he will have to start thinking about how he thinks… meta-cognition, or “thinking about thinking”) but also for his teacher who can use it to inform his instruction. It could very well be that he needs just a tiny bit of a push or idea to get him started on writing those three sentences, some thread for him to string his ideas on.

As far as the meta-cognition stuff, though, you can only go so deep with that with ANY 9 year-olds. Most kids that age physiologically lack the brain structure to really tackle that kind of mental task. not like an adult can… and even then there are neurologically normal adults who can’t do deep meta-cognitive thinking.

Thankfully, your kiddo is young so he’s at a great age to start creating supportive techniques to help him help himself succeed, but his teacher will need to help him too. his teacher just suggesting there be a consequence at home accomplishes nothing… because that is more like a punishment. The teacher should really be doing something for him at school (like helping him figure out how to start writing on his topic), or at least be willing for him to make it up and include a short explanation.

Something a lot of people forget, and sometimes teachers too, is that “fair” and “equal” DO NOT necessarily mean THE SAME. What would be FAIR and EQUAL for your son, would be that extra little nudge, or the small accommodation to make it up on weeks he struggles to complete it.