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How Can I Focus in School?

How Can I Focus in School?A psychologist told a teen that it is his job to go to and focus in school. Yes, that is right! But it unfortunately was said in a somewhat punitive way; as if to say, get responsible and stop being lazy and anxious. Just make it happen!

Once again, that finger pointing is the depiction of total lack of knowledge that ADHD is a medical diagnosis that renders the prefrontal cortex underdeveloped. The area of executive functioning can be so significantly impacted. Examples of that functioning that many do not realize are initiation, transitioning, organization, time management, working memory, and emotional regulation. Can you see how each affect the “job” in and out of school? Not every child has every impairment, but many have many of these that affect academic success and self-esteem. Medications can be helpful certainly, but they do not correct these school struggles. Strategies, accommodations, and modifications must come into play for adequate support.

Here are examples of how each impact the job:

  • Initiation: Starting homework, classwork
  • Transitioning: Changing classes, adjusting to different teachers with different expectations and different understandings of ADHD, packing up to go to another class to be on time as the teacher barks out reminders and assignments on the board to be copied!
  • Organization: Keeping papers straight for each class, documenting how and projects, handing each in to corresponding classes, documenting quizzes and tests
  • Time management: Understanding how long assignments take, allotting time, chunking assignments and projects
  • Working Memory: Math problems, writing assignments. It is the ability to hold information in head and manipulate each as some is retrieved.
  • Emotional Regulation: This impacts how the child views his world, his reaction to what he believes others, both peers and teachers are thinking about him or his behavior, knowledge, ability in a particular circumstance. Ruminating about their beliefs can create a swirl of negativity and impact self-esteem.

 
So an 18 year old has recently changed his “job” to being a freshman at a college. Having had a previous IEP that is no longer valid because of graduating from high school, he is eligible for 504 accommodations, which is written since we advocated for them as part of the treatment plan for ADHD. They are sent to each teacher, yet he is responsible for making sure that they are initiated. But despite support, it is still important for this child to be aware of how he thinks and what gets in the way of his success. Boredom and disinterest can play a role as it does in his accounting class.He said recently that he wished he could stop thinking about football fantasy and pay attention to the teacher talking about accounting! I actually laughed, knowing how passionate he is about football and how bored he must have been in class. His wish is passionate too…he is not lazy or oppositional. He truly struggles with what he knows is important and necessary to do.

So what would be the answer to the above? It’s not an easy answer. But finding out that the class is an hour and a half, part of the answer is the need for a break or two. That breaks maybe his 5-minute engagement on the computer with something football related before bringing his attention back to the class. A willful break that is timed and allows for refueling! The need is to continue to learn about yourself, the times you are not focused, and what brings the focus back!

The “job” at school deals with many personalities and expectations. School support and self-advocacy are very much needed to bring success!

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