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My husband and I have 7 children ages 24, 18, 12, 12 (adopted niece), 5, 3, 2 (adopted niece). All of our biological children who are school aged and beyond are well above average in school except for my 5-year-old.

He seems to have issues with comprehension. I said to him yesterday, "a big purple elephant rides a green bike." I then asked him what color the elephant was - I cannot recall the exact answer, but it was not related to the question at all. He seemed like he had something else on his mind (like he had some playing to do); but the question seemed so simple...why couldn't he answer it?

He just turned 5 in March and started school this year. His comprehension papers are always low scores; like a 75%!! I admit there was some neglect during his most crucial years (19 months to present) because we had to take in my 9-year-old niece nearly four years ago with severe behavioral problems (and all symptoms of Asperger's that I feel was due to neglect at home from an eccentric, overreacting type of mother who took Rx meds, illicit drugs, and slept all day). We spent so, so much of our time trying to correct her that I feel my son was neglected; and that kills my heart to know he was sacrificed for her!

Since my son was 2, he has known his colors, ABCs, and numbers because I always put on videos and would sing and dance with him to learn these, he can write letters, he knows their sounds, etc., but it's just comprehension he struggles with.

I don't know if this matters much, but he loves hugs and kisses and loves to snuggle; but I do have to force him to look into my eyes. He whines about having to do that, squints his eyes, and makes crying sounds. If I don't force him, he seems to have his eyes to the side like he's really taking in what you're saying (or maybe he's thinking of the toys he wants to go play with, I don't know...)

He's also a very picky eater...very! I have to force him to eat dinner every night! I have a suspicion he's not eating lunch at school, so I send him with an extra snack...that he isn't eating because it comes back home. When I ask him what he had for lunch, he'll say milk - when I ask what else he had, he'll say, "I don't know." How can he not remember??

Some days he comes home whining, pitching fits, and screaming about whatever it is that's not going his way. I notice on those days, he falls asleep early (he usually gets about 10 hours of sleep per night). He wakes up every morning saying he's not going to school...but once he's up and ready, he runs toward the door.

When he comes home moody and whiny, it's hard to get him to calm down because everything I say he misinterprets and gets more upset! Why can't he understand simple comprehension? I have started reading 2 to 3 books to him per night in hopes this will help. I ask questions (that he answers incorrectly), I animate the story, use voices, and even sing and clap. I suppose only time will tell if that helps any.

My husband is extremely upset about this and very remorseful for adopting my niece, who he says essentially put a dark cloud over our home since day one. We adopted her mainly because I am very loyal to my family...but my husband did not want to adopt her and wanted her gone (we found out she was secretly hurting our son when no one was looking). Either way, I couldn't just let her go (the state labeled her as "unadoptable") and my husband reluctantly agreed to adopt her for me. He is now regretting allowing the adoption because he feels our son's issues are related to him seeing my niece's behavior the last nearly four years, and I think he's right.

Does anyone have any insight, input, suggestions, or even possible reasons for his lack of understanding? I love my son so very much!! Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!! TIA

closed as too broad by user11394, Acire Jun 5 '16 at 10:03

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • If you ask a question about something he's very interested in (a favorite toy or cartoon), does he show better comprehension then? My son can give extended dissertations about Minecraft, but struggles with many reading comprehension tasks because the topics aren't inherently interesting for him :) – Acire Sep 24 '15 at 0:22
  • Reading this made me feel as though you were describing my son. He is 5-years old, poor comprehension (forgets something I just said or responds to questions with irrelevant answers), extreme picky eater (oral aversion), learned his ABCs at 2, writes letters, knows letter sounds... only main difference here is we have not started Kindergarten (this August). Gotta admit I'm freaking out inside. It's also worth noting he is my only child and I am a stay at home move and suffer from anxiety and depression, but fortunately it doesn't keep me in bed all day. I will admit, some days can be very hard – user22359 Jun 3 '16 at 6:33
  • Have you had him tested for hypoglycemia? Hypoglycemia can cause a lack of appetite (I have in the past gone 8-10 hours without noticing that I hadn't eaten) and when blood sugar gets low it can cause many of the symptoms that you describe (whiny, moody, easily angered, lower brain functioning, easily irritated by others). When I get very low blood sugar even the thought of eating makes me nauseous, and the only things I can make myself eat are vanilla ice cream or sometimes another milk product. Also, I find it difficult to make decisions or even to think sometimes when I haven't eaten. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Jun 3 '16 at 18:20
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I agree that you should NOT blame anyone. You are very kind to take in troubled family. You should not blame your niece either, and I hope you get professional help with her behavioral problems.

Some of the things sound very normal. My 4.5 year old cannot remember what he did in school. I ask him about his lunch, who he played with, what lessons the teacher gave (he is in a Montessori pre-school) and he cannot answer. He is too tired at the end of the day.

Not being able to repeat back to you at ALL times seems a little easily distracted, though, but I am no medical professional.

Is there a way you can make it a game, or about something he is VERY interested in? my kid has 'selective hearing' - ignores me if I ask him to do something while he is engrossed in play, but if I mention 'cake' or 'chocolate', the play is a less engrossing, all of a sudden ;).

If you are concerned, I would see a professional in child development. Do you have a therapist or psychologist you see with your niece that you trust? Or you can simply start with expressing your concerns to your pediatrician.

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First, stop the blaming. Don't blame yourself. Don't blame your adopted nieces. It will never help make this any better and will only foster hatred within your family. And that hatred can be incredibly poisonous and destructive. Deal with that first and foremost.

Second, you have enough children that I suspect you know by now that every one is different. And they each come with their own set of challenges. What was easy for your 24 year old might be hard for your 12 year old. And what comes naturally to your 18 year old might have been a struggle for the 24 year old. Your son's comprehension problem may just be his challenge. Again, it's not your fault, his fault or anyone else's fault. It may just be part of being him.

So what is it? I'm no medical / child development professional so all this is just speculation. My gut feeling is that he may just have a hard time concentrating. Have you ever been talking with someone while thinking or worrying about something else then they ask you a question and you snap back to the here and now and realize you have no idea what was said in the last 5 minutes? If you are anything like me, it has happens at least every once in a while. My gut feeling is that your son may just be easily distracted or is otherwise having a hard time concentrating / paying attention.

He seems like a bright kid, but everything you listed about his abilities strikes me as being things that are learned by repetition. Since the comprehension problem you describe is more about things he has heard once and not many many times, it feels like he may just not be paying attention the first time.

What causes this and how to fix it? Again, not being there with him or being a medical professional I can't say. Could it be medical? ADD? Auditory problem? Maybe. You could have him checked out and at least confirm something like that or rule it out all together.

Other things you could try doing is work on his concentration and attention span. Try doing things he likes or doing things with him that take longer than a few minutes. Have him help and keep him engaged in what is going on. Ask lots of questions and gently correct him if necessary. And gradually ramp up the time.

Above all make sure he knows you love him and that you are trying to help him (especially if this problem frustrates him). Good luck.

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It may not be comprehension at all, and it likely has nothing to do with your niece. He might just have a different personality and/or learning style than your other children. It sounds like he isn't interested in the questions you are asking him, and that he is thinking about other things.

I have only 2 children, but that has been enough to show me that even children with the same parents raised the same way in the same home can have completely opposite personalities and styles. They can also have different educational outcomes, even if they have similar levels of intelligence.

You might consider having your son evaluated by a professional. It's something I was resistant to for a long time, but that turned out to be very helpful in guiding both us and my son's teachers in helping him be more successful in school. You can take it as just informational --it doesn't mean you have to accept any of the recommendations if they aren't good fits. And it doesn't mean that you've done anything bad or neglectful in your parenting. Some people are just wired differently from birth.

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