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I really need help with my son who is about to turn 6 years old. He doesn't seem to listen to me at home or at school.

I have been trying everything I can but nothing seem to work. Can anyone out there help me with some ideas? We been through alot of testing for ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and ADHD. I'm sure he has ADHD but waiting on his Dr to tell us.

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    Can you provide more details? What exactly have you done to try and correct him? What kinds of actions does he take that need correcting? How does he react to these corrections? Do you consistently apply the same correction, or are you trying different things all at once? There are a number of different factors that can change how people could respond. – Marisa Aug 29 '17 at 11:50
  • I too would think this question would benefit from some examples. – coteyr Sep 3 '17 at 0:39
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Since Erica has written about the primarily inattentive, I might be able to add something in the primarily hyperactive case.

I was told about the school time of somebody who has some form of hyperactivity. In school the person would not listen and the teacher would lose patience. Trying to explain things over and over again did only make it worse. On parent conference day this was brought up with the parents and the mother suggested to explain it to her once and then move to more advance topics. All the sudden the person was not bored any more. The problem before was that the classes only took a small fraction of the capabilities, therefore most the capacities were unused and did something else.

In a reading course that I took when I was around 20, the instructor told us that the average good reader is at around 300 words/minute and is limited by “reading out loud inside the head”. The brain has a capacity of 1000 words/minute, therefore 70% of the brain idle when one reads. Since most of the brain is unoccupied, it looks for some other occupation. When I read at like 700 words/minute, then I understand more of the text and I rarely stopped wondering what I just have read.

Another interesting example is a high school student with autism that got some tutoring. He complained that he does not understand much in math class. It turned out that the teacher explained concepts only via examples, the students had to abstract this themselves. There are people who cannot handle a lot of abstraction, so this might be easier for them. One he was shown the concise mathematical definition he asked whether that was really all. And then he was able to solve all of the problems because he knew the pattern. It took about three months to cover all content of junior and senior year math and physics class, now he attends some physics classes at university while being in his senior year.

So depending on the nature of inattention, it might be worth to increase the information density. Given what Erica has described, this might badly backfire in other cases.

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For some presentations* of ADHD, the key is repetition, repetition, repetition.

Accepting that his failure to pay attention is how his brain works, rather than laziness or disrespect, was a key moment for my relationship with my ADHD son. It made it easy for me to not become angry when he "ignored" me. It's tedious to make the same request more than once, to remember to say "are you listening, this is important" before making a request, to check on whether a request was completed (and completed fully/correctly) -- but it's just a process I have to go through because he isn't able to focus easily. That's just who he is.

Years of patient repetition from me has led to a pretty responsive child who does his best to helpfully respond. Still not perfect, but he's willing to try because he knows I won't be getting angry if he isn't perfect; before we figured this out, I'd become quickly frustrated, and then he'd feel inadequate and frustrated.

Once you have a diagnosis, be sure to share it with his teachers. Most are very understanding of disabilities like this, and are willing to give a little extra reminder or accommodation (within reason) for ADHD kids.

* My experience is with primarily inattentive, rather than primarily hyperactive, so my advice may not be ideal for all families.

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Honestly, it's probably just plain old behavior management, coupled with extra energy, and too much stimulation.

I see this a lot. It really breaks down to three steps.

  1. Limit and burn off energy. Stay away from all sugars (fruits and fruit juices can be VERY high in sugar. Some times you might as well be feeding your kid a cup of sugar directly. It's a different kind of sugar, but it's easy to think were making the right choices as parents because we choose apple sauce and OJ, when in fact they are a source of sugar too). With energy limited (don't go over board, but carbs, sugars and other energy sources should be limited some), then look to burn off extra energy. Running, playing, exercise (depending on interests) early in the day can really help. You don't want the child to be tired, that won't work well, but you don't want them bouncing off the walls.

  2. Set realistic expectation and stick with them like a rock. Every kid is different, but the general idea of "If you do X, Y will happen" should be said about 1,000 times a day. It should be for both good and bad behaviors. "If you hit the dog, you will have time out", is just as important as "if you finish coloring then we can watch a movie." The reward or punishment should be immediate. Again every kid is different but specially if there having problems, don't expect a long attention span. That 1-2-3 count, some kids will have a hard time at 3 remembering why your started 1. Make sure you always explain the reward or punishment. "Well you finished coloring, so what movie do you want to watch."

  3. Limit external stimulus. This is a big one. If the child is having a hard time focusing, then reduce what they need to focus on (count not difficulty). One trick I use is to focus on a single complicated task instead of several small tasks. But part of reducing external distractions is to actually remove them. A quite room, with no toys, and tablets, no computers, and just a simple table, chairs, and coloring book. Well the kid will color that's for sure. If too many crayons is a problem then go with an 8 pack instead of a 64 pack. If the coloring book is the issue then go with a single page and not a book. Again, every kid is going to be different, but turning off the T.V., limiting music, etc. Almost always works. You need to combat boredom though. So focus on your task. If your coloring, then ask why they are coloring the grass green. Have them make up a story, etc.

Bonus Points: Engagement, I see this mistake a lot, so I though I would mention it. Kids are not going to listen to you if your not engaged with them. Because their concepts are so simple we often drop down to auto pilot. Specially when your having problems like this, make sure not to do that too much. Always ask your kid why, how, and all that. Make them think. They need to be engaged. "Here's a sandwich, do you know where cheese comes from? What about the ham? Do you know how they make mustard? I bet we can try to make our own bread." I know it can seem very dull and repetitive to go though something like that every time you make a sandwich, but it works.

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  • Not that ADHD or ODD is not real, or is not the root of the problem, but even in those cases, the steps are the same, just harder. – coteyr Sep 3 '17 at 0:41

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