I have a 7 year old child who very likely has ADD and/or ADHD, he can't focus on his own for more than 30-60 seconds. If someone is working directly with him, then they can generally keep him engaged, but this is problematic in classroom settings where the teacher can't always give one on one attention. In an ideal world this wouldn't be a huge problem, someone could work with him until his brain had developed further. But in reality, school systems hate a student who needs that much attention, and the usual solution is Amphetamine style drugs.

I feel like we often drug our children because the human race hasn't yet really developed any techniques that are easier to employ than drugs. Pill goes in, student comes out.

Still it seems like some researchers, doctors, and teachers must have developed or are trying to develop techniques for treating ADD that doesn't involve drugs. However, most known techniques seem to involve diagnosing the student's problem, if they don't have ADD/ADHD then that cause can be attacked, but if they do have ADD/ADHD then the next step is drugs.

Are there any techniques for developing a child's attention span, even when they do have ADD/ADHD?


Talk to the school and your doctor

I'll preface this by saying ADHD is a complex issue - asking here you may well get some anecdotal techniques and suggestions but we aren't (necessarily) trained professionals. When providing the diagnosis your doctor should have given you information on how best to support your child - medication will be one suggestion but they should have provided information on alternatives too. If they didn't then go back to them or read up on advice from professionals online.

That being said the school may have staff trained to assist students with learning difficulties. There are certain things that can be done in the classroom to assist with learning. The CDC suggests things like:

  • Behavioral classroom management - this works on all students but, as a parent, if you could get involved by taking an interest in their report card and praising them for good behaviour it could solidify the effect a little more. Work with the school on this.

  • If the school doesn't have in-house support there may be laws (depending on jurisdiction) that mean you can apply for such support. It may be that they can get some 1-1 support if needed. Examples on the CDC website are:

    • Extra time on tests;
    • Instruction and assignments tailored to the child;
    • Positive reinforcement and feedback;
    • Using technology to assist with tasks;
    • Allowing breaks or time to move around;
    • Changes to the environment to limit distraction; and
    • Extra help with staying organized.
  • Their advice for parents is:

How to best advocate for your child

  • Understand your child’s diagnosis, how it impacts their education, and what can be done at home to help.
  • Understand your child’s IEP. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Speak with your child’s teacher.
  • When possible, obtain written documentation from teachers, administrators, or other professionals working with your child.
  • Know your rights.
  • Play an active role in preparing your child’s IEP or 504 Plan.
  • Keep careful records, including written documentation, communication between home and school, progress reports, and evaluations.
  • Try to maintain a good working relationship with the school while being a strong advocate for your child.
  • Communicate any concerns you may have about your child’s progress or IEP or 504 Plan.
  • Encourage your child every day, and devise a system to help with homework and other school projects.

Personal opinions

One suggestion I do have, as someone with learning difficulties, is to be conscious of your language around the topic. In your question you say

in reality, school systems hate a student who needs that much attention

I get it, its frustrating to see the system failing your child, but if you speak like that around your child they may feel more isolated. Learning difficulties can be isolating enough on their own without adding words like "hate" into the mix.

Funding for support staff is intended to assist the system in adapting. It isn't perfect by any means but it can help.

From personal experience (one of those anecdotes I said to be wary of earlier) being invested in your child's education is invaluable. For me it was reading and writing (anything language based) I struggled with and my parents put an extra emphasis on spending time with me around that. We would read stories together and then they would ask if I liked the ending. We would talk about what happened in the book and how the characters might feel and then write an ending together. Some of them were ridiculous (you know how a child's imagination works) but spending that time together eventually I would write my own endings to stories and my parents would write another and we would compare.

The details of that story aren't particularly important, what is important is that my parents spent time with me but let me lead at times. Maybe that'll work for you.

  • 1
    Thanks for the advice. – Mark Rogers Jul 21 at 14:52

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