ADHD series part VIII: your inattentive child lost in the crowd
These children have a special place in my heart because I struggle with inattention more than most.
I could write volumes on my life of misplacing things, meetings I’ve forgotten about, and entire conversations I zoned out on because I was thinking about how cool it would have been to have been part of the moon landing, or the critical questions in live such as “Why do we refer to sewage as “raw sewage” I mean does anyone ever cook the stuff?”
If only you could walk a mile in my shoes, only to realize afterwards that you left one shoe at home… and you were wearing mismatched socks ☺ This is me, the inattentive type.
All of us experience different levels of focus and relaxation each day. With heightened awareness comes heightened focus and concentration.
When things are calm around us, our nerves restin, our minds relax and begin to wander. Here there is no guide or directed thought process. Letting our minds wander is healthy and a few meditative therapies claim that by allowing this form of “wandering” our minds are filtering through a form of “spring cleaning”. Relevant thoughts can be saved and filed away, while less critical thoughts are identified as junk and then discarded.
In a calm state, our minds naturally wander and are less-than focused.
ADHD Inattentive Type often require a heightened or raised awareness in order truly focus. Heightened awareness comes in several forms i.e. due dates, angry bosses, disappointed parents, exhilaration, and fear.
Dads, I know what you’re thinking “Does this mean that I get to treat each day like Halloween and scare the crap out of them?” Probably not, but a heightened sense of fear has shown to increase executive functioning-so sometimes ☺
Most adults with ADHD will say that they operate best under pressure. Why?
Because they have been brought out of their relaxed state through a heightened emotion, noreepinephrine and dopamine levels increase and their brain gets a kick start and begins functioning on all cylinders.
Adults with ADHD have been a huge help in teaching mental health professionals the impact of childhood ADHD. They are now grown up and can communicate intellectually about a child’s ADHD brain, what they might be experiencing and most importantly- how to function.
ADHD-Inattentive Type children are often very bright
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder most common in children and adolescents. Neurobehavioral means there are both neurological and behavioral components to the disorder. These are the “daydreamers” or the old ADD’ers. (The new clinical diagnosis for ADD is “ADHD-Inattentive Type”).
The inattentive type of ADHD isn’t what most people picture when they think of someone who has ADHD. ADHD Intattentive Type is also much more common in girls than boys.
Children who have ADHD inattentive type are usually less disruptive and less-active than those who have the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type.
Inattentive Type children cruise through grade school
Inattentive Type children do well in elementary school because their intelligence compensates for their ADHD challenges. Their ability to problem solve, use critical thinking, and their strong memory recall are often enough to put them at the top of the class, regardless of their attention challenges.
Inattentive Type have few behavioral concerns and typically have above average intelligence. I’m not just saying this to make myself feel better, although it helps as a reminder when I work with kids and teens who are struggling with my same issues. (and honestly speaking, i’d feel a lot worse if research proved that we were dumb ☺)
My good friend who teaches elementary calls the Inattentive Type the “Poster children who make teaching fun!”
Middle school is challenging
For most of these bright children, their “unraveling” occurs in Jr High and High School where the work load is much more demanding and the ability to use Executive Functioning skills (EF) is required.
EF skills consist of organization, working alone, completing and turning in homework assignments, and problem solving.
Think about this-up to the point that our children enter middle school they are mostly living on borrowed executive functioning skills.
Who goes through the child’s back pack each night and assists them with home work? The parents.
Who writes the check for lunch money? The parents.
Who corresponds with the teachers about late work and missing assignments? The parents.
Yet when a child begins middle school, there is a huge shift in responsibility. Although nothing magic happens to a child’s brain when they turn middle school age, they are now faced with a complex schedule with several class rooms to make it to each day, with the added responsibility to organize, complete and turn in their workload.
Middle Schoolers are also responsible for tracking important test dates, due dates and now facilitate most communication with 7 teachers instead of just 1.
Most children struggle with this transition, but for inattentive type it can break them.
High school can be even harder
In addition to the complexity of a larger school and more students, further responsibilities such as extra curricular activities, clubs, testing, ACT’s and SAT’s, and jobs challenge their Executive Functioning skills and can push them to the breaking point.
The pressure is on now that grades mean more and either help or hurt them in getting into the school of their choice. The fun loving day dreamer becomes overwhelmed and goes along for the ride. Assignments are missed, test dates are forgotten, shifts at work are skipped, and life can feel as if it’s falling apart.
College and the career field feel nearly impossible
A number of students with ADHD may not encounter significant struggles until they are away at college – where the structures, routines, and supports of home are suddenly missing. Some parents, desperate to help their son or daughter succeed in college, resort to becoming their child’s long-distance coach, calling to wake them in the morning, keeping detailed track of assignments and exam dates and constantly reminding and advising their child regarding daily tasks and routines.
Gifted children can certainly excel in high school at a high level and It’s not until college that the longer classes, long study hours and chronic all-night study sessions begin to bring up the red flags.
Signs and symptoms of ADHD Inattentive Type
The possibility of ADHD should not be ignored because a child is doing well academically. Remember, ADHD inattentive type children do not typically demonstrate the hyperactive or compulsive traits that lead to behavioral problems.
Here is a list of inattentive symptoms:
- missing details and becoming distracted easily
- trouble focusing on the task at hand
- becoming bored quickly
- difficulty learning or organizing new information
- trouble completing homework or losing items needed to stay on task
- becoming confused easily or daydreaming frequently
- seeming not to listen when spoken to directly
As your child progresses through school, pay attention to their ability to organize, communicate and excel as extra executive functioning skills are demanded of them. If they seem to struggle with the extra demands and demonstrate several or most of the symptoms listed above, consider having them evaluated by a qualified clinician.
Children with ADHD focus best when they feel an added sense of urgency or have a heightened emotional state. Plan breaks for them throughout their day, give them a quick set of exercises to do before study time, and last but not least-scare them once in a while, it’s good for them.