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Does My Second-Grader Have ADD?
Q: I have a 6-year-old daughter who went to a private preschool and completed the first grade in a Catholic school. She will be entering the second grade at a different Catholic school because her first-grade teacher just didn't click with my daughter's attention span. Ever since she started preschool, her teachers have pointed out that she has difficulty focusing and paying attention. This concerns me, even though she can learn and is very intelligent. Is there a possibility that something may be wrong? Does she have ADD or is she just very aware of her surroundings? What can I do?
A: It is significant that several people have noticed that your daughter has difficulty attending and focusing. This is important information, but it's not sufficient for a diagnosis. In order to tell if your daughter has ADD (or ADHD), she has to be evaluated by a qualified professional or a team of professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder. I would contact a clinical neuropsychologist who is willing to work with your daughter's pediatrician and her teachers to help you make this important determination. Classroom observations, interviews with parents, and a battery of attention-sensitive tests should be a part of this assessment.
You mention that there was an apparent mismatch between your daughter and her teacher last year. This points out an important issue when you are considering the possibility of a diagnosis of ADHD. If your child does have ADHD, she will need to be in a classroom in which the teacher understands the diagnosis and the condition and who believes that the condition is a real educational concern. The teacher must be able to create a learning environment which is stable and predictable, so that your daughter is not having to deal with the added challenge of a chaotic classroom or a teacher who is disorganized. A sensitive, knowledgeable, and firm teacher can do wonders for kids with ADHD. Make sure your daughter's teacher has the desired qualifications and personality to meet her needs.
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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.