Personality trait or attention disorder?

Lexie has always been full of energy. Because of her horrible eczema when she was little we often indulged her – allowing her to be a little more rambunctious than her brother. She was so uncomfortable all the time but always a happy girl. But getting her to listen and follow directions has always been somewhat of a chore.

Even her kindergarten teacher mentioned it last year. She was often always moving around and not seeming to pay attention, but she did well when tested.

Now she is in the first grade. We had her spring parent-teacher conference in February. In addition to keeping up with her reading tutoring, her teacher, Mrs. D, mentioned Lexie’s trouble focusing. She said compared to the other kids, Lexie stands out. By this time in the year, her teacher expects her to follow the rules and to work hard. But Lexie continues to get up during work time to come talk to Mrs. D.

We easily read between the lines that her teacher thought she might have an attention disorder such as ADD or ADHD. Of course, Mrs. D is not a doctor, but she has been teaching for 29 years – 20 of those at the first-grade level.

Her teacher did talk about how research has shown this is a medical disorder and through either therapy or medication, Lexie might be able to concentrate better – if she is actually diagnosed as having a problem.

Mrs. D stressed that she didn’t want to alter Lexie’s bubbly personality, but she was worried about her decline in grades and how she would do in second grade when the work becomes harder.

I have mentioned this conference to a few friends, and they have wondered what we wonder – is this really an attention problem or is it just part of Lexie’s personality that she bubbles with energy. She never sits still out dinner. One of my friends mentioned her eight-year-old son is the same way and he doesn’t have any attention problems.

Can Lexie pay attention? Well, yes if she wants to. She can spend hours playing video games or with play-doh or fake snow. And as with many kids, she would rather be playing than doing homework. Ugh – homework is always a chore with getting her to stay on task and finish the assignment rather than go off on one of the hundreds of tangents that she seems to want to go down.

Of course mention of Lexie possibly being ADD brought out instant denial by both sets of grandparents. We heard everything from the teacher is to blame (can’t control the kids) to she isn’t being stimulated enough (as in the work could be too easy) to she is just behaving like all kids do. This is coming from people who raised kids in the 80’s and have memory of parents being told to drug their “unruly” children. In other words, they don’t see this as a real medical disorder. Or at least not one their granddaughter has.

I don’t know what to believe. My husband and I have commented in the past that if either of our kids had ADD it would be Lexie. She appears to draw the short straw when it comes to medical problems. From amblyopia to eczema, she just seems prone to more medical issues than Jase.

I don’t know if she has an attention problem in the medical sense but I do know that I want her to do well in school. In her current state, she may need help doing that. So what we have decided to do is speak to her pediatrician about it at her well-check appointment, which will be next month. Once we know more, we will know which way to go with helping Lexie do her best in school.

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6 thoughts on “Personality trait or attention disorder?

  1. shegyes says:

    I’m not a doctor either, but it could just be a matter of boredom really. As adults, when we don’t want to work on something, we simply set it aside and do something else (this even applies to work. Even I’m guilty of surfing the web when I’m bored or waiting for a response to something I’m doing.) Is it hard to believe that children aren’t the same way?

    Maybe it is ADD or ADHD, but I also believe children aren’t stimulated in school the way we were growing up. Most of the schools in my area, despite having playgrounds, don’t have recess anymore, and some have even begun cutting out gym in exchange for health class. It’s sad, but it means that children are working/learning all the time and never taking a real break from stimulation. Does the school your children go to still offer such?

    Is it possible that she’s just needing a break from overload more than having issues with ADD/ADHD or even attention problems? Is it possible she’s just bored? I foresee these same problems for both my girls in the near future when they start school…

    • I guess she could be bored but we see it at home. Unless it is something she really wants to do, she just doesn’t stay focused on the task at hand. It even makes watching a movie with her hard. She doesn’t seem to be able to sit still and be quiet for that long.

      Her school has recess twice a day so we are lucky in that aspect. They also have a very hands-on, move around the classroom set up so it isn’t all desk work.

      Only a week and a half until I can talk to her doctor about it. Eager to see what they think as her grades did all slip on this past report card.

  2. sjhigbee says:

    I’ve also been a school teacher AND a grandmother – and it’s also a question of how much physical energy some children have, in comparison to others. And their emotional maturity. It takes some children a LOT longer than others to learn just to sit still, even if they’d really rather be running around – and it has nothing to do with intelligence, either. Or ability to focus. They just don’t get that they need to sit still.

    What can complicate the picture is that there is also a set of children who have specific learning disorders – ADHD being among them – whose inability to sit still is one of the symptoms.. However, given her age, I’d say she was still a bit young to rule out the first option. Does she get easily frustrated and fly into rages when things don’t go her way? Many ADHD children do – often because they become overwhelmed and a bit panicked when they cannot work out exactly how to deal with a situation. But if she is generally calm, even when running around, my guess would be that it’s just taking her a bit longer to work out that the main rule in class is – sit still.

    Hope this helps…

  3. Thanks for sharing this. As other commenters have said, I’m no doctor, but I am someone who grew up with an ADHD diagnosis. I’m pleased to see you mention therapy as an option. When I was a kid, medication was heavily pushed and any kind of therapy or learning coping strategies was never offered to me. Obviously, I can’t know what things were like from my parents’ or teachers’ perspective and I can’t know for sure how things would have worked out, but I wish I’d been coached instead of medicated, so that I’d learn coping skills and social skills early instead of having to learn them as a teen and younger adult with no guidance at all.
    Of course, there are probably instances when medication is the right answer, but it isn’t the only one. I’m grateful that my parents were concerned about my academic performance, but I still feel that learning those soft skills was more important at that age than excelling academically. Kids learning coping skills need a chance to try and fail and try again, and I believe that earlier in one’s education is a much less risky time to experiment in this way.
    Every child and every situation is different, so there’s no one solution for everyone, but it’s important to know there are options.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Many kids with ADHD can actually focus very well on things they are interested in. In fact, they tend to hyper-focus when their interest is engaged, to where they can have a hard time breaking away from that activity. For a long time I doubted whether my son had ADHD because I saw how well he could focus on activities he really liked. But I went and observed him in class a few times and saw how very hard it was for him to focus on schoolwork, sit still, keep his hands to himself, not blurt out… It became clear to me that he wasn’t just “energetic,” because I could see how much he struggled compared to other energetic boys. Can you try making a few classroom visits so you can see first-hand how your daughter fares in the classroom? Also, you’d be surprised at other challenges that are often associated with ADHD, like sleep troubles, handwriting difficulties, temper issues, flexibility challenges, and difficulties with social cues. You might try reading up on those associations and see if anything clicks.

  5. […] June of 2015 we started our daughter Lexie on medication for ADHD. At the time, we weren’t even sure she had a problem. Her teacher had shown concern that she couldn’t sit still in class and was having trouble […]

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