Saturday, February 11, 2012

Smart but scattered

Since we're thinking about sending Snuggler to school next year, my to-do list this winter includes getting a good handle on the ADHD. At home we can work around (and with) it, structuring the day in bursts of work that map well to attention span. While that is a functional approach here, it's not going to help Snuggler stay on task for six hours a day in a classroom.

I picked up a book from the library recently called Smart But Scattered. This title is my child in a nutshell. Bright as can be, creative, interesting, insightful... but her mind jumps from idea to idea. I have seen her walk across the room with wooden blocks in her hand, think of something else, drop the blocks and not notice the clatter because her brain is focused elsewhere. It's mindboggling. Forget being able to follow two or three-part commands; we're still in the touch-and-make-eye-contact stage for simple requests.

But on some things Snuggler can focus for long periods of time; she can read four books in a day or spend an hour or more on an art project. Last night she used wooden blocks and little figurines to create LaGuardia High School for the Animals. She can write complex stories and is a natural team player, managing group work with ease. She's a curious mix of attention and inattention, highly inconsistent.

Or maybe not. I opened Smart But Scattered and did the assessment quiz for Snuggler (there are different versions for various age groups), which breaks out executive function issues into sub-groups: response inhibition, working memory, emotional control, sustained attention, and seven other categories. This is fantastic. For it turns out that executive function isn't an all-or-nothing issue. My child has strengths as well as weaknesses. Afterwards I did the same kind of quiz for myself, to see where my strengths match or complement my child's, and where our weaknesses overlap. It's a start.

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I was setting up a neurologist appointment recently for Snuggler (we need to explore the possibility of neurofibromatosis), and got to talking with my pediatrician's office person. Her son is Snuggler's age and has ADHD, or what sounded like ADHHHHHHHHHD. We don't have the hyperactivity at our house, just the inattention. Same brain region, different issues.

As this woman and I talked about how to get an IEP and she said, "I don't want him getting a label!" I smiled and said, as gently as possible, "But you just said everyone at school has already given him one: 'the annoying kid'! Better to have a label that gets him the accommodations he needs."

I've written about labels before. Sometimes they help.


  1. I do volunteer work with 5 & 6 year old girls, and this is the first time I've had a girl who will probably be diagnosed as ADHD. She always wants to talk and can't sit still - but she's also very caring and actively looks for ways to help. We're making a big effort to praise her strengths (and give her the opportunity to use them). I told her mother how helpful she is, and her response was "It's so nice to hear something good about her".

    Best of luck to all of you as you make this transition.

  2. But the teacher, and other school personnel, will also be there to help -- it won't be all your responsibility, and hers, to manage.

  3. There is a difference between ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). Things are different in Canada than in the US. Here (at least in my city and province), kids don't get IEPs unless they have funding for an educational assistant, or are very far behind their classmates. There are all sorts of "labels": trouble-maker, class clown, the brain, etc. etc. At least if a parent knows for sure what his/her child's problem is, help can be made available.

  4. I'm going to get this book (and live what you said about labels!) I am a former gifted teacher and still have a string interest in it, especially since i was labeled gifted in school but struggle with organization, too.