Friday, September 19, 2008

Focus and Attention

Last week I reported that Thomas's focus and attention was spot on.

Sadly, this week it was not. And it was so far from being what a typical seventh grader should be, that it scared me. (Typical=me, I guess. And my assumptions of other children.)

Thomas and I have discussed at length his attention issues. He's had these issues forever. He can focus on something he loves, or if he's in the right mood he can do better than normal, but normal just isn't good.

I believe it's at the point we need to take action. We have a neurologist appointment coming up. When we got the epilepsy diagnosis, actually right before the diagnosis, the doctor was asking if Thomas had problems with focus and attention. I think I said yes, but I did not elaborate because I felt that I should have the discussion with Thomas before I started bringing things up with the doc.

We've had the discussion. We've also had a lot of tears this week because of the problem. He's ready for some help.

I am at a loss on where to turn. Should we get another eval from an educational psychologist? Or not? I know all his issues are neurological in nature. I am at a loss on where to search anymore. We've tried all the techniques that I've found. We actually didn't get any recommendations when we had him tested before except to send him to a special school that cost $17,000 a year. That, plus the fact we would have to move, find a job, etc., made that not an option. We were told not to ever give him any work that was timed. Well, we don't typically, but for some reason he's really able to turn it on and do well on the timed standardized tests. It takes a lot out of him, though.

I'm just not educated in this area. I'm hoping that the neurologist will help. Do I take our IQ tests, our results from the educational psychologist from five years ago? Do I take our standardized test results? Should I write up a little spiel about the issues he's having? I get befuddled in the office and I think I would be able to express my concerns better that way. What all do I include other than if I don't sit by the table while Thomas is doing his work, he stares into space. Do I tell him that math brings out the worst in him?

This is all new to me. I think Thomas has matured and made great gains since we've homeschooled. Even given the age difference, he has coped, learned skills to help, but it could be better. And I want what's best for my son.

Someone want to hold my hand through this and tell me what to do?

We see the doctor at the end of the month. I'm trying to get prepared ahead of time.



Audrey said...

Hi, I just happened across your blog and read about the focus and attention. My heart goes out to you. One thing that really stands out to me is when you said you get befuddled at the doctors. Here's what I do (because I'm the same way) - a week or so before the appointment (or you can start right now) is to write down every question that you can think of between now and the appointment. Having a doctor in the family, believe me, they are used to it and expect it. They know you want answers to your questions and would rather you ask them then leave feeling even more confused and upset than when you came in (at least...that is how good doctors are). I used to teach in the public system before I started homeschooling my son and I would suggest you take what you feel is relevant - from recent past to as far back as "pre epilepsy" diagnosis so that they can perhaps see where the difference are - works better in the morning or the better with pen to paper stuff or mental computations. The reason I say this is that they are trained in such things and can often tell which part of the brain is being affected by certain things by seeing the difference from year to year. Does that make sense? lol. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to say and it makes sense to me but then I wonder if it makes sense to anyone else. Best of luck and I will check back :)

Frankie said...

Thank you, Audrey. I wouldn't have thought to put down best working time.

I have started typing up a sheet with questions, and I think I will get his past tests out and take those, too.

Thomas is definitely a concept kid. He scores very high on anything have to do with concepts, and high but not nearly as high on computations.

I appreciate your advice.

doc said...

What is your expectation of a 12 year old boy?

I've raised and homeschooled two boys. Neither of them has (that I know of) any neurological issues. But I can tell you this: both of them spent most of their 12th year staring into space, bursting (what I thought ) into inappropriate fits of anger and or crying or giddy laughter, sometimes acting surprisingly mature, the next moment playing legos, giving me fits, developing tics and losing them, not doing well in math (or anything else), and as the year passed, I considered giving them away and/or sending them to military school.

Then they turned 13, entered puberty for reals, and turned into delightful young men who could do math, focus when I needed them to (as opposed to when they wanted to) and stopped acting like alien babies.

I'm not saying his epilepsy isn't causing some difficulties - the stress and anxiety alone would do that - it's just that, well, he's 12. Absolutely talk to his neurologist. But remember about the puberty monster. It hits 12 year old boys in really odd ways.

Frankie said...


What brought me to the realization that it's time to do something is because he is crying when he can't focus. He is very aware of it now, where before he wasn't. It hurts him, he's frustrated, and there's nothing that he (we) can do to keep him on task.

I know he's 12, I know he's at puberty and all those hormones are raging. He's also adjusting to new medication, which can hinder attention. They can cloud the mind and make it more difficult to concentrate.

Thomas has been diagnosed with a processing speed disorder, which is neurological in nature. He was also diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, which I've just learned is also neurological.

So he has a lot going on neurologically.

Puberty-wise, 12-wise, yes, he's sassy, back talking, spreading his wings and gaining his independence. I may not sound like it, but I do recognize the difference.

None of this is really new. We had hoped he would grow out of it or with maturation, he would learn to cope. It was the magic moment when he started getting frustrated that he couldn't do his work (especially with math) that we decided we needed to discuss this with the neurologist.

Gottfredsen said...

HI Frankie,
My heart goes out to you. You described my oldest in alot of this. (He just does not have epilepsy) When we started out with our school year this year, he spent alot of time crying and having a hard time focusing on different things. I stopped school and reset the schedule. This has helped alot. Since we started the new schedule (2 weeks ago) no more crying. Another thing that we did for him was make a stress bin. We filled a basic rubbermaid bin with little things that calm him. (Puzzles, bubbles, clay, etc.) As he got stressed he could pull out the bin and do one of the items then go back to his work with a fresh calm mind. We did let him pick out the items to, so the whole box was comforting to him. It might be something that you want to try. HTH.

Anonymous said...

Hi Frankie, I don't really have anything to add to what others have said. I hope the neurologist offers some insights that will help.