The "Just-Off Child"

May 25, 2018

There is a type of child I see quite often that is often confounding for schools and parents alike.  This is the child I think of as “just-off.”

Quantitatively, the “Just-Off Child” mostly resides in the portion of the bell-shaped curve, within the dreaded “average range,” with scores that are left of the strict mid-point (e.g., standard scores of 90 – 95 or the 25th to the 37th %ile).

If I said to you that your child’s overall reading was in the 37th %ile you’re not jumping for joy, but such a score is considered “average” and is not going to result in the child getting classified for special services.

Rightfully so, this child is probably not “disabled,” he is “just-off,” as in just-off the mid-point.

Qualitatively, these children can also show a number of indicators of concern.  Many of the common ones include:

  • They are often not “zippy.” (How’s that for a scientific term?)
  • They typically need a fair amount of prodding to get started on tasks.
  • Their homework and work output doesn’t look that great. (There’s something off about the homework – it’s just-off.)
  • They aren’t great at “self-monitoring” (a psych term for not checking one’s work).
  • Of course, they are viewed as on the distractible side of the continuum.

There are many more of these qualitative variables, but you get the idea.

Frequently, these kids get diagnosed as “ADHD,” (I’m not so sure they are) which yields a prescription and the likelihood of a 504 Plan with the school giving extra time (not that the kid wants to spend more time on school work).

What to do with this type of child?

Above all, everyone interacting with the “Just-Off Child” needs to be patient.

Understand that these kids can pull for irritation (“What’s the matter with you – I told you to pay attention.”) while they complete work semi-sloppily and make careless errors.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that you go totally easy on this type of child, but the kid is feeling it and he knows he’s not doing great.  He is not thrilled with all of the red marks and mediocre grades on the page.

Takeaway Point

There is a common type of child who is neither “fish nor fowl” – the “Just-Off Child.” This child resides in the lower portion of the average range and shows many common indicators that usually yield a diagnosis of “ADHD.”  They require a great deal of deep breathing from the adults who interact with them.  Besides practicing parental patience, in future blog posts we will elaborate on other things to do this child.


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