Month: September 2022

“My Kid Can’t Pay Attention – Must Be ADHD” (Not So Fast)

Every week I hear an array of concerns regarding distractibility and inattentiveness.

Beyond the immediate assumption that the child has ADHD/ADD (in other words a neurological disorder), I do my best to broaden the narrative and review other factors to consider that may contribute to why a child is not consistently paying attention.

There are multiple reasons why a child could be struggling to pay attention, which is not always ADHD.

Some others to consider that are commonly in the “soup pot” include:

  • Perhaps the child is obsessed (addicted?) to playing video games, leaving little in the “mental tank” for sustained mental effort.
  • Perhaps the child is also playing video games far too late in the evening and not getting enough sleep.
  • Perhaps the school work is too hard.
  • Maybe there’s been a lot of tension and fighting in the family that is unsettling to the child, contributing to a sense of distractibility.
  • Perhaps the teacher is not that motivating and the work has become overly boring
  • Perhaps the child is being flooded by too many worksheets (or its on-line equivalent), leaving the child feeling disconnected and unmotivated.
  • Perhaps the child has significant reading problems, making it difficult to pay attention and to comprehend.
  • Perhaps there is a lot of distraction in the environment (whether it be an actual classroom or at home), and the atmosphere does not lend itself to paying attention.
  • .Maybe the child is struggling with anxiety and the excessive worrying looks like inattention.
  • Perhaps the child is feeling like she may have social issues as she goes on TikTok and Instagram and sees her friends and she’s not included.
  • Maybe the child has been made fun of or ridiculed, but no one really knows of it other than the child.

Takeaway Point

There are many more such as these, but these are some of the ones that readily come to mind when considering why a child may not be paying attention.

Sure,  the child may ADHD/ADD, but make sure you go through a checklist to see what else may be contributing to the inattention.

Copyright, 2022
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick email:

“New School Year Blues – Part II”

Last week we started our two-part series to try and help you have a smoother ride this school year and to try and reduce the New School Year Blues.

In the first three tips, we encouraged you to turn down the heat during homework; to find ways as a parent to back it down when you’re feeling the heat rising, and to also help your kid gain a little composure if he goes off the rails over homework.

Here are a few more pointers:

Don’t Wait Around:  In the early grades especially, but even for middle school, it’s all about the foundational skills.  If your child is on the struggling side of the road, chances are there are “Swiss cheese holes” in the foundational skills of  reading, writing and mathematics.     You know your child better than anyone. If you think he child needs help, then seek it out.  99% of the time parents (ok, the moms) are on the money their concerns.   Don’t wait around for the school to tell you that your child is showing weakness.  (They aren’t allowed to recommend tutoring, anyway.)

Know What You Are Targeting:  If you are seeking any kind of tutoring make sure you know  very specifically what the goals are and what the emphasis will be.  A good tutor will be establishing goals based on the diagnostic information she has available and you should be able to get a very clear, specific targeted goals.  For example, a good goal for a beginning reader (or struggling reader) who is in early Stage I of development might be for the child to “master short vowel sounds in consonant-vowel-consonant words within a six month period.”

Set the Tone:    Ask yourself how you want it to go at home relative to homework.  You set the tone. Lead and they will follow.  Reflect on being the captain of the ship and decide how you want it to go.  For example, if you value the need for electronic-free time zones (that is no phones and iPads) in your house, then set this as a parameter.  You may get a lot of push-back initially, but that’s ok. If you stay firm with how you want things to go, they will settle in.

504 Plans – What they Can & Can’t Do:   Many kids have 504 Plans.  504 Plans are usually generated for kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD.  (There are other reasons a 504 is developed, but for now let’s leave it at that.)  My impression is that people think a 504 will do much more than it really does.  The 504 Plan is meant to level the playing field a bit for kids identified as having a disability such as ADHD.  A few reasonable accommodations, such as not penalizing a child for spelling or having directions repeated are examples of ones that may be helpful.   For a smoother year, don’t overinvest in the power of 504.  It will only let you down!

Ok.  I could go on with so many other reminders for a smoother school year, but the 7 tips from last week through today should get you started on the right foot.

Copyright:  Shut-Down Learner

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email



New School Year Blues – Part I

Well, it’s just past Labor Day.  You know what’s coming.

That pit in the stomach is starting to form. Yep, it’s back to school. I know that you will see all kinds of articles in parenting magazines and the internet such as the 10 Tips for Having an Easy, Breezy School Year.

From where I sit, though, articles such as these rarely get to the heart of the matter, the nitty-gritty, especially when it comes to kids who are on the struggling side of the road.

Struggling kids need different handling than those articles would suggest.

So, in an effort to get you started on the year on a good footing, over the next couple of weeks I am going to offer you my top tips to combat the school year blues – Selznick’s Tips for a Having a Smoother School Year.

If you’ve followed my blog for some time or have read the books, some of these tips may echo the ones you’ve heard before. They are sort of my best hits.

Homework Heat: Folks, listen up. Back it down. Turn down the homework heat. Mind you, I’m not saying that your kid should have free reign and not be responsible for meeting  responsibilities, but does it have to be so intense? It’s just homework. In the grand scheme, does homework mean all that much?

Homework is really only a tool we use for teaching kids to become more independent, self-reliant citizens. If you notice your parental anger temperature reaching a 5 on a scale of 1-10, try and take an action to turn it down to the cooler zone. Go wash your face in cold water. Take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

When Your Kid Loses it: Point #1 is centered on you as the parent, but what about when your kid goes off the rails over homework? I have lots of parents describing situations where the child is having a full-blown meltdown over what would seem to be relatively minor frustration around homework. Usually, this melt-down also leads to the parental melt-down as noted in point #1.

In some ways the advice is the same as in Point #1. In calm tones, suggest that your child takes a break to change his “state” and reset himself. As a parent, you need to have a pretty good awareness of your kid’s temperature. If it is creeping (or skyrocketing) from 5 up to 10, you need to shut-down the operation for a while.

Noting productive will take place If his emotional temperature is 5 or over.

3. Have a Few Parental Mantras & Shrug a Lot:

Practice shrugging and pulling out a parental mantra that you can repeat when needed. For example, when your kid starts protesting and you feel his heat rising and nothing has helped, a parental mantra that says something like, “Hey, you’re a big boy. It’s up to you if you choose to do your homework,” can be very helpful in turning down the heat.

Start this mantra early even if he is not a big boy. It does wonders in putting the responsibility where it belongs and it saves you from having to keep running to the liquor store.

Remember, practice shrugging a lot as you say the mantra..

Takeaway Point

These will get you started on having an easier year.

More coming in the next few posts.

Copyright:  Shut-Down Learner

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email


“Ain’t the Beatles ‘Day in the Life'”

 “Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up, I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke and I went into a dream.”

                                           (From “A Day in the Life,”  John Lennon & Paul McCartney”)

Inspired by recently hearing one of my favorite Beatles songs, “A Day in the Life,”  I thought an updated  version of “A Day in the Life” would be fun. This time it would be a day in the life of a typical adolescent boy.M

Myles, a 14-year-old young man who sees me periodically, fills me in on a typical day.

Here’s a re-creation of a conversation I have with him:

“So, Myles, your mother is telling me you do nothing all day. You’re up in your room for hours just on video games, so fill me in.  Let’s make believe we’re watching a video of  a typical day in your life, after you get home from school and maybe on weekends.”

(Keep in mind his mother is sitting next to him as he walks me through it, but he isn’t shy in recounting his day.)

“Well, I get home before 3:00 and I go up in my room,” Myles tells me.

“So, what are you doing up there,” I ask

“I get on my Xbox and start playing.”

“How long are you playing?

“Maybe until about 6:00,” Myles says, “and then I start watching TV or go on YouTube or watch a movie on Netflix. Then I either play some more Xbox and have dinner from around 630.”

“Are you on your phone during any of this?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m texting the whole time with my friends. I text them during dinner too.”

“You mean, your parents let you bring your phone to dinner?”

“Oh, yeah, well, my mom and dad are always checking their Apple watches – makes it look like they aren’t texting, but I know they are.”

“What about any school work?  Does that ever come up for you?”

“Not really. Maybe  about 7:30 for about 10 or 15 minutes then I go back on YouTube and Netflix or play some more Xbox until about 11:30.”

(At this point his mother has turned various colors as she listens to all of this.  She’s astounded he’s being as honest as he is.)

“How about weekends?  What are they like for you?

“Pretty much the same thing.  I get up around 11:00 on Saturday and start playing Xbox and go on YouTube.  Then I do that the rest of the day.”

Takeaway Point

A day in the life in 2022 is a little different than it was when the Beatles told us about it.

I think I’m going back to the Beatles.                                                                

                 “I read the news today, oh boy
                 Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
                 And though the holes were rather small
                 They had to count them all
                Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”

                                            (From,  “A Day in the Life,” Lennon & McCartney)

Copyright:  Shut-Down Learner

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email




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