I don’t know how to describe it in more clinical or scientific terms, but there are a bunch of kids I’ve assessed recently who seem to me to lack, “oomph.”

While “oomph” may be one of those words that are not currently in modern usage, I think it conveys an important issue that is not often discussed.

With a low level of “oomph”  the child comes across with low-energy and very little “push” behind them and the  tasks they are completing.  Typically, parents will be checking the box that says, “lacks sustained mental effort.”

With these children, I think of them as having a low “OQ,” a term I made up (i.e., “Oomph Quotient.”)

Let’s take Jamie, an 8 year old whose parents are worried about how he conducts himself in his day-to-day life.

When I meet Jamie I do my best to connect with him, but he’s not buying what I’m selling.  Giving me  blasé’ (“must I do this”) fist bump with a meager smile as a starting point, he conveys that he can’t wait to be out of there.

When the assessment starts I ask Jamie to write down three things that he likes to do.  Instead of writing,  he says something in a mumble like, “I don’t like to do too much – video games.”  (Nothing gets written down.)

Later, on a task where I have Jamie copy different shape and designs on the page and to put blocks together in patterns, he goes through the motions, but there is no attempt to correct himself when a design or block pattern is obviously wrong.

The sense is that the only thing on Jamie’s mind that matters to him is getting done with this annoyance so he can go back to his screen time at home or on the phone that his parents have given him on his birthday (with no strings attached).

It would be one thing if what was observed was unusual for Jamie, a function of not liking me or the assessment situation, but this occurs on a daily basis his parents are getting their buttons pushed by it.

In short, Jamie has a low “OQ.”

Certainly, many kids with a low OQ are diagnosed as  ADHD or “ADD”  and perhaps medication can give them a little bit more oomph, but my sense is that it is deeper than we are owning and understanding.

To my knowledge there is no easy fix to remedy a low “OQ.”

A good first step is to recognize it for what it usually is – a total disinterest in anything beyond what is giving the child pleasure (which usually comes in the form of a screen interaction).

Once it is recognized for what it is, honest conversations can take place between parent and child about what the low OQ means and how much of a problem it is.

Starting to link up very important messages that question the free access to screen pleasure would be a good next step.

The child has to start understanding the basic formula of “you give and you get,” as the child is typically stuck in “you don’t give and you still get.”

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