Sometimes it’s not easy being a kid. This is especially true if your brain works at a pace that is qualitatively different (i.e., slower) than the other kids around you or than the expectations that are being put upon you.
Take Jordan, a 10 year old fourth grader. Jordan’s already on a stimulant medication, having been “diagnosed” with ADHD. For Jordan keeping up was a constant challenge, even with the medication.
For almost every task that he did, it took Jordan double, triple or even quadruple the amount of time that one might expect for the given task.
His teachers always attributed Jordan’s poor class performance as “just not focused enough” or “not paying attention.”
We worked with Jordan for over three hours and there was never a time that I thought he was not paying attention, but there was a pervasive quality of inefficiency to the way he went about things. This was true whether he was copying designs or shapes, remembering a series of numbers, answering different questions or solving problems. Across the board Jordan was inefficient.
It was less that he was distractible, but more a matter of Jordan’s internal clock speed. In other words, Jordan had significantly slow “R.P.M.s” (revolutions per minute, as in a car engine).
Parents always want to know what to do about the Jordans of the world and their slow clock speed. They feel beleaguered by the difficulty in getting homework finished and undergoing the nightly ritual of frustration.
They frequently ask, “How do we fix it?”
I wish I could send parents to the equivalent of the “Jiffy Lube Brain Shop,” to fix the problem, but to date I haven’t known any to deliver on their claims (even though there are lots of programs out there very willing to part you from your hard earned money).
There are few things I would be thinking about relative to a Jordan type:
First, I would politely move the teacher away from the “not paying attention” perspective and talk to her about “clock speed,” in the hope that she can accommodate Jordan so he’s not being penalized. It would seem (at least from where I sit) that as long as Jordan is putting forth good effort, then he should not receive bad grades.
Jordan should also not have to take all kinds of work home that he could not complete in class. (If Jordan had a bad leg he wouldn’t be held accountable for not running fast enough). That would seem to be unfairly punitive.
Jordan’s parents also need to make sure they aren’t on his back too much, as these kids will pull for a lot of negative parental attention.
The parental mindset would be something like, “Jordan, you give us a solid hour (or whatever us reasonable for your child’s particular age and grade) with good effort and we will talk to the teacher about not getting penalized.”
Finally, the Jordan types usually are very disorganized and lack an internal sense of structure. Sit down with him before he starts his work and map out (with him) in a simple list how he should proceed with his work.
Then set a timer and when the session is done, Jordan is free to go do what he wants.
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