Early attention problems tied to academic struggles

By Michelle Anderson • Published: August 5th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Young children who can’t stay focused in class may end up with academic problems that last through high school.

And that can spell trouble for years to come.

Researchers say attention problems… things like restlessness or an inability to focus… have more impact on future academic success than other problems, including depression, anxiety or behavior issues.

University of California at Davis researchers say educators need to do more to identify youngsters with attention problems.

They looked at nearly seven-hundred children in the Detroit area, from kindergarten through high school.

Their study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is among the first to show how attention problems can predict future academic performance.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A-D-H-D, is one cause of attention problems.

Lack of sleep, a poor diet or anxiety can trigger them as well.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests early-onset psychiatric disorders, such as A-D-H-D, are at least partly to blame for later academic failure.

Attention troubles can appear as early as kindergarten, often the first time kids are asked to buckle down academically.

It’s normal for five- and six-year-olds to be active and exuberant.

But parents should watch for signs that their child can’t follow directions, stay on task through a simple project or control impulses.

Parents who suspect their child may have an attention disorder shouldn’t wait, but instead enlist help from a mental health professional.

Want to help your child follow a formula for academic success?

Just pay attention.