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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I help my son with his Attention issues?

    My son (8) has a real problem with attention and is also behind his peers in reading and writing. How do I go about getting him assessed to find out if there is a real problem rather than just something not clicking into place. What can I do as a parent to help him?
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    Dr Tim Edwards-Hart

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Dr Tim Edwards-Hart is a clinical psychologist working with adults, young adults and adolescents (age 15+). He has expertise assessing and managing ADHD, anxiety, and … View Profile

    There are a number of things that can affect a child's ability to focus so it is definitely worth asking your GP to a referral to Paediatrician or an Educational and Developmental Psychologist. They will be able to advise you whether your son is "just not clicking" or if might be any specific learning difficulties, developmental conditions or other factors that are affecting his ability to keep up with his peers. While getting a child assessed can be worrying for a parent, I believe it is always better to know what is going on so you can choose the most appropriate responses for your son.

    When there are problems with attention and schoolwork, there are often behavioural challenges such as temper tantrums, forgetfulness and restlessness. So children with attention or learning difficulties often receive lots of negative attention from adults ("Stop!", "Don't!", "One more time...") and are more likely to be on the receiving end of parental frustration. So in addition to thinking "I'm no good at reading" they sometimes start to think, "I'm no good!". A way to counteract this is to "catch them doing something right". Look for the things your son does right — times when he is helpful, polite, is kind, or shows any behaviour that is valued by your family — and praise him for it. 

    Finally, look for the things that your son does well and provide opportunities for him to do them. So, for example, if he is good at football then sign him up for the local footy club and encourage him to be involved. So even if he needs extra support in some areas such as reading, he can display his skills and talents in other areas. This will help him to develop a balanced, healthy, self-esteem.

  • 1


    I am a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist who specialises in Adult ADHD, Jungian Psychotherapy, and the Psychological Medicine aspects of Chronic Pain conditions. View Profile

    In Australia the appropriate step to take is to arrange a referral to a Child Psychiatrist or Paediatrician for a thorough mental health assessment. The serious mental health issues to be excluded or identified include Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Acute Stress Disorders, and Specific Learning Disorders.

    The Child Psychiatrist or Paediatrician will undertake the initial assessment, often in collaboration  with other mental professionals, such as an Educational Psychologist with specific training in psychometric testing to map out areas requiring remediation treatments, and provide feedback regarding treatment options and strategies. 

    Every parent with a child identified as needing help with Attention Deficit Disorder, if this proves to be the diagnosis, is advised to obtain expert professional screening for Attention Deficit Disorder, given ADD and ADHD is very likely to be inherited from one or both parents. 

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