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DD who has ability but absolutely no concentration

(27 Posts)
smartiejake Fri 13-Feb-09 10:27:53

DD (12) is at a small independent secondary in year 8. The classes are small and the teaching of a high standard.

We have just attended yet another parents' evening where I was told all the same old stories about her lack of concentration and inconsistent performance. All the teachers say she is able but really not achieving her potential. Her English teacher says she is not making progress and really doesn't know what to do with her.

DD was convinced that she would get a better report this time and claims that she tries her best. She says she has really tried to improve her concentration but the report we had was worse than ever!

She handed in an essay this week that she was very pleased with and thought she would get a good grade for. It took her 3 hours to complete.But her teacher said it was worse than the one before and gave her a D.

She does have mild fybromyalgia which I know can come with concentration problems but she's not really suffering with this at the moment so don't want to let her make this as an excuse.

I am really rather concerned about this now as she will be starting her some of her GCSE courses next year (they start some of them in year 9).

Any suggestions? Tips, ideas anything???!! <desperate emoticon>

gigglewitch Fri 13-Feb-09 10:36:37

two things from personal experience - one, get her a blood test if at all possible, if she's anaemic for any reason this can send your concentration into the bin! recently I've been dx with it and believe me it is unreal. DS1 has food allergies and has been mildly anaemic since he was 1yr old -this is kept fairly well in check with a good multivitamin + iron.
Two, find out if she has any traits of dyslexia. this might need to be an independent assessment from the educational psychologist in your area, as she's not in the state school system.
Feel free to disregard these if you think they're not appropriate... obviously you know more about your daughter than anyone else. You're on the ball and heading the right way to be exploring the possibilities, so hang in there and definitely don't give up because your mum-instinct is usually right. All i can say is that with experience of really bright children who underachieve, dyslexia is often found to be a cause.

ChampagneDahling Fri 13-Feb-09 10:42:07

I have similar probs with ds. Have you had her tested for anything else, dyspraxia etc? When she is working do you sit with her? Is she staring into space or fiddling with something or generally in a world of her own? Might be worth a couple of sessions with private tutor experienced in "special needs" to see if that helps and they can recommend any strategies for DD particular requirements. There is certainly a lot you can do for dyspraxic children, but I think you need to delve deeper first.

Good luck!smile

mollyroger Fri 13-Feb-09 10:44:24

Fish oils?

Make sure she eats little and often and drinks plenty of water

Did she have these problems at primary level?

smartiejake Fri 13-Feb-09 10:57:51

No she's not dyslexic- I am actually a special needs teacher and although not qualified as a dyslexia specialist, know quite a bit about it. She read fluently from a very young age and her spelling is extrememly good.

She's also not dyspraxic- very co-ordinated does loads of dancing and one of the top athletes in her entire school!

Anaemia is an interesting possibility.- She started her periods last September and they do seem to last quite a while so might be part of the problem. I have tried fish oils but didn't seem to make that much difference but not sure if she was taking a high enough dose. I have read recently that low magnesium can also cause poor attention. Anyone know anything about that?

She didn't seem to be quite so bad at primary and did quite well in her SATs (4as for Maths and Science and 5bs for English)

smartiejake Fri 13-Feb-09 11:35:39


catMandu Fri 13-Feb-09 11:39:49

I'd second getting iron levels checked out, I had similar issues with dd1 when she was in yr 2, she is now absolutely fine and in top sets for all her subjects. No concentration issues, I give her the soluble iron every couple of days in her orange juice, we're not big red meat eaters.

smartiejake Fri 13-Feb-09 15:43:58


ChampagneDahling Fri 13-Feb-09 18:00:02

bump because I'm interested about the magnesium idea

scienceteacher Sat 14-Feb-09 09:50:45

What does DD have to say for herself? Is she frustrated with herself, worried about her lack of concentration, etc. Does she see it as an issue?

Is it the same in other subjects, or just English?

senua Sat 14-Feb-09 11:38:00

"She handed in an essay this week that she was very pleased with and thought she would get a good grade for. It took her 3 hours to complete.But her teacher said it was worse than the one before and gave her a D."

Was the teacher specific about why the essay merited a D? Has she said what was missing / what needs to be done to raise the grade?
Have you seen the marking scheme so you know what teachers / examiners are looking for?

harpsichordcarrier Sat 14-Feb-09 11:43:06

hmmmm. weill tbh if she worked for 3 hours on an essay then you can't really say she doesn't have any concentration. tbh if she spent three hours and tried hard then the issue isn't really concentration, but achievement.
what does a D mean in this context? are they applying levels?
I think we would need to know a bit more.
how does her lack of concentration manifest? is it in every class? is she drifting off? is she fidgetting? does she find it hard to sit and complete homework? (it seems not)

smartiejake Sat 14-Feb-09 13:10:37

I have seen the criteria she used to mark the essay as it's in the front cover of her english book. (not levels they don't do that as it's an independent school)I think the problem was that DD was so wrapped up in trying to use clever words in her essay she forgot to actually answer the question!There is alot of feedback on the work so we will have to look through it and she is going to write it again.The teacher says she has told them repeatedly what she is looking for but DD still got it all wrong. I actually think that what the teacher needs to do is show an example of what a good essay looks like.

Anyway the problem isn't only with ENglish. Nearly all her teachers said the same thing. She is very concerned herself about it and is willing to try anything. We have started her on high dose fish oils and will see if that does any good.

I went on the net the other day to try and see if I could find some essays and came across the question she was set and it stated that the text ("The Tell Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe)was suitable for year 10 and she is in year 8!

Champagnedarling- I read about a study on the net about magnesium. A research project with about 150 children who had poor concentration were shown to have low magnesium levels and that giving a supplement showed noticeable results.

Harpsichordcarrier-She drifts off in the lessons and then seem clueless as to what has been said but her science teacher says she did quite well in a recent test and after lots of supported revision for a recent maths test came top of the top set!

What flummoxes her teachers is the inconsitency.

scienceteacher Sat 14-Feb-09 13:23:23

I think it would be worth going into school for a proper meeting with one of the pastoral staff.

harpsichordcarrier Sat 14-Feb-09 13:26:18

"She drifts off in the lessons and then seem clueless as to what has been said"
this could describe most children in my lessons grin
here's what I think:
tbh she sounds like a nice, normal girl. It is good to challenge children and to have high expectations of them, but there is a good balance to strike between having high expectations and putting too much pressure on both of you so that school and learning does not feel like fun.
It doesn't sound to me that your dd is underachieving or that you have any grave cause for concern. you could give her some tips, and some rewards, for focussing on her lessons over a short time period, ie. a day or a week. you could suggest that she sets herself a target, a nice managable one, and works to that and make sure she gets lots of praise and encouragement and support. is she contributing to discussion in lessons? taking part in group work? there is a huge amount more to success in the classroom than writing essays, of course.
but, and I hope you don't mind me saying this, you need to take great care that you don't allow her to be labelled (or label herself) as a failure when she is nothing of the kind. that's one of the reasons why the levels are useful - they suggest progress rather than label achivement/failure.
year 8 is (imo) very young to expect full on concentration and full on achievement. I don't think inconstistency is flummoxing, tbh. it is pretty normal, and a bit developmental too. i.e. she will grow put of it! as long asyou all hold your nerve and not get too wrapped up in the perceived "problems". I am sure you are celebrating the successes like mad.
she sounds a lovley girl and I would be delighted to have her in my classroom! I like girls you try and use clever words grin

harpsichordcarrier Sat 14-Feb-09 13:27:41

(apols for bad spelling, have wriggly toddler)

smartiejake Sat 14-Feb-09 13:50:03

Yes she does contribute to lessons, has her hand up, works well in groups and gets loads of work done in class. They all said she works hard and always gets her homework done albeit rather slapdash- it's in the teaching part of the lessons where she seems to drift off.

She strikes me as a visual and kinasthetic (sp) learner and I think her teachers rely too much on aural skills which she doesn't respond to so well. I was going to ask the teachers to keep a record of when she seems to be particularly dreamy and see if there's any pattern to it.

Thankyou so much for putting the whole thing into perspective HC you've put my mind at rest.

We do praise and encourage her. She does very well in sport particularly running and hockey and is a very keen dancer. She is very musical and is taking her grade 3 guitar soon (and not been playing that long) so it shows her concentration can be good especially when she is very interested.

And you are right- she is lovely! smile

seeker Mon 16-Feb-09 05:55:26

If she spent 3 hours doing an essay then she's got a lot more concentration than most girls her age!

Did she have an essay plan of some sort, or was she just expected to 'get on with it"? Essay writing is a real skill that has to be taught - if she hasn't had that sort of basic teaching, it seems a bit mean to give her a "D" for a genuine effort.

bagsforlife Mon 16-Feb-09 08:59:45

She doesn't sound to me as though she has a problem with concentration either!! Sounds like perfectly normal Yr 8 student. Agree with Seeker, probably just needs to be 'taught' how to write an essay properly and then everything will fall into place.

smartiejake Mon 16-Feb-09 13:05:32

But as I have said before the problem is not just with English- all her teachers say the same thing about her drifting off in lessons. She is focussed dutring the actual work (kinasthetic learner.)

Her teacher claims she has taught them how to write essays- several lessons of this over the past month- but she hasn't been listening.

SHe got a D for the actual content of the Essay but a 1 for effort so she was given credit for that.

seeker Mon 16-Feb-09 21:50:53

Is i possible that the problem is with the school rather than your dd?

smartiejake Thu 04-Jun-09 21:10:50

Update! DD has just got the results of her year 8 tests and has come in the top 10% in most subjects.

The best is she has been moved up into set one in English coming third out of her whole year group! She is also now near the top of set one in maths! She has been taking fish oils regularly so do wonder if this has had a positive effect. She has also started to talk about a career she is interested in and perhaps this has started to spur her on as she can see an end product for her efforts.

So pleased with her! grin

smartiejake Thu 04-Jun-09 21:13:53


smartiejake Thu 04-Jun-09 21:57:13

No one interested? Ok I will celebrate on my own!

magentadreamer Thu 04-Jun-09 22:30:22

Thats great news Smartiejake. smile

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