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When It’s Not ADHD: Other Causes of Inattention in Children


Inattention in children is not always a result of ADHD. It may simply be due to tiredness, a result of a chronic medical condition like hypothyroidism or a symptom of a learning disability. It's important for parents to consider the various causes of inattention in their children in order to determine the best treatment.

Typical Behavior

All children are inattentive at times, and this is a regular part of behavior whether youngsters are the preschool stage, middle school age or adolescents at high school. Attention spans in very young children are short. If they are undertaking tasks they regard as tedious or boring, many kids tend to lose interest quickly.

When children seem to be inattentive, their behavior should be compared with other children of the same age and gender, not just with their immediate classmates. When the inattentive behavior begins affecting home life, learning and other activities at school, it's a good time to seek the advice of a professional who can perform a comprehensive assessment.

Tiredness & Fatigue in Children

Inattention may be a result of tiredness, which is something that parents as well as kids suffer from at times during normal life. Tiredness can also be caused by sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), a condition that can affect overweight children or those with extra-large adenoids or tonsils. Pediatric hypothyroidism, in its various forms, often brings about fatigue, and can be treated with medication. It could also be due to irregular sleep patterns that the child may not be aware of, or their body's shifting need for sleep. Note how late the child sleeps in on non-school days to see if they simply need more sleep during the week.

Learning Disabilities

Inattention and learning disabilities may be closely linked. Children with conditions such as undiagnosed dyslexia or dyspraxia, for example, may use inattentiveness as a coping mechanism. When they are unable to do tasks set at school or home because of learning disabilities, they may give up easily, become quickly distracted, make seemingly careless mistakes or seem to not listen to instructions.

Other Causes of Inattention

Inattention may also ensue from a variety of other causes, including:

  • Concentration deficit disorder (CDD)
  • Depression
  • General anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Stress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

If parents suspect either of these may be the culprit, they should make an appointment with their child's pediatrician.

Getting Help for an Inattentive Child

Before children are diagnosed with ADHD, it's important to explore all the possible causes of inattentive behavior. Many conditions may cause inattention in children, and if this behavior exists both at home and at school for at least six months, it's only fair to the children and parents concerned that every option is investigated.

If your child’s long-term issues with inattention are preventing his or her success, we invite you to consider the Brain Balance Program®. Our drug-free, integrated approach brings parents and kids together to achieve a common goal of improving the child’s focus and attention, leading to a more successful academic and personal life. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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