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Test Early for ADHD; Stop a Bully

February 27, 2013

Question: My son is in second grade and showing signs of ADHD according to his teacher. I notice his lack of attention, failure to follow directions and fidgeting at home, too. He currently works above grade level; however, the teacher needs to constantly get him back on task because his attention span is so very short. She wants to have the behavioral specialist come and observe him and develop a behavior plan. Next, testing will come and then a label, which I do not want my son to have, as the school handles ADHD in a cookie-cutter fashion. I plan to discuss ADHD with his doctor next month. What do you think I should do to solve this problem? -- Concerned

Answer: The school has identified your son as possibly having an attention problem, which could hurt him academically down the road. Now is the time, as the teacher suggests, to do something to help him with his attention issues. They are not likely to disappear without some focus on them at school as well as at home.

You definitely owe it to your young son to let the school develop the behavior plan and then, if necessary, have him tested. Don't worry about the labeling as much as getting the right diagnosis. If required, an Individual Education Plan or a 504 Plan will be written for your son telling his teachers what they can do to improve his attention span. How effective any education plan will be depends greatly on your input into what needs to be done and your checking frequently to see if the plan works.

Your son's doctor needs to talk to you about the best ways to handle your son's possible ADHD. Beyond this, you need to learn all you can about the ways to help your child. One very helpful website is that of ADDitude Magazine, at Our Dear Teacher website also has many helpful hints on ways to help children with ADD or ADHD.

Question: I know that my child in middle school is being bullied. What can he do to stop being bullied?

-- Against Bullying

Answer: Natasha Deen, author of the book "True Grime," has laid out the following 13 things that kids can do if they are being bullied. Some of her suggestions should be very helpful to your child.

1. Recognize it's not about them. Easily said, not so easily done, but it's the truth. A bully is bullying because of their issues, not yours.

2. Set up battle lines in your mind. One of the most terrible things about bullying is the way those words and actions seep into your unconscious. As soon as you're having words fired at you, strap on the Kevlar shield of "thought stopping." Hear the words, then think of three reasons why they're not true.

3. Find an adult. A teacher, a parent, a rabbi -- anyone who can interfere and stop the bullying.

4. If the adult you go to won't do anything, find another. The war is in your mind; don't let the bully win. Search out the authority figure who will hold the bully accountable.

5. Find allies. Whether that means someone at school, the guidance counselor or an Internet support group, make sure you get people in your corner. Not because they'll necessarily fight your battle for you, but because they are an emotional support and a soft place to fall.

6. If you can't find a support group, start one of your own. A bully's tactic is to isolate and make you feel alone. By finding other people, you've already knocked out one of their weapons.

7. If you live in a rural setting or there are no groups, then look for national call centers, such as National Bullying Prevention Center -- online at

8. Get help as often as you need it. If that means contacting a support group every hour, do it.

9. Find a safe place in the school where you are not likely to be a target.

10. Do your homework. Bullying feels primitive and scary, and it is. But it's also a problem, and truth is, you're smart and competent. Make it a family project -- can you and your parents find an alternative school? Can you find an ally with the principal (and if not, what's the next level?)? The truth is this: What your parents remember about bullying is not what bullying looks like today. As you educate them, you educate yourself, and knowledge really is power.

11. Talk, talk, talk. Find people who will help.

12. Unplug. Stop reading the posts/texts. Plugging into the bullies outside of school is a conscious decision.

13. Use fantasy. Think of yourself as a celebrity. Treat the bullies as paparazzi, walk the school halls because you have a right to be there.

At the end of the day, Deen says that it's about choice and taking charge. Bullies can only make you think the world is against you. It's simply not true. By reaching out to adults and other kids, you'll find a support system.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, in care of Mahoning Valley Parent, 1 North Illinois St. No. 2004, Indianapolis, IN 46204, or log on to, or email



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