Parents have asked me before why their child has attention and executive functioning issues now that they are in middle school when they handled elementary school just fine. Executive functioning is the ability to manage day-to-day activities. People with a strong ability tend to be organized and on time, and get their work done efficiently. I recently visited with Dr. Steve Butnik, an expert on attention deficits and executive functioning issues. He pointed out that attention and executive functioning deficits do not manifest themselves until a person is placed in a situation where the demands exceed his ability to handle them. There are even adults who make it fine all the way through their schooling, but find that they now have trouble in their career setting.
In elementary school, children are in a classroom that is structured both physically and intellectually. The room is well-organized, and tasks are broken into chunks that children can manage on their own. Their activities from one day to the next are predictable. In middle and upper school, though, students move from classroom to classroom. Each teacher organizes their room differently, and students are expected to be able to manage large parts of their long-term projects without their teacher’s constant guidance. Even some adults find they have trouble concentrating and getting their work done in a cubicle environment like you find in many companies. The sounds of other people talking or visiting and visual distractions can be too much to filter out.
No matter when attention or executive functioning issues manifest themselves, they can hinder success. Educational psychologists can help diagnose the problem and suggest ways to manage better. In most cases, planning what will happen when, organizing the workspace, and reducing sound and visual distractions can help.
Read Managing Middle School With ADHD for more information about attention issues in middle school.