Kindergarten Attention Problems Affect High School Achievement

A new study published in the June issue of Pediatrics (The Impact of Early Behavior Disturbances on Academic Achievement in High School) provides evidence of the long-term negative impact of attention problems in kindergarten on standardized high-school achievement tests. Six-year-old children who were rated by teachers as having problems paying attention performed more poorly at age seventeen in reading and math when compared to children with internalizing (depression and anxiety) or externalizing (aggression and rule-breaking) problems.

kindergarten is fun

In a press release from the University of California at Davis School of Medicine, the lead author Dr. Joshua Breslau states:
Many children have behavioral problems of the types we examined in this study, but we don’t know which types of problems have the most serious long-term consequences. By identifying attention problems as the most consequential for academic achievement over the long term, this study helps us decide where to put our clinical resources.
One of the co-authors, Dr. Julie Schweitzer, points to the importance of having young children evaluated when they show problems paying attention in school. She suggests that parents start by talking to their child's pediatrician and determine the need for an evaluation by a psychologist.

A careful evaluation of medical and psychological factors related to poor attention is necessary to determine the best interventions. Although attention problems are often caused by attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), other causes include learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), poor nutrition, sleep problems, lead poisoning, and a variety of medical illnesses.

For more details on the study's design and results, see Peter West's article at HealthDay.

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