Lack of follow up skills and memory.

aaaaaaaaAugust 14, 2008

Hi All,

My 14 yrs son seems to lack follow up skills and also does not remember things that he should be. Is this normal in teenage? He was like this even otherwise. His daily chores has to be told several times is this laziness? He even finds it difficult to recall things that were discussed in his presence and/or directly with him. During school year, he is quite good in studies but same issue with rest of the things. He is very slow in everything. BUT he is quite fast and shows interest when we have planned for a movie/amusement parks or when he goes out regularly to play with his friends!! Every day every simple thing has become a battle. What could be the reason for his slowness/ lack of follow up skills and memory problem? Otherwise he seems to be normal kid with good sense of humor and doctors never noticed any unusual behavior from him. He is good at swimming, piano and participates in school band too. I have also noticed that he does not observe the surrounding at allÂlike, while walking he may accidentally step on somebodyÂs feet or knock down something around him or so. Does any other parent have similar issues? Please let me know how this phase should be handled. Any suggestions and experiences welcome. Thanks in advance.



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Typical teenage laziness. Testing the waters. The clumsiness may be that he is not quite comfortable in his new body. Has he had a growth spurt lately?

Daily chores: Write them down. Have him check them off. Create a routine so it is easy to remember.

Have you tried pointing out to him "hey, when you walked by just now you came really close to knocking my vase off the counter. Could you pay a little more attention where you're going?"

Point out when he is not present and in the moment. Maybe he is just daydreaming or trying to blur out things he finds unpleasant. My step sister used to do chores so slowly and badly that they would just stop asking her to do them. Sometimes it works. But I'm sure it didn't serve her well as an adult.

Maybe attach fun things to his ability to pay attention "if you don't pay attention when we do X I have a hard time feeling good about letting you go to the X with your friends. Can we work on your attention span this week because I'd hate for you not to be able to go this weekend."

Does he notice his attention is off? Does anyone else in your family?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 4:50PM
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I actually have more questions. My 15 y/o DS can be a little "dizzy" (he's slow to get a joke now and then, lack of common sense sometimes- does things in an inefficient way). But he is not that forgetful about events or responsiblities (he doesn't want to do it, and sometime tries to get away with not doing it, but he remembers that he is supposed to). He's oblivious in a lazy way sometimes, like when he could pick up that piece of paper to throw it away instead of walking on it, might not notice he is standing in someone's way. But not in that uncoordinated way of stepping on people or things. And of course, when the task benefits him in some way his attention, motivation and memory are flawless. LOL.

Is your DS using selective memory, remembers what he wants/ forgets what he wants? Is is a new issue, or has it been years? When did you first notice it?

Is his forgetfulness limited to responsibilities? Or does he have trouble answering questions like:
What did you have for lunch yesterday?
What time did you get up today?
What happened on the TV show we watched last night?
What did you talk about in social studies today?
What restaurant did we go to last week?
Who called last night?

Does he forget HOW to do a chore, or just that he was supposed to do it? I.e. he forgets to feed the dog, but he knows where everything is. Or he forgets to feed the dog AND he can't remember that you moved the dog food storage spot last week.

Just from what you've posted, I'm not sure what I think yet.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 5:45PM
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It could be that it is his personality.

DD (20) is (and was) kind of spaced out and clumsy and does not remember things. she is prefectly normal, but that's how she is. If you want examples.... she was almost late for the oversees flight, did not pack a suitcase a night before, planned on packing in the morning (huh?), overslept (claims to not hear alarm, hhhmm, could be forgot to set it up?), ran to subway to get to the airport, and arrived home with a passport and a wallet in her pocket and that's it. No purse, no clothes, no hair brush, nothing. Wearing keds, and wrong coat. Winter, snow.

Oh and she had concusion this year running somewhere in her apartment (late as always) and bumping into open cabinet door so bad that she fell and had to go to a doctor.

and believe me she is very normal in every sense.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2008 at 11:15PM
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Stephanie_in_ga--- He was always like thisthis is nothing new---he was little better as a toddler. I was expecting that with our training he will improvenow, obviously not!!
Answers to your questions---his answers will usually be in installmentsmeaningeg-What did you talk about in social studies today?We had quiz etc etc.My response is thats it or do you have any tests or projects coming up in next few days? His responseNojump to something else for a long time. Night before heading to bedhe will ask me if we could go to library tomorrow reason he needs to borrow a book for social studies project which is due this month end. No, he does not forget How to do a choreit is just that he is lazylike-brush your teeth, or get the garbage from your roomHe does these after telling him repeatedly but would have messed up the sink in the BR, left the garbage can in the hallway or sono follow up skills.
Things that he forgets islikeyesterday at 11.30am I called him and showed article about how many calories Michel Phelps eats everyday. We did have some discussion after this because my DS is also interested in swimming. At 12.30pm in my DH presence I asked DS how many c.MP eats every day? DSjust stood there with no answer!!!!

Silverword---My DH has also noticed these. We tried almost everything that is practicallikewriting his daily chores-making him check them off(we had no time to go back an check this list everyday). Tried to point out this mistakes politely, little harsh, make him do the entire chore again in our presence and correcting as he goes along etc---nothing worked. Absolutely no discipline at all what so ever. Amazingly during school his school homeworks, projects are all in time and never late to school bus stop, helps my DH in TV, Speaker, wiring etc. Its only that he does not pay attention to his surroundings, common sense things, and general daily routines. DH is also upset about this and tries to correct him whenever possible. As you said it could be Typical teenage laziness. Hopefully will go away with more responsibilities.

Sorry, for long postit is just that I am looking practical experiences/information and try to implement in my home to raise a better kid.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 11:06AM
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A, this sounds so hard! My six year old has similar issues. She spaces out while eating and "sucks" her food. Her pediatrician says she's never seen that before. It makes me crazy. She will look right at me and do it, and her little eyes are glazed over, I can tell she's off in spaceship land. But I think it's intentional sometimes. And she spaces out in other ways too. I'm not sure what she's doing in her head, but it must be very interesting. At least I'm hoping it's not just static!

Have you ever just "lost it" with him? Gotten crazy = mama bear? I did that with my daughter, this may sound really mean... I'm not sure I want to admit it. I try not to spank/yell and I try to talk things out, be rational. Well, she's really been rocking the boat lately and I think a lot of it is just testing the water so to speak. It was just before bedtime, and she had worn me to my last thread. I was standing by the water cooler getting a glass of water and I asked her a question, and she was so "out of it" spacy, not paying attention, that I just dumped my glass of water over her head. Kind of like what people do when someone is in hysterics. And it worked. She was so shocked. I knelt right down in front of her poor sopping wet face and repeated what I had just said, quietly, without yelling or hitting (my two goals). And you know, she really snapped to it. Of course I've felt guilty about it ever since. I'm really trying not to damage her little psyche as much as possible. But sometimes kids need a dose of reality.

Not paying attention is the biggest issue I have with her. I've tried a lot of different things, but the thing that works the most is unexpected punishment. Going to her room, time out, etc... are expected and allow her to space out more. Last time it got really bad DH had her come out and help dig a trench in the yard. It was getting dark, but she was out there for about 1/2 hour digging with a maddock, crying in her little boots. But she was very present when she came back inside.

Have you tried explaining to him that it is frustrating to you to not get a complete answer?

What about stepping a little out of the norm, and if he leaves the trash can in the hall, take it to his bedroom and leave it there? When he asks, if he asks, why it is there, say that if the trash (his responsibility) is going to be left in the house, he can deal with the smell but everyone else shouldn't have to. Or, take all the trash cans away. When he goes to throw something out, explain that he will have to walk it outside to the cans since the last step wasn't being attended to, you were just cutting out the middle step.

Maybe I'm too harsh. But I think life is harsh, and if we can show them that we love them, but there are certain things you MUST pay attention to (standards of living, crossing the street, driving, etc) they will have an easier time in the world.

My daughter constantly wants me to look at her in the car. I tell her I can't take my eyes off the road to look. I have to pay attention. When we pass accidents, I tell her that is what can happen if you don't pay absolute attention while driving. When I don't pay enough attention, I point it out to her "look, mommy didn't pay attention, and look what happened"! When I make a mess, I tell her "shoots, I made a mess, now what?" and she says, well, now you have to clean it up mom.

As an aside, when I dumped the water on her head, after she looked at me with shock and betrayal she went over to the paper towel rack and got some towels and started cleaning the water off the floor! I was so proud, and felt so guilty. I told her I'd clean it up, and to just go get in the bath. Then in the bath we talked about what had happened, and I apologized, and told her I just didn't know what else to do, and asked her for suggestions for the next time.

It's so hard, isn't it!!!??

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 12:06PM
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She spaces out while eating

My niece has "space out periods" which is a form of epilepsy. She had to quit playing soccer cuz she "spaced out" and got hit in the face with the ball. She takes meds to control the episodes. You will be talking with her and the next thing you know, she's just staring with no other response. It's called "absence seizures (petit mal)". These seizures are characterized by staring, subtle body movement and brief lapses of awareness.

When my daughter was little, I thought she was such a clutz! Always tripping and stuff.. especially with stairs. Turned out, she needed glasses!

My SIL has 5 kids (now all adults).. 4 boys and 1 girl. She had a hard getting the boys to put their dirty clothes in the laundry room and their rooms would stink. So she decided to inform them that from now on, she will only wash the clothes that are IN the LAUNDRY ROOM. After the laundry is done, it's gonna be too bad if all you have left to wear are dirty clothes. Laundry day was only on such-and-such a day. If they didn't make it that day, they would have to wait until the next laundry day. It worked well for her.

My daughter is really bad at procrastinating. We found out that procrastination is a part of her anxiety disorder, so we are working on that right now.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 12:49PM
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I'm curious what his behavior was like while you were discussing the Phelps/calories article. Was he enthusiastic and engaged? Or was he even then on another planet? Did he read it himself, or just listen to you? Were there any distractions in the room, like TV or another person, or something else he was doing?

If this is a matter of bad habits, then fixing it is a matter of learning new habits to replace them.

I have boys ages 15 and 12. It is the 12 y/o's routine chore to empty the kitchen trash can. When he was first assigned this duty a year or so ago, he would often forget to replace the bag with a clean one. I would just say "You forgot something." At first he would look at me for a few seconds, baffled, then his brain would get around to it and he'd get the chore right. Now he forgets every now and then, and all it takes is a word or a look from me and he's on it, or he remembers on a delay on his own before I get the word out.

My 15 y/o must unload the dishwasher whenever it needs it. The time is random, just whenever I've run it, so it's not something he does at a certain time every day. But I might say "Unload this when you get home." He remembers most of the time, if he didn't do it I just say "You forgot to do something" and he does it with apologies. * If he wants me to take him somewhere, he ALWAYS remember! LOL. We went through a time when he would not put things away in the right places (I think he was trying to get fired). And my pet peeve, he would stack larger pans on top of smaller ones after my kindly worded instructions, then my sarcastic reprimand (you could stack the plastic rings when you were 1!). Finally, after having the stack collapse when I opened the cupboard, I made a big, loud mess: I removed every pan and baking dish and lid from the cabinet, dropped them on the floor, and said "Fix this!" That was probably 6 months ago, and it hasn't happened again.

I know my kids are going to forget sometimes and make mistakes, but when I see a habit forming I try to redirect them. Nicely, then with a sense of humor, then I get harsh. I do not like to repeat my directions over and over like a broken record, and I do not. When I see it wasn't followed through, I point it out as a question. "What did you forget to do?" "Where does that go?" "What are supposed to be doing?" "Where are you supposed to be?" Then I wait for an answer. If they really don't remember, I give them clues, b/c I know they know, somewhere behind the distractions, they have that answer in their brains! In doing this, I think I am making them think for themselves instead of me thinking for them, and hopefully, just maybe, working towards initiative.

If my DS left a mess in the sink after brushing, I wouldn't fuss about it, I'd just say something like "Dude, you left a mess." They get the hint.

When I need their attention, I make sure I have it. I turn of TV, radio, close the book, remove the Gameboy, and make sure I have eye contact. I tell them and use gestures (like counting my fingers). Then I ask them to tell me what I just said. I do that with all my kids, 6 to 15, and always have. At the younger ages, I saying "Where are my eyes?" But I will even say it to the older ones when they are really distracted.

My 12 y/o will look around me to see the TV even when I'm standing 2 feet from his face and saying "Look at me." He knows I'm there, but has no idea I'm talking to him. He can really space out if he is focused on something, from TV to a board game to building Magnetix. He just really doesn't like to give up his attention easily. He is smart, teachers use the word "brilliant" in math, logical and a problem solver. His mind is always working on something. So when I need to "interupt" his thinking, it sometimes takes a lot to make sure he is really hearing me or focusing on what I want him to do.

I could see one of my boys answering "no, no projects due" and then later asking to go to the library or use the internet for some research for the project they "didn't have" a couple hours earlier. The thing would be when I asked "do you have a project" it might have been while he was on his way to the bathroom, or waiting to ask if a friend can come over... so his mind was waiting to talk, not listening. When they ask later, I can even hear myself saying "Do you remember that part 2 hours ago when I said: Do you have a project?" And the child will honestly tell me "You didn't ask me that." It happens, people of all ages don't always listen when their mind is on something else. But we can set up the environment to make sure our kid is listening first.

I do it almost every day. I will ask a kid "Do you want milk or water," that's it, really, two choices. They answer, and I give them the opposite. Or I have to ask again "What did you just tell me?" B/c as soon as I asked the question, my mind was already on asking the next question or giving some direction.

So I'd make a plan to correct one behavior of his at a time. Be consistent, ask his input on what helps him remember. When you have a conversation, like about school, sit down and make sure nothing else is distracting. Make sure he makes a lot of eye contact and restates the questions, answeres, directions so you know it went in his brain and didn't float on by and into the unknown.

I think the stuff you're talking about sounds like either normal adolescent behavior or normal individual quirks. Some kids will have more "space out" moments than others. However, it's still change-worthy behavior, something we want to guide them out of as they mature. But if you don't see some improvement after consistent redirection and attempts to build new habits after a couple months, I might check with a professional. Sometimes a subtle problem can be missed for a long time.

Like you, when I see my kids doing something (or not doing something) that seems so "clueless" I marvel at the fact that they do well in school. I also have days when I wonder what kind of employees they are going to make! I just have to harden my resolve to teach them self-management and initiative! LOL I also have to remember that their little neurons are done yet.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 3:08PM
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