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Five-year-old doesn't remember things

June 2010

My almost 6-year old son walked out of the bathroom without washing his hands. Again. I asked why he didn't wash his hands and he said, ''I don't remember. I can never remember.'' He was sad and frustrated about it (though, in fairness, it was probably at least in part because I was frustrated with him).

But he doesn't remember things. I sometimes have to remind him a dozen times to put on his shoes or if I tell him he can't draw because we're about to have dinner, 15 seconds later he is putting a piece of paper on the table to draw (even if I ask him to repeat back what I've said).

I actually remember being 5 and having my mom send me across the street with a message for the neighbors and then forgetting what it was. So maybe it is just genetic. But could it be something more like ADD or ADHD or...?

I asked his teacher if he might have ADD and she said we might want to think about getting him evaluated down the road. He's doing great in school -- way above grade level in all subjects though he has some trouble following a storyline, not sure if it is because he can't pay attention to it or because he can't pick out what is important.

My husband says he's just a 5-year old boy, and I believe there is something to that, but we also have a 3-year old boy who *can* remember things, far better than the older one. (Don't worry, we never compare them to each other.)

So is there something going on? Have you had a kid like this who outgrew it? Did you do something about it? What? Is s/he still like this and you've just decided not to worry about it? Anon

Our 6-yr old does EXACTLY the same thing! I tell him to walk to the kitchen and get a spoon for me. He sees a cat outside and decides to go chase it. When I ask him what happened to my spoon, he gives me a blank stare and has no idea what I'm talking about. The funny thing is that he used to be excellent at remembering things when he was around 3 yrs old. Our daughter, who was six at the time, forgot everything. Like you, we didn't compare them, but noted how different they were. Now that our son is at this age, we notice that he's going through the exact same thing.

No, I don't think he has ADD/ADHD. He's just in a phase that kids go through and they will absolutely outgrow. Our daughter, who is now 9 yrs old, has excellent memory - I sometimes wish she would forget things I told her. Agreeing with your husband

I am the mother of a bright, curious, outgoing 8 year old son that sometimes lacks attention. I don't think it has anything to do with memory. I think it has to do with lack of interest. I still get frustrated when I've told my son 20 times that he has to get his socks on to get to school. He is more interested in the book he found while hunting for socks. All these schedules, habits, routines adults have created aren't necessarily the most important things to give attention to. mother of budding scientist
My daughter is still like this at 8. Very distractable. I have asked her teachers the same thing - ''does she have ADHD?'' They all say, no, she focuses well at school. My husband reminds me that my first son was like this at that age too, and he turned it around about age 11. I just call her my ''airy fairy'' and try to keep my sense of humor. It is frustrating, but if it is not interfering with his learning, I wouldn't worry that something is wrong at this point. Mama of an ''Airy Fairy''
I know exactly how you feel! My almost seven-year-old son is the same way. I hear it's very common, especially with boys. My doctor has said not to worry about it too much. Yes, it's very frustrating. What we've done is either post signs/labels (if he can't read that much, slowly teach him the words) around the house and that does help - some. Another thing we've done is get a book called ''Parenting with Love and Logic''. It's really creative parenting and makes so many things fun. It also makes kids think about every action they make and teaches us all how to be more independant. The third thing we've done is have him do chores. He sets the table every third night, (we have two other sons - ages five and two and our five does not have the issue) helps gather the trash, makes and unmakes his own bed (takes the sheets off for laundry) and sorts his own clothes. Huge difference. He still has his moments, but enjoys helping and teaching his younger brothers how to help as well. Mommy is much more sane now and I yell a lot less. And if I'm going to be totally honest, my husband and I were in counseling and we talked to her about this. She said it can be a quiet rebellion and control issue. He knows it upsets you and when you're upset, he has control. It's empowering and very scary for them all at the same time. Hope this helps! justy
My grandson has serious language processing problems. It is hard for him to take in and remember oral information. language and he has problems expressing himself. You can put in writing that you would like your son to be tested by the school speech therapist just to make sure this is not the issue. The school is legally obligated to act on this, I think within 60 days. My grandson began getting help when he was three years old. The sooner speech issues are dealt with the better. Educators don't always recognize when a child has a speech difficulty. anonymous
Hi, I totally feel you. my child is very similar, although he's 6 now. He's also incredibly bright, friendly, well-liked, yet sometimes totally tuned out or, actually, totally tuned to what is going on in his head (he has an enormous imagination)

He also struggles to remember things (and I remember having that same problem as a child, too.). He just finished his kindergarten year and I tell you, biiiiig improvement. His report cards at first from school showed across the board lack of listening and doing as asked. his last report card showed that he was doing well in those categories, and, when he's challenged, he has tremendous focus. He still can ''space out/in'' but it is improving.

Our teachers told us that what he's doing is quite normal still and that he should continue to be watched. They said that a possible eval for ADD (not hyperactive) would be appropriate if it lingers into first grade, but that so far he's normal.

I'd say follow your gut and listen to your teachers. If you find him ''normal'' enough and he is doing well overall, you may want to wait. but an eval won't hurt him either. just don't think about drugs or anything like that. waiting

First grader forgets to bring stuff home from school

Oct 2007

My first grader constantly forgets to bring his belongings home from school. Each day it is something - clothing, books, lunch box, etc. I'm not a perfectionist, but I'm really frustrated that everyday it is something! Does anyone have any strategies for dealing with this problem - or is it a fact of life at this age?

It is a fact of life at this age. First graders are adjusting to a full day in school, running with the ''big kids'' on the playground, some homework, etc. And they are only 6 or is a huge adjustment for the whole family. Can you tape a list inside his backpack? Can you talk to the teacher about whether the kids are properly using their cubbies or bins or whatever organizational system the the teacher has? (and they *all* have organizational systems of some sort) I'm not saying to make it the teacher's responsibility, but maybe she can tell the whole class to be sure to put their things in one place so they remember them. Also, when you pick up your son, you could run through a list of what he should have, then he can run back in and get them.
It might be just that he's 'young' but this issue is called executive functioning. Other features are general disorganization, not understanding implicit strategies, working memory issues, not understanding the passage of time, and possibly not picking up on room or social cues. If this sounds familiar then you want to learn more about this area. It doesn't go away and you need to get ahead of the curve on the topic. The strategy for school would be to take a photo of him LOOKING the way he would look if he were ready to come home (showing him with the items backpack, jacket, lunch, books, etc.) and then have his teacher say, John, ''MATCH THE PICTURE''. Lists are not as effective, you are trying to engage the other part of his brain which can ''see'' the result he is trying to achieve. Also I would give a reward and praise for every day he comes home with everything - not just that he's doing what's expected. This obviously isn't easy. Anyway I got this picture idea from Sarah Ward, her website is Exec func mom
Welcome to the club!! Overtime, hopefully they grow out of it. I have the reverse happening now. My kids do homework, but forget to take them to school and sometimes forget to even turn it in! LOL. Believe me, you're not alone. :) Diana
In my experience, it some ways it is typical of the age, and in other ways it can be due to his so-far learned sense of responsibility. At home, how much responsibility does he have for keeping his toys, clothes, shoes, bed, etc. in order? If the answer is not much, then that is probably translating to lack of organization with possessions at school. I would start by establishing a routine jacket, lunchbox, homework, etc at home -- such as they always go in a certain place and he always has four items, and reinforce it every morning until it is routine. -- lucky mom of seemingly naturally organized kid
Are our children talking to each other? Because my 1st grader is doing the same! Took her 3 days to bring home her homework packet then we spent 45 min doing it all so she was caught up.

I have no answers except I have to remind her everyday - literally. And finally on WED morning, I told her if you don't bring it home, looks like no TV for the rest of the week (and we don't watch TV during the week) ... but it worked.

Take something away - like their favorite item, and they can have it back when they remember to bring home what they are supposed to. That works for us (sometimes!) TS