What Are the Causes of Inattention in the Classroom?

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Inattention in the classroom can have a profound effect on academic progress if it continues for a prolonged period. Several causes range from various disorders, stressors in the child's home or school environment, or not getting enough sleep at night. Of utmost importance is to avoid jumping to conclusions and to find the root of the problem for the child involved. From there, work on helping the student solve or improve his inattention in the classroom.


Children with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are able to focus on what interests them and tend to tune out and ignore the rest. If the adults in the child's life do not understand the disorder, they may think he is ignoring them or exhibiting defiant behavior. These children may miss necessary steps when completing their schoolwork or projects because they have extreme difficulty paying attention to the details and tend to rush through their work, often being the first one to finish. Children with ADHD have difficulty listening to the entire conversation and remembering verbal instructions. They often have difficulty organizing their schoolwork, misplacing it as well as other items.

2 Stressors

Inattention can be a short term problem.

Inattention in the classroom can be short term. Once the problem is recognized and a solution found, the student returns to her usual self. Children may respond to stressors in the home such as separation, illness or divorce by being unable to concentrate. A child who is being bullied on the way home from school may spend his school day fearing what is to come. The student who has a new sibling or some other profound change in his environment may respond by becoming inattentive. It is important to know your students. This enables you to sense a change in them and help them through it.

3 Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation in children can mimic symptoms of ADHD or make the child so drowsy they fall asleep during class. If the culprit is not found, an unnecessary diagnosis may be made. It appears that, after several days of a child not getting enough sleep, ADHD symptoms can develop. The child may be unable to concentrate, have trouble sitting still and have difficulty with emotional regulation. These symptoms are further exacerbated with each additional night of poor sleep. It is important to find the culprit of the sleep deprivation as the child's health may be at risk if the problems go undetected. Some causes of sleep deprivation are sleep apnea, allergies, asthma, circadian rhythm disorder and restless legs syndrome.

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.