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When to get a child evaluated for potential behavioral items

My son just turned 5 and will be starting kindergarten in August 2021. He has an incredibly short attention span. For example, he rarely sits still to have a whole book read to him, if he’s watching YouTube he will constantly switch between videos only watching two minutes of each at a time, if he is doing a learning activity he will hold his attention for five minutes max. I’m wondering how much of this is typical five year old boy behavior and where the threshold is for having him evaluated. He is constantly moving. He jumps will watching tv, he fidgets while doing learning activities.

I did talk to our pediatrician who was supportive of having him evaluated to see if he could benefit from some early intervention before kindergarten starts. I’m just second guessing everything now.

From a learning standpoint he didn’t sing his abcs until about 6 months ago. He started counting to 10 shortly after turning 4 but can now count (mostly by himself) to 100. He recognizes 13 uppercase letters and 8 lowercase. If you tell him a letter sound he can tell you the letter for about 5 letters.

My older son has always been “ahead” and knew how to harness his energy so this is different for us.

Putting my mom hat on, some of the things you’re mentioning sound like they can be typical 5 year old boy behavior, but if you’re feeling concerned and your pediatrician thinks that an evaluation is a good idea, then it probably is. An evaluation is just a tool to give you more information, it doesn’t mean you have to do any specific course of treatment that you don’t want to do. But information is really the first tool to help our kids reach their potential.

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@Drkarenweiss any thoughts on this?

Hey there,

I’m an RECE and my general thoughts on attention span a child “should” showcase is a minute per their age up to age five. So five minutes at a time sounds great.

There are activities you can set up and ways to set his environment up for success in the future with giving him more opportunities for expanding his attention, though. Fostering how to play one activity/experience at a time, tidy it up, then moving onto the next one; fewer toys and using them on a rotating basis; playing matching games.

To me I wouldn’t be too concerned currently on this behaviour at his age. I would simply keep it in the back of my mind as he grows.


Whoa, I definitely can relate to this!!! Speaking from a mom perspective here… My son had a ton of energy and I had aim on getting him outside every single day (rain or shine :grimacing:) I also had to limit screen time for him. Even though it kept his attention, there was always a price to pay on the back end. He would definitely become overstimulated. For my son, I also had to check his diet because he was eating a ton of carbs and foods with added sugars. Touch base with your pediatrician and see if he/she can offer you some guidance when it comes to diet, sleep etc. For many kids, it can really make a big difference. :heart:


Lots of good advice over here! It’s often hard for moms to know what’s typical or not at this age, since the range can be pretty wide. I find that teachers can be helpful with this- your son’s teacher might be better able to weigh in on whether he’s able to keep up in the classroom academically, behaviorally and socially. If his teacher echos your worries, it might be helpful to have him evaluated by a neuropsychologist (or a psychologist who does neuropsychological evaluations) in order to figure out how to best help him succeed.


Hi Mom of 4,

While early intervention is available for children up to age 5 in some states there typically needs to be a delay of 25%. There are behavior analytic clinics that do K-readiness clinics if that is a high priority for you.

While all kids are different, intense behaviors should get checked out because they can be markers for some exceptionalities, it can also preclude them from learning as easily as.others.

While what’s available varies dramatically state by state It can never hurt to have more information about what your child needs to be comfortable and successful both at home and school.

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