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Attention & Learning | Dr. Michael D. Smith, PsyD., PC


Depression, Anxiety, Mood Disorders in Adults, Children and Adolescents

Maternal Depression, During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Attention and Learning Disorders

Couples Counseling

Family Therapy

Post-Divorce Adjustment

Areas of Specialty

Attention and Learning Disorders:
Assessment and Treatment


The ability to learn and process information has a significant impact on self-concept throughout life. When a child is told to “just try harder” when he or she knows that even with best effort peers are getting the same results with less, can bring on helplessness and rebellious against those who are perceived as tormentors. 

One major cause of learning issues is Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder. But, learning issues can also be specific to math, reading or writing, or related to Pervasive Developmental Disorders, speech and language disorders, and more complex neurological disorders.

For this reason, a thorough assessment is essential to rule out these possible issues, as well as to accurately assess how a child or adult processes information. For anyone struggling to meet expectations — of teachers, parents, even managers — the first step is to pinpoint the unique way that an individual interprets and assimilates information from his or her environment. This requires an exploration of the individual’s genetic, medical, neurological and developmental history as well as a real-time assessment of how a person attends to and inhibits his or her responses to visual and auditory stimuli.

From this, a profile can be developed that accurately describes a person’s strengths and weaknesses in processing information, and can be used to yield a diagnosis and an effective treatment regimen. There are significant neurological differences between boys and girls, men and women, which can make diagnosis difficult. This can be to blame for boys being over-diagnosed and girls often left untreated until adulthood, if ever, which is why a thorough assessment is so critical.  

Mastering information requires a person to stay connected to the process of learning. Individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder have great difficulty staying focused on mundane details. The information generated by an assessment can be used to tailor treatment that plays to a person’s strengths to increase the likelihood of staying  motivated and ultimately attaining mastery — and learning successfully.

Mood and anxiety disorders can occur with attention and learning problems, and will be exacerbated since anyone struggling at school or work would understandably become worried and depressed.  And likewise, learning problems can result from anxiety and depression. This complexity underscores the importance of a comprehensive assessment and accurate diagnosis in order to determine effective treatment.