Does ADHD Mean I Have Less Attention?

Does ADHD Mean I Have Less Attention?
You’ll be surprised by the answer

It’s ADHD Awareness Month. Spread the word.

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ADHD key symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is normal for all children to exhibit these behaviors, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

But do children with ADHD really have less attention than their peers? Attention deficit is actually a misnomer of sorts; ADHD children do not have less attention or a ‘deficit’ of attention. Actually their attention is quite substantial, however their ability to direct it or manage it at will is very difficult.

Try to imagine this: four television stations playing in your mind at one time. A lot of information is pouring in, but it’s difficult for you to pay attention to any one thing for very long. That’s the typical mind of an ADHD person. Thus, their attention is not deficit, but it is fleeting; it’s directed quickly from one thing to another.

Think of it like this: you enter a cave with a flashlight (the flashlight will serve as a metaphor for attention). It’s very dark, but you very carefully shine the flashlight in the cave, directing it on the floor to carefully navigate. Your ADHD child enters the same cave with that same flashlight. He constantly shines it all over the cave as he walks forward. So, it’s clear, same flashlight (same attention), but his is scattered or diffused.

Now you know why he’ll walk through the living room time after time and bang his shin or knee on the same coffee table for years.

Now you know why, when you ask him to go to his bedroom, put on his pajamas, and get ready for bed, you find him sitting on his bed a half hour later playing a Game-boy. He processed the, “Go to your bedroom” part. His brain is not yet equipped to process multiple step directions. When that happens in school, it’s a mess.

But why can they play their Xbox or Play Station for hours on end? I literally have to yank the controller from my son’s hand to get him to come to dinner. A characteristic of ADHD is hyperfocus, the ability to tune out everything else and attend to only a particularly engaging stimulus. Video games use high intensity graphics and sound and are loaded with action. Your ADHD child’s mind is tuned for this type of stimulation. They can hyperfocus on this for hours on end. Unfortunately, your classroom teacher cannot compete on this level. As we’ve mentioned before, limit the use of high intensity video games.

Knowing your child’s mind is integral to understanding your child’s behavior. At times they may not respond to your demands and it creates a conflict, but it’s not due to defiance necessarily. It’s often due to the way they process or don’t process information. Knowing this can reduce your conflicts and improve your family life.