The phrase “Attention Deficit Disorder” is often misunderstood because of the word “deficit”. ADD/ADHD DOES come with a short attention span but having said that, while it causes a LACK of attention this is NOT the only symptom. In fact, it’s more accurate to say that someone with ADD/ADHD has an uncontrollable attention span, meaning that either they CAN’T pay attention or that they CAN pay attention only to certain things, most likely things that they are VERY interested in – in other words they can focus too much on a task and disregard everything and everyone else. The term used to describe this = Hyperfocus.
I think that many parents are familiar with Hyperfocus as it usually refers to tv and toys and video games etc. One often hears parents asking questions like “why can my child sit and watch a movie for 3 hours and yet be unable to concentrate for 5 minutes in a classroom environment”. Since kids with ADD/ADHD cannot regulate their attention you may find that they are engrossed by things that they are passionate about and find interesting, rather than important things, especially where they need to apply themselves.
When they are in the hyperfocus zone, they lose track of reality and time, and hours will seem like minutes to them. While this can be a bad thing (for your job and your relationships etc) it can also be a good thing provided that the hyperfocus is well-directed. It can be an AWESOME thing for people like scientists or writers. However, it can also be a bad thing because chances are that you will be missing deadlines and losing jobs because of this and obviously it can also lead to breakdowns within relationships.
Child1’s current hyperfocus is reading. Now, I love that this is his hyperfocus but it’s not always a good thing, especially if he’s not reading what he’s meant to be reading i.e stuff that he needs to study.
I got called in by his teacher earlier this year because his work was incomplete, he wasn’t handing in assignments and he wasn’t taking part in class, because he was reading. He would rush through his work and hand in sub-standard stuff so he could get back to his book. He was doing all these things despite the fact that his condition is well-managed and despite the fact that he’s medicated. His teacher wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it because she didn’t want to put him off. I’m not quite sure what she expected from me but both my DH and I went HARDCORE with him and told him that if I EVER got a meeting request to discuss that again, then there would be MASSIVE consequences. I made those consequences VERY clear – we wrote it down and it’s still pinned up where he can see. I do STILL remind him from time-to-time and it seems to have worked. His teacher moved him closer to where she sits so as to keep an eye on him and she allows him a certain amount of time during the day to read. At home we use a clock-radio to time him – I’m going to invest in a proper timer because I think that this will work better for him.
Thing is, your child might hyper focus on a sport (Michael Phelps anyone?) or any kind of skill that he’s really good at where his super high energy levels might benefit his career ( like comedian and actor, Jim Carey) or maybe a hobby that eventually ends up being his career (Jamie Oliver anyone?)
Anyway, it is VERY helpful to a child with ADD/ADHD to find something that they LOVE LOVE LOVE. It could be a specific subject in school or a sport or a craft or anything really.
Fact is, hyperfocus can be bad AND good, and a kid with ADD/ADHD is going to need help to regulate this seeing that they can’t do it on their own. They need PROPER routine and very clear guidelines about when to stop.
A good friend of mine sent me a link to celebrities who openly battle with ADD/ADHD and use their fame to champion it. These people would NOT be where they are in their lives if it wasn’t for their particular hyperfocus. Have a read here, you might be surprised.
Also, I loved this story written by a (now adult) ADD sufferer where she describes her particular hyperfocus and how it helped her in her life.