Individuals who have ADHD do not have a deficit of attention. Anyone who knows someone with ADHD has probably observed moments when that individual was paying so much attention to something interesting that they could not be roused without a huge effort. Maybe they were watching television or reading a book or playing a game. In that moment, nothing else existed for them. The house could come crashing down around them and they would not notice. That kind of intense attention is called hyperfocusing, and folks with ADHD do that extremely well!
ADHD is more of a disorder of attention regulation or attention modulation than it is a deficit of attention. Someone with ADHD is able to pay close attention when something is interesting or creative or novel or urgent. They cannot pay attention when something is boring or even just important – whether to themselves or to someone else. It is hard, nearly impossible, for someone with ADHD to focus or pay attention in those situations.
Helping someone with ADHD regulate her attention is part of her treatment plan. It can be addressed through medication, behavior therapy, and coaching.
But it’s important to value the intense hyperfocusing that is possible for someone with ADHD and find ways to use that amazing power in school, work, and community. Folks with ADHD are a unique and valuable resource for this and many other reasons.
Linda Swanson is an ADHD Coach in Warrenton, Virginia. She and her husband, Neil, are partners at Free To Be Coaching, LLC, where they coach in person or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. They coach students from middle school through college as well as adults of all ages, and they also facilitate two support groups for parents of children with ADHD. Linda and Neil are both graduates of the ADD Coach Academy and are credentialed by the International Coach Federation and the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches. Linda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 508-4774.