phrase “attention deficit disorder” is often misunderstood
because of the word “deficit.” Most assume ADHD comes
with a very short attention span. While it’s true that ADHD
may cause a lack of attention, this is not the only symptom of ADHD.
It’s more accurate to say that a person with ADHD has an uncontrollable
attention span—either he cannot pay attention at all, or he
focuses too much on one particular task, disregarding everything
else. As thought patterns fluctuate between focus and lack of focus,
ADHD patients often experience confusion or frustration.
Hyperfocus is the
term used to describe when an ADHD individual is immersed in an
activity he or she finds interesting. Many parents are familiar
with hyperfocus as it applies to TV and video games. You may have
heard parents ask, “Why can my child sit for 12 hours in front
of a computer game, yet he is unable to do homework for 5 minutes?”
Hyperfocus answers this question. Since ADHD children cannot regulate
their attention, they will be engrossed by something they find interesting
while neglecting important areas of their lives.
When ADHD children
or adults are in the zone of hyperfocus, they may lose track of
time and reality. Hours seem like minutes and the outside world
is distant to them. On the good side, a list of ADHD
positive characteristics includes hyperfocus because it can
be an asset for innovative types like scientists, artists, writers,
and inventors. On the bad side, hyperfocus may lead to tight deadlines,
the tendency to be tardy, and misunderstandings in relationships.
The ADHD child
may need help in managing his or her tendency to hyperfocus. First,
parents should explain to the child that hyperfocus is part of the
ADHD condition, and it needs to be regulated. Second, parents should
be vigilant about enforcing an ADHD child’s schedule and limiting
the amount of time spent on a video game or TV viewing. Bringing
children out of the hyperfocus trance is almost like waking them
out of a dream. Parents should find a natural break in the activity
(for example, the end of a TV show), and give the child a moment
to register that it’s time to stop.