Children with ADHD are constantly fighting through a myriad of attention-grabbing people, activities, and thoughts that trip up their attempts to focus, learn, and socialize well.A sudden memory comes to mind and distracts them from a homework assignment.
A police siren outside makes it impossible to focus on the teacher’s words.
Chores get abandoned in favor of daydreams.
Distractibility, a primary symptom of the disorder, can present significant challenges internally and externally.
Internal thought distraction:
“ADHD makes it hard for me to focus and focus sounds like hocus pocus and I really like magic a whole, whole lot. Abracadabra.”
Frequently pinned on ADHD Pinterest pages, thoughts like these exemplify what may be happening in the busy mind of your ADHD child. Internal thoughts can be tough to manage and corral. Often distracted thinking manifests itself in daydreams or tangents.
The experience of becoming lost in thought or daydreaming is common for ADHD children, especially when interest in the current task starts to wane.
Brain scan research shows that ADHD amplifies the lure of their “internal world.” A 2011 study at the University of Nottingham supported that idea, finding that ADHD impairs a child’s ability to turn off the default mode network (DMN), or “daydreaming region” in their brains. One of the study’s collaborators, Martin Batty, noted, “If a task is not sufficiently interesting, they cannot switch off their background brain activity and they are easily distracted.”
Listening and conversation are often overcome by a persistent tendency to experience run-away thoughts or tangential thinking. One moment your child is focused on what you are saying and the next he or she is “somewhere else” mentally having pounced on a word you used or topic you introduced.
Soon your child has lost track of your interaction or instruction. He or she is off and running, interrupting you, talking over you, or rambling on about the idea that has consumed his or her attention.
“My mom says I have ADHD but I don’t think…Hey, look at that squirrel!”
This portrayal of ADHD distractibility uses the squirrel illustration to humorously depict the way your child’s attention suddenly shifts or is affected by outside factors.
3. Sensory processing:
Does it seem that something as simple as bright lights, an itchy clothing label, or the sensations accompanying teeth or hair brushing bother your child so much that he or she genuinely cannot focus on the task or conversation at hand? Distraction caused by differences in the way the ADHD brain manages sight, touch, and other sensory information is a common obstacle for many children.
4. Auditory processing:
Your child may struggle to determine what auditory information deserves attention. Concentration may be continually broken by loud, unusual, or persistent sounds. Filtering classroom noise, background conversations, or cafeteria commotion in order to focus on the proper task or people in a room is a tall order for ADHD children.
Children with ADHD tend to be distracted by their own movement and the activity of others. The hyperactive aspect of ADHD may compel your child to fidget or play with objects unconsciously and then become focused on the item or on his or her own action instead of the current task. Also, sudden movement, like a person passing a window or door or unexpected motion in your child’s peripheral vision may be all it takes to pull his attention away for prolonged periods.
Distractibility can be a frustrating part of ADHD.