Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children today, with an estimated 11... Read more →
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavior problem among children. However, in the vast majority of cases, ADHD does not disappear as the child becomes an adolescent and later an adult. It just manifests differently. Those differences will be summarized here, but first, a word about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment”
ADHD is a brain-based condition, in other words, there is something affecting their behavior that is neurological in nature and therefore, to varying degrees, beyond their conscious control. Generally speaking, these are not lazy or unmotivated children; they just struggle more than most to direct their attention, particularly toward matters they don’t find interesting or engaging.
To better understand the implications of this condition, I would like to introduce the notion of the attentional threshold. Simply put, if you find something to be interesting it is above your attentional threshold. If something is below your attentional threshold you are likely to find the material boring. All of us have an attentional threshold, it’s just set at different points.
For children with ADHD their attentional threshold is set quite high so that something has to be very interesting in order for them to pay attention to it (think video games). Unfortunately, life is not a video game. Much of what we are called to pay attention to is not especially interesting (think homework) but we nevertheless have to pay attention in order to be successful. The behavior problems arise out of this dilemma, and usually take one of three forms.
If a situation is below their attentional threshold, some children with ADHD just check out. They just don’t attend to it. We call these children inattentive. Other children with ADHD will fidget and move about in an attempt to stimulate themselves enough to be able to pay attention. Finally, some children will misbehave as a way to bring their environment up to their attentional threshold because even getting into trouble feels better than being disengaged.
The point here is that all children with or without ADHD will misbehave and that having ADHD does not excuse children with ADHD from all bad behavior. But if we fail to draw a distinction between misbehavior that is under their control and therefore deserving of consequences and those “misbehaviors” that represent a child’s attempt to compensate for their ADHD, we can end up punishing them rather than helping them to acquire more adaptive strategies.
Learn About ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)
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