Inattention is one of the major symptoms of ADHD, although it is still greatly misunderstood. Some experts believe that it is “over” attention, rather than inattention. People with ADHD do not have the ability to filter out unwanted stimuli and therefore, they pay attention to everything, rather than being able to focus on one thing. Inattention is also described as being easily distracted.
Inattention and hyperfocus also seem to go hand in hand. Hyperfocus is the ability to focus so intently on one thing that everything else seems to disappear. People with problems with inattention, often also report problems with periods of hyperfocus. This can cause them to be late for important events, or get so bogged down completing one task they forget other equally important things to do.
Children and adults both have difficulties with inattention. There are, however, some differences and some similarities in the way inattention manifests itself:
Characteristics of Inattention in Children
- They seem to not listen. Children with ADHD often seem as if they are not listening when someone speaks to them. Often they are simply distracted by the many things going on around them. They may just be having a hard time focusing on the conversation.
- Trouble following directions. This may occur for a number of reasons. The child may have gotten distracted while being given directions and therefore did not hear all of the instructions. They may get distracted while following the directions and begin a new task completely. Or they may become distracted and then forget what they were doing and what they are supposed to be doing next.
- Lack of organization. Children with ADHD often have problems working through the steps needed to complete a project. They may have a hard time organizing their thoughts in a logical manner. Many children with ADHD are conceptual thinkers, and although they can visualize the end result, they may not be able to break the task down into simple steps.
- Failure to complete tasks. Children that are easily distracted often move from one task to another. They may begin to do their homework, get up to sharpen a pencil and start to play with the dog, become distracted again and go and get a snack. They may completely forget what they were doing first and move on to another activity.