ADHD & Hyperfocus

Instructor: Jocelyn Cherry

Jocelyn has taught Special Education for over two decades and has three post secondary degrees all in the field of Education.

This lesson will discuss attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and one of the common symptoms of this disorder: hyperfocus. We'll explore the intense focus that children with ADHD exhibit and how to manage it in the classroom environment.

What is Hyperfocus?

Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can exhibit various symptoms. The most common symptom is a lack of focus--kids with ADHD are often easily distracted. While the lack of focus is addressed in great detail and length in publications and studies, very little is said about hyperfocus. Hyperfocus is the intense focus on something of interest, whether it's a person, object, or idea. Many researchers believe that students who hyperfocus have lower levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the frontal lobes that helps the brain shift attention.

Hyperfocus in the Classroom

How often do we hear parents or adults say, He can't have ADHD--he can play video games for hours, or, She's on social media all day, but won't research the internet for her project?

These may be examples of hyperfocus. The focus is so strong and prevailing that children with ADHD become oblivious to their surroundings, the passage of time, and personal responsibilities. This can become problematic for students. An ADHD student can get lost in something for hours before someone intervenes. Some students have such elevated hyperfocus that they cannot hear their names being called. This can easily be misconstrued as disobedience, but it's not--it's an effect of ADHD.

Embracing Hyperfocus

Hyperfocus can be a beneficial tool if used constructively. Goals, projects, and reports, for example, require intense concentration, and students with hyperfocus may be better inclined to give their full attention. The key is to identify the most effective learning style for the student, then schedule tasks and daily activities that embrace hyperfocus and let the student achieve his or her full potential.

Strategies for Students with Hyperfocus

Let's look at some tips that you might use to help students with ADHD and hyperfocus do their best in the classroom.

  • Plan lessons that are compelling, stimulating, and exciting to grab students' attention and help them shift their focus to a new subject. Be especially creative in the way you introduce the topic.

Find fun and creative ways to introduce topics and grab the student

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