Special Needs

The Focus Myth - ADD and ADHD

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Often, our adult view of the world affects us so much that we miss the obvious. Even worse, we reinforce each others' mistaken beliefs. Over the last couple of decades, many adults have misunderstood the idea of focus and the ADD/ADHD child.

Over a decade ago when I first started working with ADD/ADHD children and adults, everyone seemed convinced that Attention Deficit Disorder was an inability to focus. The name says it all, so to speak.

However, as an alternative coach and counselor, it was clear to me that the name was wrong.

Early in my work I saw the "problems" of working with this group. In fact, they aren't problems. So, in my book, Managing The Gift: Alternative Approaches For Attention Deficit Disorder, I renamed it Cultural Inconvenience Syndrome, or CIS for short.

Individuals who are gifted with ADD/ADHD have two activity "settings." They are hyper focus and multi-task.

However, many people don't recognize that ADD individuals can not only focus but actually hyper focus. That's because what children focus on - TV, games, etc. - may not seem to have much value.

By thinking that ADD/ADHD children (and adults) lack the ability to focus, our society tries to solve the wrong problem.

People come up with solutions and coping skills that seem to work, but aren't actually correct. As a result, opportunities for real solutions are missed. Contributory factors are also overlooked, yet if they were addressed, the answers to ADD/ADHD "problems" might be obvious.

As usual, western medicine recognizes - or even creates -- the symptoms, but the causes and preventive action seem beyond their grasp.

When you're working with ADD/ADHD children and adults, try asking the following questions. They can help resolve focus issues, without affecting creativity and the wonderful, wandering intelligence of those gifted with ADD and ADHD.

1. Have you presented the subject in an engaging way? Has you helped the individual's mind understand the value of what they are trying to learn?

2. Are you allowing (or even encouraging) the learning style that is most appropriate for the individual?

3. Have you checked for environmental factors that can make focusing difficult?

4. Have you presented the material in different ways, so that the student has choices? Have you made it easy for the learner to move between those approaches, to help the learner absorb the material?

5. Are you allowing them to process the information in sections, according to their appropriate processing style?

6. Do you allow the student to take the information in a number of different directions? That is, do you answer the learner's questions, even if you do not understand where the questions came from? Do you tie the answers into what they are learning?

7. Have you monitored the learner's diet? Diet and environmental issues can affect focus issues, and energy and emotional issues as well.

Can a person with ADD/ADHD focus without medication? In my experience, the answer is yes, if everything else is in order and it is structured properly.


Dr Kevin Ross Emery is the author of several books including Managing The Gift: Alternative Approaches For Attention Deficit Disorder as well as the accompanying CD of daily practices. Dr. Kevin has a practice in Phoenix, AZ and Haverhill, MA where he sees clients, as well as on the phone or on the Internet through Skype. http://www.mydrkevin.com