ADHD and Video Games
Hyperfocus: a common feature of ADHD
By: Steven Watts
You have experienced it time and time again. Your child who has ADHD may have difficulty focusing to get homework done, or can’t follow a few step-by-step instructions to complete chores. But you may have wondered – why is it that your child can focus when playing video games or watching TV, but can’t sit still and concentrate at other times?
According to pediatrician Dr. Bruce Man, “ADHD is not really a condition where a person has a deficit of focus, rather, a deficit of being able to focus on the right thing at the right time. Many people with ADHD tend to hyper-focus.” That is, they are “so focused on something that it’s hard to break the focus.” Dr. Man goes on to report that people tend to be able to focus better on things that interest them. With many children, the classic things demanding hours of their attention include video games, TV and movies, Legos®, toy cars and the like. Dr. Peter Anderson, clinical pharmacist, adds that many people with ADHD like or need immediate feedback and rewards. A video game provides immediate feedback, while much of school-based learning has delayed rewards and consequences, such as report cards.
Dr. Russell Barkley contends the child with ADHD is always more dependent on the external and immediate consequences for their motivation to persist at a task. So, if a task provides external, immediate, and frequent consequences—such as videogames—then there is no problem with concentrating and sticking with the activity. But if an activity provides few or no such immediate consequences, then it places heavier demands on intrinsic or self-motivation.
All of the InsideADHD experts agree that the child’s interest in computers and video games can be put to use. Dr. Jonathan Brush, clinical psychologist, recommends “working with your child to build their interest in things such as homework. Schoolwork, chores, or other routine activities are often experienced as tedious, boring, and not immediately rewarding; just the type of task which challenges the capacity to concentrate.” Dr. Brush recommends searching for appropriate educational multimedia video programs to learn if your child enjoys them. This will engage them while they learn and place an emphasis on reaching their academic goals while encouraging their extracurricular interests.
As a parent, it’s important to remember that each child is different and has different interests, so every child will focus on something different. But their interests are relatively easy to focus on because they are stimulating, often change a lot, and may be interactive, according to Dr. Man. So with your ADHD child, it may not be a bad thing to encourage their interests – as long as they focus on other goals as well.
1. ADDitude Magazine. (October/November 2005). Focus on Hyperfocus. Retrieved May 18, 2012, fromhttp://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/612.html