Inattention in Children With ADHD

Inattention with ADHD
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Inattention is one of the primary symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This inability to pay attention can have a serious impact on a child's life and daily functioning across multiple domains including school, home, and personal relationships.

In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, children must meet certain criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM-V.

As mentioned previously, inattention is just one of the three primary characteristics of the disorder. An ADHD diagnosis requires exhibiting inattention as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity.

So how exactly do mental health professionals identify inattention? Kids in general often struggle with staying on task and paying attention, but ADHD involves an excessive and problematic degree of inattention for a child of that age.

Learn more about some of the most common signs and symptoms of inattention in ADHD.

A Few Common Signs of Inattention in ADHD

Inattention is one of the aspects of ADHD that sometimes goes unnoticed. Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are more obvious because they cause disruptions at home and school. Because inattentive behavior can lead to deficits in school, it is important to recognize these symptoms in order to obtain appropriate treatment.

Some inattentive behaviors that parents and teachers should look out for include:

  • Failure to pay attention to details, which frequently results in making careless mistakes on classwork.
  • Difficulty paying attention to the task at hand or being easily distracted by extraneous sights and sounds.
  • Problems with organization and planning. Kids experiencing attention problems often lose items such as schoolwork, pens, books, or personal items.
  • Skipping from one activity to the next without finishing previous tasks.
  • Forgetfulness and absentmindedness. Kids with attention problems struggle to keep track of what they need to do and sometimes even seem “spaced out.”
  • In some cases, kids exhibit symptoms of inattention but do not seem to have problems with hyperactivity. Such children often seem very lethargic. This inattentive-dominant form of the disorder is often diagnosed as ADD.  

Distinguishing Inattention from Normal Childhood Behaviors

Predominantly Inattentive ADHD can go unnoticed because children with this type of ADHD do not display behavior that is particularly disruptive. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children with this type of ADHD rarely experience symptoms of impulsivity or hyperactivity.

Often described as forgetful or sluggish, children experiencing symptoms of inattention need treatment just as much as those experiencing the more disrupting symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.

How do you distinguish between normal childhood behavior and the symptoms of ADHD?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children with ADHD may also experience some of the following symptoms of inattention:

  • Problems staying on task.
  • Inattentive kids have a very hard time focusing on one thing for any length of time.
  • When forced to work on something, they tend to become bored very quickly.
  • However, if it is something they really enjoy (like playing a computer game or playing with building blocks) they seem to have no problem staying on task for an extended period of time.
  • Learning new things can be a struggle.
  • School can be particularly difficult for inattentive kids because it is hard to intentionally focus on something.
  • Doing homework is very hard.
  • Children with attention problems forget about assignments that they were supposed to finish.
  • They forget to bring their assignments home from school.
  • They often forget the books they need at school or at home.
  • The entire process of getting homework done becomes not just a major source of stress and irritation for the child, but for parents and even teachers as well.

Clearly, inattention can have a major impact on a child’s academic performance. Fortunately, early interventions and treatments can help children manage ADHD symptoms effectively and still perform well in school.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health. (2012) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

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