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focus with ADHD

How To Focus with ADHD 

by: Jen Hanzel, M.Ed, LPC

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in school aged children. More than 75% of those diagnosed continue to experience symptoms into adulthood. A common and impactful symptom of ADHD is deficits in executive functioning. This can include difficulty focusing on tasks, particularly undesirable ones, for extended periods of time. Before we discuss strategies and tips for how to focus with ADHD, it’s important to understand why individuals diagnosed with ADHD can have difficulty concentrating and completing tasks.

A common misconception about ADHD is that people with this diagnosis are unable to focus. More accurately, people with ADHD have difficulty prioritizing and regulating attention. Difficulty prioritizing attention can mean frequently shifting attention between tasks and being easily distracted. Difficulty regulating attention can also manifest as hyperfocusing: concentrating so hard on one specific task and losing track of everything else is going on. For kids, this can lead to difficulty sustaining attention in school or while completing homework. Later in life, attention regulation deficits for adults can lead to difficulties completing work tasks, day-to-day activities and scheduling.

If you or your child struggle with ADHD and attention regulation, here are some strategies:

Focus Tips for Adults Diagnosed with ADHD:

  • Create a clear workspace: Starting with a clear work space can minimize the opportunity for distractions from the task you want to complete. If you are having trouble focusing in one space, don’t be afraid to move around and try somewhere new.
  • Set a timer: The timer should be set for long enough to complete the task or a chunk of the work, usually between 30 and 45 minutes. Timers can also be a great reminder if you do get off track to come back and re-assess progress toward your original goal.
  • Schedule breaks… really! Using a timer, schedule breaks to give time for rest and recharging following a period of work or task completion. The break should be long enough to feel restored but not so long you can be pulled into a new activity.
  • Break large tasks into smaller tasks: Breaking tasks down into smaller parts can help big tasks feel less overwhelming. It also helps create a clear starting point and a roadmap to completion.
  • Make a list: Create a space where you can write down your to-do list for the day, as well as projects or ideas as they come to you. By creating a list and writing things down, it allows you to come back to ideas or tasks later without fear of forgetting, meaning you can focus better on your current task.
    … and prioritize it: A long to-do list can feel daunting. As you make a list, prioritizing items into a few “must -do” items for the day and then “could -do” or “for-later” items allows you to concentrate on the most essential tasks first.

Tips for Parents Supporting Kids Diagnosed with ADHD

  • Help your child create a homework space free of distractions: Create a homework command center with only the essentials needed to complete their homework. Since we know children with ADHD struggle to prioritize and regulate their attention, helping them declutter their homework space leaves fewer things competing for their attention and potential distractions.
  • Find a planner that works: Find a planner of some kind that works for your child. By creating a system and place for them to track deadlines and due dates you are creating a starting place for tracking homework completion and fostering independence.
    Break down directions and large assignments: If you notice your child struggling to start homework, check for understanding of the directions and how to get started. If they continue to struggle to focus, help them break the assignment down into smaller steps until it feels more manageable.
  • Create checklists for packing up: Imagine the frustration of working hard on an assignment only to leave it at home on your desk. Work with your child to create a checklist or system for packing up, so completed homework and assignments make it back to school or get properly turned in online.
  • Positive reinforcement: Concentration and task completion is hard, especially for assignments or subjects that are not interesting to your child. Provide specific, positive reinforcement and praise your child when you notice they are working hard, persevering through challenging assignments or asking for help completing tasks.

AMK specializes in treating individuals struggling with ADHD. To learn more about AMK’s behavioral therapy programs and team members visit us.
You can also click here schedule an intake appointment with an ADHD specialist, or contact [email protected] or call 773-413-9523, we are happy to help!