Question: Our child is having trouble focusing in school. We don't think this is ADHD because she can sit for hours in front of the computer or the television without being distracted. Is this kind of behaviour common among kids in the elementary grades? Should we be worried?


One of the misperceptions about ADHD is that it always involves hyperactivity. There are actually three types of ADHD: the hyperactive type, where kids are bouncing off the walls and climbing on the furniture; the inattentive type, where kids have difficulty paying attention in highly structured environments; and the combined type, where kids show signs of both hyperactivity and inattention.

Speaking very broadly, we find that ADHD in girls often assumes the form of inattention and lack of focus, whereas in boys it is more commonly associated with hyperactivity. This means that ADHD in girls is easily overlooked. School teachers always know the boys who have ADHD, because they can't sit still in class, can't wait their turn, blurt out answers, irritate their classmates and generally make a teacher's job a lot more difficult.

A girl with ADHD, on the other hand, may sit quietly in her seat but be unable to focus on class work, particularly when the task is routine or repetitive or the lecture is less than stimulating. Teachers don't realize that these girls are falling behind because they are usually well behaved and don’t rock the boat in the classroom.

If your child does have the disorder, it's not surprising that she seems to do just fine when watching exciting TV shows or playing computer games. As a matter of fact, kids with ADHD tend to get hooked on video and computer games because of the interactive stimulation and the regular reinforcement they receive from the game through points and ascending levels. Unfortunately, it's precisely this kind of reinforcement that is so often missing from the educational setting.

Our advice would be to ask your child's teacher or principal to have her evaluated by the school psychologist. The psychologist will give you and your daughter's teacher a special questionnaire to fill out. He or she may also give your daughter some tests or observe her behaviour in the classroom. If she is diagnosed with ADHD, the school psychologist will consult with you and your pediatrician about the best treatment options. He or she can also work with the teacher to design some educational interventions that will help your daughter in school.

For more information about ADHD, we suggest you visit the website of an organization called C.H.A.D.D. (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) at, and You may also want to take a look at the book Why ADHD Doesn't Mean Disaster by Dennis Swanberg, Diane Passno and Dr. Walt Larimore.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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