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Caregivers, teachers of ADHD youth must harness children's interests to aid learning

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By Caren Chaffee 


ADDitude Magazine, a publication whose target audience is individuals whose lives are impacted by ADHD, recently published an article about the “long-term obsessions” of some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Based on the comments posted by online readers, the author’s perspective resonated with a number of parents of ADHD youth. By “mastering their one-track minds,” parents and caregivers can harness ADHD youth’s enthusiasm and guide them in using their interests as a vehicle to unlock their learning potential.


For these youth, their interests go beyond the typical “phases” that many children experience while growing up. Most children do, in fact, establish interests that are generally age-appropriate, peer-related hobbies and activities that are eventually replaced by “the next big thing.” However, for the ADHD child, the interests run deep and the level of detail into which they delve is extraordinary. ADHD youth with long-term obsessions immerse themselves in the topic, learning all they can about the subject using a remarkable number of resources available to them. They are also able to pass the knowledge on to others with fluency and cognizance.


It was once thought that individuals with ADHD were unable to maintain focus on a topic. However, more recent clinical research indicates that their inability to focus is situational. In fact, it is now recognized that individuals with ADHD are more inclined to sustain focus on activities that are of strong personal interest to them. It is this proclivity to hyper-focus on topics of interest that allow the ADHD brain to absorb and retain the information it gathers related to the topic with indescribable capability.


Parents, caregivers, teachers and other adults in the lives of ADHD youth have a responsibility to help them find the interest that taps into their remarkable capacity to learn. Harnessing this interest is a key component to setting them on a path for success. Many ADHD youth struggle in school, the typical setting in which learning is “expected” to occur. However, for ADHD youth, the process of learning often occurs in a different setting or through a different conduit. The challenge for parents, caregivers and teachers is to find ways to merge school-based learning with the ADHD youth’s capacity to absorb knowledge about topics of interest. This task is difficult, but not impossible, and most importantly, it is a crucial step in the growth of the ADHD youth into a successful adult. Adults close to ADHD youth often say, “I can’t wait to see what he is going to be when he grows up. Our challenge, and our greatest reward, is helping him get there.”

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