Understanding Attentional Threshold

The most common diagnosis for behavioral problems in children is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But even more troubling is the fact that, across the vast majority of these diagnoses, that ADHD does not go away as the child grows into their adolescent years, and even adulthood. It does however look different. In this piece, we will compare those distinctions, in light of what there is to learn about the various forms of treatment that are popular for ADHD sufferers.

First of all, this is a brain centered condition. That means that the factors influencing their daily behavior is of a neurological nature, and can be practically considered to be outside of the individual’s conscious control. This counters what has been a popular argument from others that the children in question are either poorly behaved, not motivated or even lazy. In fact, we know from current research, that these kids are facing a very real neurological struggle to focus their attention. And yes, it is more difficult for them if the subject requiring that focus is neither engaging or interesting to the person.

Thresholds of Attentional Deficit

Let’s talk about some of the implications that come with this condition, and to do that we have to discuss this idea of an attentional threshold. In its most simple terms, when you encounter a situation or subject that you find interesting, it is above your own attentional threshold. And when you find the same types of situations boring, that indicates you are encountering something below that same threshold. We all have these thresholds to deal with, and it’s important to remember that they are not just a difficulty encountered by those suffering from ADHD.

What is demonstrably different about youngsters is that, most commonly, their own thresholds are set at levels greater than what we find in adults. Kids are almost uniformly intrigued by electronic excitement, such as what we find with videogames. And regrettably for them, much of life is nothing like video games. And because a good deal of what we are expected to pay attention to in our daily life is not particularly fascinating (homework would be a notable example), those people who have exceptionally high attentional thresholds face very significant uphill challenges. This lies at the root of many behavioral issues we see in children who grapple with ADHD.

They encounter situations that do not reach their threshold, and so they check out from whatever’s going on around them. They simply cannot focus their attention on whatever is taking place. We call the state a state of inattention. A good number of children who have ADHD and are aware of it, may begin to fidget and attempt physical movement in order to stimulate their minds to begin paying attention. And, the corollary to that is that a good number of these children will find less conforming ways to behave. They wind up getting in trouble if there is someone present who is in charge of ensuring compliance to whatever is supposed to be focused on.

Our point here is that misbehavior comes with ADHD territory. It does not excuse bad behavior, but it does help us appreciate some of the reasons it may happen. What can be very difficult to parse is when that misbehavior is voluntary or beyond the child’s control. It’s perfectly appropriate to punish a child for excessive bad behavior when you can be sure it is voluntary, but we have to be careful to make the proper distinction. Punishment for behaviors that are involuntary can actually be very frustrating for an ADHD sufferer, and might even cause them to further disengage from challenging environments in the future.

Visit The Reynolds Clinic ADHD Doctor in CT for additional guidance.