1. Selective attention. The child with A.D.D. operates at the two extremes of attention rather than in the middle like most people. There is inattention: “He can’t stick to an assigned task. He just can’t seem to pay attention when I am talking to him.” There is hyperfocus: “His concentration is fine when he is doing his own thing, like playing video games, or when he is in a novel situation.”
2. Distractibility. The thoughts of a child with A.D.D. seem scattered. He has so many different ideas popping into his mind at once and jumps from one to another faster than you can keep up. Often he tunes out while you are talking to him.
3. Impulsivity. The child with A.D.D. acts before he thinks, and this gets him into trouble at school and at home. He blurts things out or makes careless errors, like adding when the sign is for subtraction.
4. Hyperactivity. This trait occurs in only some children with A.D.D. When present, it can make diagnosis easier and is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.)
THE A.D.D. HALL OF FAME
Though he left the world a legacy of brilliant music and is the best known composer from the Classical era, Mozart might well have been described as an underachiever when he died in his mid thirties in 1792. He was capable of incredible hyperfocus, sometimes composing an opera in a few weeks, yet there were some commissions that he left to the last minute and others that he did not finish at all. He did not handle practical details, like finances, well, and he died a pauper. His impulsiveness in social situations stood in the way of his genius being rewarded with lofty court positions that would have brought greater financial reward.
Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill was not a success in school. He was described as hyperactive, naughty, and was frequently excused from the classroom to run around the schoolyard to release his excess energy. In his autobiography, My Early Life, Churchill described his impulsivity, accident- proneness, and his painful experiences in school. Although he had been an indifferent student, when he became interested in history as a young army officer in India, he devoured crates of books that were shipped to him from England. His high energy level, creative problem solving, and hyperfocus as Prime Minister of England during World War II led Britain through the darkest days of the war.
Thomas Alva Edison
Edison presents a classic profile of A.D.D. As an inventor he typifies the creative individual with A.D.D. who is unable to stick with just one task and is easily distracted by new ideas. Edison’s biographer wrote of his brief experience in school before running away that, “He alternated between letting his mind travel to distant places and putting his body in perpetual motion in his seat.” Later in life, Edison showed his tenacity in sticking with things that caught his imagination in his many inventions.