A.D.D. is not a deficit in attention. A deficit means “a lack of something,” implying less of something. But children with A.D.D. sometimes pay more attention to certain topics. What they really show is the two extremes of focus: they are not good at paying attention to things they find boring, but they can focus intensely on things that catch their interest. This can be an advantage when children are creating something. It can be a disadvantage when their hyperfocus in one area prevents them from paying attention to the things other people find important. For example, a child may spend six hours doing an incredibly clever cover page for a project but spend little time on the content; this won’t earn a good mark from the teacher.
A.D.D. is not a disorder in the usual sense. “Disorder” implies illness or pathology. A.D.D. is not a disorder (like a thyroid disorder, for example). It is merely a difference, in the same way as being left-handed is a difference. As with left-handedness the difference is related to the way the individual’s brain works. Like left-handedness, A.D.D. occurs in at least five percent of the population, and it affects people to different degrees. Unfortunately, in the minds of some people, being different implies being less. They are at a disadvantage due to their traits, rather than having a disorder, which makes them abnormal.
A more accurate “D” word is “description,” which is really a summary of observations from significant people in the child’s life. This is why parent and teacher questionnaires are so often used in identifying A.D.D.