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Understanding Attentional Vulnerabilities in Children with ADHD: A Guide for Parents


Attentional vulnerabilities are central to the experiences of children with ADHD, impacting various aspects of their daily lives. As a parent, recognising and understanding these vulnerabilities is crucial for providing effective support and fostering your child's development. Let's delve into the four fundamental attentional domains associated with ADHD: Basic Attention Span, Sustained Attention, Selective Attention, Shifting Attention, and Divided Attention.


Basic Attention Span:

Consider the basic attention span of your child's mental workspace. It refers to the amount of information a child can hold in their mind before experiencing cognitive overload. Children with ADHD often struggle with maintaining focus for extended periods, making it challenging to process and retain information presented in tasks or instructions.



Sustained Attention:

Sustained attention is maintaining focus on a task or situation despite distractions, fatigue, or boredom. Children with ADHD may find it difficult to sustain attention over prolonged periods, leading to frequent shifts in focus and reduced productivity. As a result, they may struggle to complete tasks or follow through on instructions, especially those that require sustained mental effort.


Selective Attention:

Selective attention involves focusing on one thing while ignoring distractions. Children with ADHD often have heightened distractibility, making it challenging to filter out irrelevant stimuli and stay focused on the task at hand. This can interfere with academic performance, social interactions, and everyday activities, as they may become easily sidetracked by external stimuli or internal thoughts.


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Shifting Attention:

Shifting attention is the ability to transition between tasks, concepts, or stimuli. Children with ADHD may experience difficulty shifting their attention flexibly, leading to problems with task-switching and adapting to changes in their environment. They may become stuck on one task or idea, finding it challenging to transition to a new activity or perspective.



Divided Attention:

Divided attention involves allocating attention between two or more tasks simultaneously. Children with ADHD may struggle with divided attention, finding it challenging to juggle multiple demands or stimuli at once. This can impact their ability to prioritise tasks, manage time effectively, and maintain performance across academic work and extracurricular activities.



Understanding these attentional vulnerabilities is essential for parents navigating the complexities of ADHD. You can implement strategies and accommodations to support their cognitive development and overall well-being by recognising your child's unique challenges and strengths in these domains. Whether providing structured routines, minimising distractions, or offering praise and encouragement, your guidance is pivotal in helping your child thrive despite their attentional vulnerabilities.


ADHD encompasses a spectrum of attentional vulnerabilities that impact various aspects of a child's life. By fostering awareness, empathy, and proactive support, parents can empower their children to navigate challenges, capitalise on their strengths, and reach their full potential. REACH ADHD Coaching and Consultancy, Perth, Australia, can support parents in creating environments that nurture the diverse needs and abilities of their children with ADHD, fostering resilience and growth every step of the way.

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