Why Can Kids With ADHD Concentrate on Some Things? What Is ADHD Hyperfocus?

While ADHD is called an attention deficit disorder, experts say what’s really disordered is the child’s ability to control and direct what he’s paying attention to. So many kids with ADHD are perfectly capable of intense focus on things that are very exciting to them, like video games, but they can’t maintain that kind of focus on things that aren’t immediately rewarding, like schoolwork or putting on their shoes or going to bed.

That intense concentration, sometimes called hyperfocus, is also the reason kids with ADHD often get upset when asked to stop doing something they are engaged in, like a favorite activity at school or playing a video game. They have what experts call an inability to “attention switch,” which can cause a lot of conflicts with adults.

And speaking of video games: Because they are constantly stimulating and rewarding, experts say they can induce a kind of trance state in a child who has trouble regulating her attention. In that case, it’s less a matter of hyperfocus than what one calls “screen suck.”