My child can focus on movies, video games, or Legos for hours on end—but they can’t focus on schoolwork for more than five minutes!”

Could that be you talking about your child?

There are many reasons why a child’s attention might wander—from kids just being kids all the way to attention and focus disorders (also called executive functioning disorders).

It’s also possible for a child to appear unfocused because they have a learning struggle that isn’t related to attention. As an example, a child with a writing dysfunction has to devote extra energy to schoolwork—meaning they’ll lose interest in their lessons as their energy runs down. But for a child with an attention disorder, the simple task of focusing requires extra energy!

Two disorders that fall into this category are attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a type of ADD.

  • ADD refers to a child who is not acting out or moving around, and can even look attentive during a task, but is generally absorbed in their own thoughts and daydreams—to the point that they get little done in the amount of time allotted.
  • ADHD generally includes hyperactivity. This child has a motor that is always running and that they seem incapable of controlling. They do everything in a hurry, and some part of their body is always moving, keeping them distracted.

The hyperactive (not just hyper-fidgety) child is usually easy to spot in a group. The inattentive child, on the other hand, is not easy to spot. This child may just appear to be slow in finishing work or in following directions, and they may seem lazy or uncooperative.

If your child exhibits a bunch of symptoms in the checklist below, it may point toward an attention or focus struggle. In that case, getting your child evaluated by a professional could provide incredibly helpful insights into your child’s learning challenges along with tools and skills that can help them succeed in future testing experiences, career training, college, and employment. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for resources that can make managing attention easier for your child!