Focus & Following Directions

“Simple Tasks Seem Overwhelming to My Child”

“We’ve tried everything from kindly reminding her to tidy up her room to doing it ourselves when we can’t take it anymore. ADD is really exhausting and sucks so much energy from us.”

ADHD discipline help for when your child just looks up, and ignores everything you say.
ADHD discipline help for when your child just looks up, and ignores everything you say.






Take your pick — the misconstrued labels for children with inattentive ADHD (once called ADD) are as vast and varied as the symptoms they manifest. Often misunderstood — or worse, neglected — at school, children with ADHD face unique challenges complicated by outdated ADHD stereotypes.

Here, ADDitude readers share the biggest challenges their children with inattentive ADHD face at school and home. What struggles does your child with predominantly inattentive ADHD encounter? Share your stories in the Comments section below.

“Mind-wandering is a challenge for my daughter when she needs to complete schoolwork, especially reading. She has a hard time focusing and will fixate on sounds around her (ticking clock, hallway conversation, foot-tapping classmate, etc.) rather than the one sound she needs to hear: Her teacher’s voice. However, her inattentiveness and mind-wandering are a total asset when she’s drawing, writing, or creating because it allows her to be fluid, make connections, and find flow.” — Anonymous

“Often our 5th grader doesn’t hear us, and it can be very frustrating. He is very gifted, but the inattentiveness has caught up to him. I see him wrapping his computer cord around his hand or doodling absentmindedly instead of completing his assignments.” — Anonymous

“The biggest challenge is my 16-year-old daughter’s room. I’m tempted to call it her ‘swamp’ because it is absolutely a mess of everything you can imagine — dirty clothes, clean clothes, wet bath towels, food and drink containers, jewelry, school supplies, make-up, unfinished crafts, papers that should have been signed and returned to school — scattered on the floor. We’ve tried everything from kindly reminding her to tidy up her room to doing it ourselves when we can’t take it anymore. It’s really exhausting and sucks so much energy from us.” — Anonymous

[Take This Test: Could Your Child Have ADD?]

“My son misses verbal instructions at school, or if he hears them, he doesn’t remember them. He doesn’t want to call attention to himself by writing them down.” — Anonymous

“The biggest challenge for my daughter is accessing appropriate support at school. My daughter is quiet and intelligent so teachers assume she doesn’t need support. They do not see the hours of additional study and near panic and frustration that happens at home. The amount of time she spends on organizing and building routines so she can manage are mind-blowing. It is so difficult to watch her needlessly struggle. Also, her budding independence means she wants no interference from her parents. This desire for independence is mismatched with her not-yet-there social, money, and time-management skills. I see students with ‘extra energy’ receive a lot of attention and help, and the inattentive kids — especially girls — are left with messages that they are ‘lazy,’ ‘unmotivated,’ and just need to ‘try harder’.” — Anonymous

“My son’s bedroom, locker, and backpack all look like the aftermath of a tornado. I don’t usually make a big deal about it, but it affects his ability to keep track of schoolwork, 4H club projects, etc. His executive functioning skills are much weaker than his peers, and he rarely remembers any assignments. Middle school has been an incredibly challenging transition for him. He thrived in elementary school. Now his grades are in the 60s instead of 80s and 90s. He is bright, but he is lost.” — Anonymous

“Remembering important school meetings and not putting projects off until the night before they are due seems nearly impossible for my teen! They are very smart, but frequently lose points on work for turning it in late, and as a parent with the same issues, I find it difficult to remember for them (or to call them out) when I forget, too.” — Anonymous

[Download This: Your Free In-Depth Guide to Inattentive ADHD?]

“My daughter struggles to complete a task. Even when we ask her to do one job, like, put on socks, it takes ages, and she usually returns with a couple of toys — and sometimes the socks. It also takes her a long time to sit and eat a meal. The table could be clear of all distracting items, and she will think of something she ‘has to do’ and then leaves the table forgetting about her food.” — Anonymous

“’What am I supposed to do right now?’ I ask my son every hour, as it is impossible for him to complete simple tasks such as brushing his teeth or clearing the kitchen table after we eat. We’ll sit down for dinner, and despite multiple reminders, my son is off elsewhere, lost doing something completely irrelevant. At school, staying on task is impossible and worsens if the task is boring for him, even though he can do it with ease. My younger one is better organized and over enthusiastic with every task, which in turn increases sibling rivalry and makes things worse for us.” — Anonymous

Starting and completing tasks: I can’t focus on my own tasks because I’m busy monitoring hers.” — Anonymous

“My son is verbally advanced by a couple years, and his inattention is most obvious in his conversations. He can bounce between a dozen topics a minute recalling what he’s read, taught, or heard. It distracts him from getting ready in the mornings, so we gave him a checklist. I still verbally remind him and ask ‘is the list done?’ At least he doesn’t need reminders at each step.” — Anonymous

“My son hates, hates, hates school. Although he’s in an accelerated program, he struggles with writing and timed tests. His teacher seems unwilling or unable to make accommodations for him, citing a lack of ‘personal responsibility’ and the need for a ‘growth mindset.’ At home, he struggles with pretty intense emotional dysregulation, (particularly stemming from his frustration at being asked to perform onerous tasks such as homework and chores).” — Anonymous

Teachers don’t notice that a student has lost focus. Eye contact and even body language may give the impression of focus, yet the student is not listening. Their thoughts are elsewhere. This is equally as stressful to the students because they know they were present, and therefore, think they just forgot what was taught not realizing they had intermittent moments of inattentiveness. An inattentive ADHD student is often neglected, and IEP classroom accommodations are not as easily put into play as they are for a student with hyperactive ADHD. A student who is actively disruptive receives nearly immediate re-direction. This is not the case for the inattentive student. As a parent of both inattentive and hyperactive children with ADHD, it is more difficult to teach the inattentive children strategies than the hyperactive one.” — Anonymous

“Test taking is a challenge. He is brilliant orally, but he can’t concentrate on written exams.” — Anonymous

“My 10-year-old daughter assumes her homework ‘won’t take long.’ She does not plan the appropriate amount of time for it and pushes back every step of the way.” — Anonymous

Teachers take the inattention personally and then are overly punitive. At home, before we understood that she couldn’t process more than one task at a time we would get frustrated. Now we know to only ask her to do one thing at a time.” — Anonymous

“My son struggles keeping up with class discussions, and he needs instructions repeated and reminders to complete routine activities.” — Anonymous

“Two of my children have predominantly inattentive ADHD. Both tend to lack follow through. While my daughter writes things down and uses planners, my son does not — so I always need to remind him. But with my predominantly inattentive ADHD, it’s hard to remember to remind him. When he’s fully engaged, he gets the job done, often going above and beyond what was required. The challenge is getting him to that point of engagement. My daughter worries that she’ll ‘forget something’ or and won’t get things done ‘perfectly.’ This perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because she’s developed coping strategies, and she’s more self-contained and self-motivated because of it, but it turns simple things into jousting matches with her psyche. Many times, she’s afraid to start something because she fears she’ll fail at it, or worries that she’ll miss an important bit of information. Then she spends a good amount of time spinning her wheels before getting started.” — Anonymous

Inattentive ADHD in Children: Next Steps

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