Distractibility / inattention

5 Common Distractions for Kids With Focus Issues

By Amanda Morin

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Distractibility, a main symptom of ADHD, can impact a child’s life both in and out of school. Kids with focus issues can be distracted by the littlest things—things people who don’t have focus issues or ADHD might not even notice. Here are five common distractions for kids with focus issues and ways to sidestep them.

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Close-up of a young girl playing with a pinwheel toy
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Distraction #1: Items They Pick Up or Touch

Some kids with focus issues are also hyperactive. Being hyperactive isn’t just limited to racing around, though. Kids might frequently pick up items and fidget with them without even knowing they’re doing it, taking their focus away from what they’re doing. Giving your child an “approved” fidget item like a stress ball to keep in his pocket may help him from being distracted by other items. Chewing gum or drinking from a water bottle can also help.

A young girl sitting alone in a quiet, relaxing spot
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Distraction #2: The Phone Ringing

Kids with focus issues have a hard time figuring out what information to tune into and what information to tune out. This isn’t a choice. The part of the brain that filters information may be smaller in kids who have focus issues due to ADHD. Turning the ringer down on the phone or putting the phone in a different room when your child has to concentrate can reduce the distraction.

Mother pulling a t-shirt over her child’s head
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Distraction #3: Itchy Clothes

Some kids with focus issues also have trouble with sensory processing, which means their brains react differently to sounds, sights, touch and other sensory information. Kids who are sensitive to touch can be bothered by the way something feels on their skin, like itchy socks. They can become focused on that itchy feeling, which can distract them from other things. Buying soft clothes and removing tags can help. Another simple calming technique is to turn down the lights in a room so it’s not as bright.

Close up of a high school boy sitting in the front row of the classroom concentrating on an assignment
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Distraction #4: Someone Walking Past the Door

When kids with focus issues see movement out of the corner of their eye, it’s hard for them to ignore it. Finding a place for your child to sit that’s away from windows or other high-traffic areas can help him stay focused on what he’s doing, whether it’s studying for a test or playing a board game.

Tween girl sitting on the couch reading a magazine and listening to music
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Distraction #5: Their Own Thoughts

Kids with focus issues aren’t just distracted by the outside world. They’re easily distracted by their own thoughts, too, and may often end up daydreaming. Checking in with your child to make sure he understands what he’s supposed to be doing and breaking tasks into shorter chunks can keep him focused on the task at hand. Playing music and using timers could also help your child “stay present.”

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About the Author

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Jenn Osen Foss

Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions and co-planning.

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