The Path from ADD to Focused Mind
Whether you or your child has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, you have likely faced your share of challenges, and there may be struggles at school, work, or church.
The inability to focus or pay attention gets in the way, and it makes simple things difficult.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
According to ADDitude, “About 6.1 million children in the United States (9.4 percent) between ages 2 to 17 are estimated to have ever been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD).”
Moreover, the study ADDitude notes found, “ADHD diagnoses among adults are growing four times faster than are ADHD diagnoses among children in the United States (26.4% increase among children compared to 123.3 percent among adults).”
Unfortunately, the prevalence of ADD and ADHD has made the general public turn a blind eye to it.
It’s easy for people to shrug off certain behavior and label it as “ADD” or to blame their own shortcomings on an undiagnosed case of ADD.
This type of thinking hurts those who truly struggle with attention disorders.
Instead, those who suffer from ADD or have loved ones who have been diagnosed will benefit from real strategies and professional help.
Ultimately, God can transform and renew our minds if we let him.
To help us discover the path from ADD to a more focused mind, we are using ADD: Wandering Minds and Wired Bodies by Edward T. Welch.
What are ADD and ADHD?
Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV (the manual which lists and describes psychiatric disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association), highlights three behaviors associated with ADD: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
ADD (attention deficit disorder) emphasizes inattention, whereas ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) includes all three behaviors.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Many ADHD symptoms, such as high activity levels, difficulty remaining still for long periods of time and limited attention spans, are common to young children in general. The difference in children with ADHD is that their hyperactivity and inattention are noticeably greater than expected for their age and cause distress and/or problems functioning at home, at school or with friends.”
The key here is “noticeably greater.”
As humans, we all have times when we are less attentive, more impulsive, and more hyper.
However, those who suffer from ADD or ADHD experience these symptoms to a greater degree.
Welch explains, “Almost anyone can squeeze into these parameters – at least on certain days. Given such impression, it would be more accurate to see ADD behaviors on a continuum where everyone can be found somewhere on the spectrum, but some people consistently live at the extremes.”
Those who live at the extremes need help to make their daily lives more livable.
ADD is Not an Explanation
When you say someone has ADD, it is sometimes treated as an explanation. This is a problem.
Welch explains, “ADD is a description of behavior, not an explanation. By it we describe behaviors rather than explain their causes. We answer the question, ‘What is this child doing?’ but not, ‘Why is this child doing it?’”
Instead, when we encounter someone with ADD, Welch suggests, “It should mean, ‘I want to know this person better. I want to study his strengths and weaknesses, and become more alert to the inclination of his heart.’”
The Spiritual Aspects of ADD
Unfortunately, sometimes people focus solely on the physical aspects of ADD and neglect the spiritual aspects. In these cases, sinful behavior may be excused.
Welch writes, “Say, for example, that your child is hitting another child because the other child is playing with his toy. This is clearly a spiritual problem. Even though your child might also struggle with inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity, these cannot be excuses for such behavior. Physical problems do not force a child to sin.”
With that being said, we are all prone to certain kinds of sins.
As you work to love someone with ADD, keep in mind that their diagnosis may make them more susceptible to sins, such as:
- Difficulty persevering when things are difficult or boring
- Talking before listening
- Not doing what they say they will do
- Slowness in learning from past experiences and the wisdom of others
- Slowness in seeking advice
- Poor self-control
- Rashness and impulsivity
God Promises Wisdom to Those Who Seek It
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
– James 1:5
While those with ADD may be more prone to struggle in these areas, it does not mean they should simply accept it.
Even those who are not Christians should strive to look for ways to do better in these areas!
For those who are Christians, we can ask God for wisdom.
Welch explains, “No one is born with wisdom, but, since wisdom comes from carefully considering our ways and listening to the wise, it can be a greater challenge for those who are naturally more active and less reflective. […] We often think that ADD is an unchangeable genetic destiny, but when seen through the lens of wisdom, we can be confident that deep change is possible because God promises to give wisdom generously to those who seek it.”
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– Romans 12:2
Now that you know it is possible to move toward a more focused mind, let’s talk about how you do it.
Welch makes the following suggestions:
- Focus on teaching one biblical principle at a time.
- Become an expert in the book of Proverbs.
- Emphasize encouragement and instruction rather than punishment.
- Provide structure. Set boundaries.
- Have clear, predictable, simple, and written household rules.
- Anticipate and pre-empt problems rather than react to them.
- Use “to do” lists and establish deadlines.
- Do the hard task before the easy one.
- Seek professional help.
It is worth noting that many people find help through medications.
Welch comments, “The use of medication is a controversial area: some think medication is essential, others think it is wrong. A wise course steers somewhere between the two.”
Ultimately, whether you choose medication or not, your focus should be on dealing with ADD through a spiritual lens.
A Note for Church Members
A recent study found that churches are generally unwelcoming to those who suffer from ADHD.
According to Christianity Today, “The odds of a child with autism never attending religious services were nearly twice as high as compared to children with no chronic health conditions. The odds of never attending also were significantly higher for children with developmental delays, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavior disorders. […] Children with conditions that limit social interaction, who are often excluded from other social settings and have the greater need for a community of social support, were most likely to feel unwelcome at religious services.”
The church needs to do better.
Consider starting a special needs ministry or offer training for church leaders.
Maybe start as small as reaching out to families with children diagnosed with ADHD and ask what you can do to better serve them.
Finally, give them opportunities to use their unique gifts in your church.