Eye contact in ADHD

Children with ADHD need to look away from faces longer so that they can think. While it may seem that they are not paying attention, these children may find it easier to concentrate by averting their gaze. So says Dr Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon of the University of Stirling who has carried out a number of studies of how gaze aversion actually helps children to think.

Children with and without ADHD were asked to solve mental arithmetic questions of varying difficulty. All children looked away from the face of the person they were talking to when they were thinking, however the children with ADHD needed to look away a lot more than average children.

Dr Doherty-Sneddon said that ADHD children find looking at faces extremely difficult so face-to-face contact may interfere with their ability to think. So instead of interpreting looking away as a sign of inattention, parents and teachers should realise that averting their faces can, in fact, show that they are engaging in a bit of thinking time.

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First published in January 2008


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