Auditory and Visual Attention in Children with ADHD

The Journal of Attention Disorders published research examining auditory and visual attention in 50 children (ages 6-12) with ADHD compared to 50 typically developing peers.

There are many differences between processing auditory information versus visual information.  For example, information in the auditory channel is temporally sequenced and shorter when compared to visual information, which is richer in spatial organization and longer. Another more obvious difference is that auditory processing transforms sound properties while visual processing transforms light reflecting properties. Auditory stimulation is picked up by both ears normally requiring sorting, prioritizing and selecting what auditory information will be further processed.  The eyes can close if necessary and pick up stimulation only from the field of view whereas ears have to process information from all around the body.

Each participant completed two versions of the Test of Various Attention (TOVA) – one measures auditory information processing and the other measured visual information processing.

The results indicated the following:

  • deficiency of visual attention is more serious than that of auditory attention in children with ADHD.
  • only the deficit of attentional inconsistency is sufficient to explain most cases of ADHD
  • most of the children with ADHD suffered from deficits of sustained attention, response inhibition, and attentional inconsistency on the visual modality.
  • the deficit of attentional inconsistency is the most important indicator in diagnosing and intervening in ADHD when both auditory and visual modalities are considered.
  • for children without ADHD attentional performance was lower in the auditory modality (higher percentage of error, higher reaction time, and higher variability) than in the visual modality.

The researchers concluded that the deficits of auditory attention are different from those of visual attention in children with ADHD.

Reference:  Lin, H. Y., Hsieh, H. C., Lee, P., Hong, F. Y., Chang, W. D., & Liu, K. C. (2014). Auditory and visual attention performance in children with ADHD: The attentional deficiency of ADHD is modality specific. Journal of attention disorders, 1087054714542004.

Read about 10 Sensory Quick Fixes to Improve Attention Span.

Check out Ready, Set, Scan for a visual scanning and discrimination activity.