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ADHD Assessment & Treatment Centres

Time processing in ADHD

Why do people with ADHD run late and not seem to understand time?

A study published in June 2019 in Italy examined why children with ADHD seem to struggle with understanding time and making time estimations. It has been long hypothesised and found clinically that children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) present difficulties in processing time durations. However, so far evidence on this difficulty and its related mechanisms has been unclear and collected mainly with rating scales or laboratory experimental tasks. The study examined whether this difficulty could be seen in children carrying out everyday actions (e.g., telephone calls, cooking activities) and to what extent it was influenced by working memory (WM) abilities. Working memory is the ability to take in information mentally and hold it within a short-term store in order to be able to manipulate this information mentally. In total, 182 children aged 7 to 10 years were included in the study: 91 children with ADHD symptoms and 91 typically developing (TD) children matched for gender and other characteristics. They administered sequence reordering, time reproduction, and duration comparison tasks, as well as collected measures of verbal and visuospatial WM tests. Children with ADHD symptoms tended to underestimate the long durations and were less accurate than the other children in remembering the exact order of events and in comparing the duration of two different events. These difficulties appeared to be related to their working memory abilities.


This has significant implications for the utility of working memory training in helping children and adults with these issues. It is clear that if things decay quickly from memory, issues with time management will arise. Through strengthening working memory through neurofeedback or direct cognitive training of working memory skills, it would be hopeful that these skills could be taught directly in relation to time management and making better time estimations. It seems unlikely that basic computerised working memory training will be able to achieve this at the current stage of more abstracted working memory programs, so we recommend that at this stage all working memory training is individualised. Future computerised cognitive training programs should aim at incorporating this real-world life skills and training it directly, so that cognitive training programs targeting these skills can be more accessible to the great population who can’t get into centres like ours. To find out more about our cognitive training program click here.



Mioni, G., Capodieci, A., Biffi, V., Porcelli, F., & Cornoldi, C. (2019). Difficulties of children with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in processing temporal information concerning everyday life events. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 182, 86-101. doi: