Does Your Child Have a Problem with Hyperfocusing?

Posted October 27, 2010 by

I truly believe  that all children are gifted. Qualities like shooting a basketball into a hoop, being easygoing as well as a myriad of others can be termed “gifted.” But the particular “gift” that my daughter possesses is that her brain processes information very quickly.  She catches on to concepts, facts — you name it — in a heartbeat.  She also reads very rapidly.  One night she finished a book so quickly that I doubted that it was possible.  I proceeded to quiz her on her comprehension and found she was telling the truth.  She just reads fast, way faster than I can even read.  Teachers at school have questioned her when she gets done with a test or quiz quickly.  They tell her to check it over.  She says she has already checked it over 7 times, but they insist that she check it again.  As you can imagine, this is exasperating to her!

I honestly think that her ability to hyperfocus on the text of a book and completely block out the world around her is the way she is able to read and do her work so quickly.  When she is reading,  watching a show or movie, or working on a project, it is very difficult to get her out of this “zone.” At school she has told me that students are allowed to read after they are finished with their work.  As mentioned earlier, she quickly completes her assignment, gets a book and becomes completely engrossed in it.  Then, of course, it is time to move on and the teachers have a hard time getting her attention again.  At the end of last year, she told me that she wasn’t going to start reading after she was done with her work anymore because she was tired of getting in trouble.  She said  that she gets into the book so much that she doesn’t even notice that the rest of the class has moved on to something else!

I also notice at home how agitated she gets when you have to pull her out of this zone.  She usually has an odd look on her face as she comes back to reality and then she gets upset.  I’m really trying to get more in tune with what is going on inside her head and to be more patient about it.  As fellow parents, I’m sure you have had times when you are getting ready to go somewhere and it is tough to pull your kids away from whatever they are engaged in doing.  Well, with my daughter this task is definitely extremely difficult and it usually causes her to have an outburst, which in turn makes me want to outburst!  (I’m thinking about ME…I’m getting everything ready and all the kids have to do is to get in the car!!…you get the picture.)  Well, I am trying so hard to see her point of view now.  It is like being rudely awakened from a great dream that you are having!  No wonder she gets agitated!!

The other big issue that I have had with her ability to hyperfocus pertains to viewing movies.  She is so extremely focused on a movie that she gets completely engrossed with the characters, how they are feeling, etc.   It is like she becomes part of the movie.   So, when it comes to ANYTHING remotely scary my daughter cannot handle it.  For example, we tried to have movie night not long ago and my daughter picked “FernGully: The Last Rainforest”.   So we are watching it and it got to the part where a machine was cutting down a tree and she screamed at the top of her lungs to “TURN IT OFF!!!”   It was completely unbelievable!  We were dumbfounded! I tried to explain to her what was happening, but at that point there was no rationalizing with her.  We had to shut down the movie.  My first reaction was “Good grief, we can’t even have movie night like a normal family even when it is rated G!!”  I was so extremely frustrated.  I was trying to have a nice family evening and it had turned out to be disastrous.  Again, you notice I’m saying “I” a lot in those last sentences.  It can’t be just about me.  So I calmed down and I realized that we really don’t have to watch all of the Disney cartoon movies like the rest of the world.  Many of them have some really terribly violent scenes which don’t seem to faze most children, but they are clearly not for us right now.  I don’t know if she will ever grow out of this, but there is no reason to torture us all with movies that she can’t handle, even if they are rated G.

I notice that when I stay calm and try to understand how she is feeling we can get through these tough times so much easier.  So just stay calm, and take the time to listen to your child.  I have found that most of the time that is all they want in order to calm down.

One of James Lehman quotes is really eye-opening  to me: “Don’t parent the child you wish you had. Parent the child you have.”   It is so true.

Does your child have a problem with hyperfocusing? How do you handle it?


Parent Blogger Amanda Lane is the mother of an 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. Amanda has been married for 16 years and works as a Clinical Systems Analyst in the hospital in her rural community. She hopes to give hope and confidence to others as she writes about her journey through parenthood.

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