Call of the wild – Hyperfocus in ADHD

Call of the wild – Hyperfocus in ADHD

Call of the wild – Hyperfocus in ADHD

…Lee’s focus on catching a lizard was legendary.  But, in the classroom, she was unable to focus on words or numbers and was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade.  I learned that it is common for a child with ADHD, who has difficulty paying attention, to hyperfocus on her passion…

“Mommy, something happened.”  I turned from my laptop to see Lee, wrapped in her towel, water dripping from her bath in small puddles on the floor.  I held out my arms to her and noticed she was holding a lizard, clutched in her little fists.

I took a deep breath.  “What?” 

“I was training two lizards to ride on my boat in the bathtub and one got away.”  She started to sniffle. 

I groaned.  Lizards have made guest appearances crawling on our couches, hiding in the sliding glass door ruts, and slithering behind the beds.  Our cat padded into my office, licking his lips.  Lee’s eyes grew wide, and she gave a yelp.  The lizard flew out of her fists and in an arcing leap, the cat followed.  “Mommy, help!”    

It was just another day in my household, answering the call of the wild.

It all started in Kindergarten where Lee’s focus on catching a lizard was legendary.  But, in the classroom, she was unable to focus on words or numbers and was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade.  I learned that it is common for a child with ADHD, who has difficulty paying attention, to hyperfocus on her passion.  Unfortunately for this mom, who was squeamish about reptiles, Lee’s passion was lizards.

At first, the boys teased her, then they allowed her to chase with them.  By second grade, their egos were hurt.  They ridiculed her and gave her the sarcastic moniker, Lizard Queen.  But by third grade, the whole class was calling her any time a teacher needed a reptile out of the classroom.  No one could grab a lizard faster than Lee. 

She even trained our dog to spot lizards, and they went out hunting together every day after school.  I went along to keep an eye on them and found myself crawling on my stomach through rosemary bushes, like an army recruit.  Soon, the lizards were taking yoga class on her shirt…five at a time doing finger-flip downward dog and sun salutations.  I knew I had to find a place for her to pursue her passion, one that would keep her and the lizards safe. 

I enrolled her in nature camp up in the nearby mountains.  The first day I picked her up, the leader pulled me aside.  Oh no, I thought, she probably didn’t listen.  Probably wandered off the trail, lost in her endless quest for reptiles. 

The leader said, “Did you know that Lee has an extraordinary gift to notice things in nature?  She helped the other campers find lizards and frogs and identify snake tracks.  She’s a walking reptile encyclopedia!” 

I relaxed and smiled.  All that obsession with lizards had finally paid off. 

It is common for a child with ADHD, who has difficulty paying attention, to hyperfocus on her passion.  Trying to break it can be the worst part of your day.  If hyperfocus comes naturally to your child, like Lee, look for the positive in it and encourage it.  Your child’s hyperfocus can motivate her to pursue her dreams.

If you’re new to hyperfocus with your ADHD child, here are some good links to explore:

https://www.additudemag.com/understanding-adhd-hyperfocus/

https://childmind.org/article/hyperfocus-the-flip-side-of-adhd/

 

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ADHD Teams Up with SPD

ADHD Teams Up with SPD

ADHD Teams Up with SPD

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, we took her to a neurologist.  She told us that Lee had symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which often occurs with ADHD.  She explained that SPD occurs due to an imbalance in the central nervous system which causes the senses not to coordinate in unison…

Photo Credit: The Rockin Autism Mom

From the first time I pushed Lee in a stroller, I knew she loved to touch.  My friends’ babies stayed buckled up tight, holding their sippy cups and hugging stuffed animals.  Their little bodies were content for a long ride.  My baby squiggled out of her restraints the minute the wheels started rolling.  Reaching over, her hand skimmed the sidewalk, grabbing for flowers and lizards.  Anything I gave her was good practice to throw.

As her body developed, so did her urge to touch.  One day, when I came to get her in preschool, she’d painted her hair blue, the next, she used the school scissors to cut it off.  Then came the birthday party when she took two boys down to the ground to wrestle.  The three ended up in a tangle of legs, flailing arms, and bruised faces.  When the birthday mom asked us to leave, I dragged my little fighter to the car, wondering why she felt compelled to do such a thing. 

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, we took her to a neurologist.  She told us that Lee had symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which often occurs with ADHD.  She explained that SPD occurs due to an imbalance in the central nervous system which causes the senses not to coordinate in unison.  I drove Lee over to a Child Development Center in a nearby town for an evaluation.  She passed the SPD test with flying colors, and I was told she needed occupational therapy.

The occupational therapy classroom looked like a glorified playground, complete with a ball pit, gigantic swings with harnesses, sandpits, and trampolines.  As Lee raced into the ball pit and threw herself around, the occupational therapist explained that Lee craved sensations her body was lacking: a sense of gravity, of feeling her body in space, and an under responsivity to touch.  This made her more restless, impulsive, and hyperactive as she sought to find those sensations. 

Occupational therapy came to the rescue, helping Lee learn how to control her body’s urges and sensory exercises to calm down.  She gained strategies and coping mechanisms for her body’s demands.  From a sensory diet which got her ready to focus in school, to sensory aids which helped her sit still, I had an arsenal of help on my hands.    

If you think your child is struggling with sensory problems, your child’s pediatrician should be able to direct you towards an occupational therapist for a diagnosis. 

Here are some helpful resources:

https://childmind.org/article/how-sensory-processing-issues-affect-kids-in-school/

https://www.additudemag.com/sensory-processing-disorder-or-adhd/

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Side by Side…

Side by Side…

Side by Side…

It took some convincing.  “Who the hell wants to hear about my life,” he grumbled.  Who the hell wouldn’t? I thought.  With credits that spanned fourteen feature films and 39 television movies and miniseries…

In 1998, my father and I started on a decade long journey, chronicling his life.  It took some convincing.  “Who the hell wants to hear about my life,” he grumbled.  Who the hell wouldn’t? I thought.  With credits that spanned fourteen feature films and 39 television movies and miniseries, there were more than enough stories to fill out a book. 

Dad’s best friend, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Frank Gilroy, weighed in.  “Come on, John, you’ve worked with stars like Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, and Gregory Peck.  I love your stories!”  

And so we began.  Every Saturday, I traveled to his house, recording his memories from daily journals onto eighty-eight cassette tapes.  Then, I transcribed them into 400 pages.  Once again, he grumbled.  “I don’t do prose.” 

“Just write, Dad.  We’ll figure it out.”

 

All we had were Saturdays, so our weekly ritual continued.  He wrote, I rewrote, and we edited together. My husband and I welcomed a child into our lives and I left teaching, taking on an internship at a magazine.  Eventually, I saw my essays appear in magazines and anthologies.  Enough to believe I could write a book with the man I’d put on a pedestal.  And Dad learned he could write prose with his snappy style, sparing the words, and punching up the dialogue. 

Many Saturdays later, our manuscript was complete.  Dad was 80 years old now, driving to my house to accommodate my heavier working load.  I typed “The End” not because I needed to, just because it was.  We high-fived and let out a whoop of joy.  Then, we looked at each other.  It was that exquisitely triumphant and painful moment in time when our lives, so intertwined for a decade, would have to separate again.  Through my tears, I watched as he strode down my front steps to his car, hand clutching his briefcase, glittering JTG initials winking back.  I wanted to stop him, to bring him back into my office and start our book all over again.  I blew him a kiss goodbye.  

Dad passed away at 92.  I still see him in his office, sitting at his desk, his lively, blue eyes regarding my own.  “Ready, Jennifer?”

“Ready, Dad,” I say, every morning now as I delve into my own memoir.  That memory of us, side by side, inspires me every day.

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Call of the wild – Hyperfocus in ADHD

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...Lee’s focus on catching a lizard was legendary.  But, in the classroom, she was unable to focus on words or numbers and was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade.  I learned that it is common for a child with ADHD, who has difficulty paying attention, to hyperfocus on...

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