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:
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