ADHD Success Tip: Don't Mistake Passion For ADHD
Have Passion, Will Focus: Encourage Your ADHD Kid's Obsessions
By Lisa Aro
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I was a little floored the other night when my 12 year old started to explain to me the difference between a freeze warning and a hard freeze warning. I asked how he came to have such an in-depth knowledge of weather patterns and warnings. “You know,” he stated matter-of-factly, “before I wanted to be a chef I wanted to be a meteorologist.”
MYTH: People With ADHD Can't Focus on Anything
One of my favorite things about my ADHDers is their thirsts for knowledge. When something tickles their intellect it's like a persistent itch — they just can't leave it alone, they have to scratch it. The whole world fades away, leaving only the subject of their fixation or obsession, and they slide easily into a state of hyper-focus. We encourage it in our children, and it has taken us down some pretty interesting roads.
One that pretty much consumed the entire family was Morse code. We read a series of books together as a family called The Mysterious Benedict Society. (I highly recommend them) The children in the book, all uniquely gifted and interested in saving the world, use Morse code to communicate with each other when in perilous situations. It spread like wildfire through our house. Our youngest was 7 at the time and would email back and forth with his older sisters exclusively in dots and dashes. When a confused teacher caught one of these emails up on our daughter's computer at school he was more than shocked. He couldn't help asking if her little brother actually knew Morse Code. Her answer summed it up: “You'd be surprised what my seven year old brother knows.”
Learning That Learning Can Be Fun
Sitting in a classroom, trying to focus, struggling with homework or classwork — ADHD kids have many frustrating, often negative experiences with the learning process. When I encourage and support chasing those whims and fancies I'm encouraging a positive relationship with learning. No matter what the topic is, by researching it, reading about it, or using it they're not only adding to their own base of knowledge and experience, they are learning how to learn. They're discovering that learning can be exciting and fun.
One of our sons was so taken by The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy that he carried a Tolkien encyclopedia we'd bought him around for years, reading and committing to memory everything he could about the world Tolkien had created. He even spent a little time learning the Dark Tongue of Mordor. On and off he'd follow us around, quizzing and correcting our knowledge. He had taken apart the world, examined it piece by piece, and put it back together. That intimate knowledge has influenced every aspect of his life: from imaginative play with his brothers and sisters to his own creative worlds, characters, poetry, and writing.
Busy, Not Bored
There are few things more dangerous than a bored ADHD child. Not only are they unhappy when they're bored but their minds turn easily and impulsively to things that they really shouldn't be doing, meaning they often end up in trouble.
When that mind is busy with ideas an ADHDer finds stimulating, all is well. They can spend hours translating that new knowledge into whatever activity accompanies it. We see it in our house everyday. Sometimes it's the son who wants to be a chef someday trying out new recipes. Other times it's a daughter creating prosthetic wounds and latex pieces to transform a person using special effects makeup. It is often a child-turned-actor/actress trying out new characters complete with mannerisms, voices, and often costumes. One obsession started with making origami and ended with making origami as small as he possibly could make it.
Hyperfocus: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Allowing ADHD kids time to pursue these desired obsessions not only keeps them out of other kinds of trouble, but it also teaches them valuable life lessons. They learn how to set goals, how to organize projects, how to break a big project into smaller projects, and more. They learn how to overcome frustration. It boosts their self esteem, which often takes a beating because they don't fit the typical mold. It's a stress reliever, helping them to find balance. It's an outlet for all that creative energy. It's a sieve to sort out their passions and eventually help them find what they want to be and do in this world. But probably most important to, me as a mom, is to watch as they learn they can be successful.
Seeing my children realize that they really can accomplish anything they want to is priceless. I would never say it's easy to keep pace with my ADHDers, it can be exhausting and overwhelming. But at the end of the day I can honestly say it makes all the materials, time, and energy spent worth it.
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