Facing a tidal wave of impossibility, my daughter, unaware she was doing it, pulled out the ADHD secret weapon – hyperfocus.
by Frank South
In my last blog post my daughter, Coco, found herself in the middle of an ADHD Perfect Storm of missed assignments, overdue work, broken promises, and looming deadlines on the night before the last day of her 7th Grade school year.
She had spaced a Social Studies report and PowerPoint presentation on the history of Norfolk Island. And she had told her teacher (who’s opinion of her really mattered to her) she knew how to make a PowerPoint presentation, when in fact she didn’t have the first clue. And it was 6pm at night, and the whole mess was due first thing the next morning.
Coco is understandably in despair, lashing out in panic when her mom tries to help, and trapped back in the barriers of constant expectations of failure that many ADHD and other LD’s know too well. And, doubly frustrating to me, I’m hearing this in dramatic installments from both her and my wife, Margaret, over the phone from three thousand miles away in Los Angeles. I try to do what I can to help keep this from being a defeat that defines the end of this school year for her, but being a Dad over the phone is not the same thing as being a Dad that’s there by a long shot. I have to hang up and wait to hear how it will turn out.
Three hours later I get a call from my wife and daughter. Facing a tidal wave of impossibility, Coco, unaware she was doing it, pulled out the ADHD secret weapon – hyperfocus.
After finally allowing her mom to show her how to make a basic PowerPoint page Coco demanded to be left alone to figure out the rest, do her research, write her report, and make her presentation. Over the next couple of hours she typed and moused away, never leaving the computer in the living room, never taking her eyes off the screen, mumbling and musing to herself over interesting things she’d found or new ideas she’d come up with as she worked. Never once did she get distracted or bored or even notice anything in the world except her Social Studies project.
And with self-doubt and second-guessing banished due to some kind of emergency decree in her head, she blazed through it.
Margaret said it was an amazing thing to witness. Coco didn’t see what was so amazing, but she was proud and happy that her report was done and the PowerPoint was safely tucked onto a flash drive for school in the morning. The self-hatred and panic banished, she and her mom were now going to have some ice cream and then get some sleep. We’ll keep working on the organizational and other skills to deal with the procrastination problems, but this time Coco’s ADHD hyper-focus saved the day, and by the way, she got an “A.”
With all the sometimes overwhelming challenges that ADHD presents to children and adults, it seems only fair that it also can give you an awesome positive ability to pull out when we need to bust through the barriers and realize we’re not stupid, lazy, or crazy after all. We might even have super-powers.