New, Different, Shiny: A Sure-Fire Way to Break the Grip of Hyperfocus
Get through to your child with ADHD when she tunes you out.
You know that moment where you call your child and quickly rifle through all your other children’s names before finally settling on the right one? For years I thought my name was “Matphildouglas!” (with an exclamation point). Maybe you have only one child and confuse her name with your pet or significant other a lot. It’s a common thing to do with or without ADHD. I can’t help you with that. I mean, really, Mum. I’m your first child. You’d think you could remember what you named me.
I have noticed, however, that my ADHD trend toward boredom has caused me to make up names for my kids to keep things interesting. This was a random thing for my first two children. Over time, one nickname would begin to stand out, and that’s the one we settled on.
Then my third child arrived along with her ADHD. Obviously, it was hard to get her attention. That’s when I came upon a trick that worked great with her. It worked so well that I used it on all my girls: I changed her nickname every few days. Sure, there were times when I’d mangle her name along with the best of parents, but by using a new nickname every few days (and, on some days, every few minutes), I cut through the ADHD hyperfocus she was in.
I have often said that ADHD is a misnomer. Attention Dysfunction Disorder better describes the problem. We subconsciously ignore what bores us and hyperfocus on what engages us, often to the detriment of everything around us. This often puts us out of sync at school, work, or in social situations. I don’t need to tell you ADHD folk how painful it can feel to wrestle with a wriggling attention span when boredom is at play. I still haven’t filed my taxes for 1988. Was I supposed to file them after that, too? Oh, I might meet Jenna Coleman tomorrow! What was I saying again? Right. Taxes. Can we change the subject?
I also don’t need to tell those who don’t have ADHD how painful it is to get us to break our attention away from things that we’re hyperfocused on. It’s all too easy to become frustrated, then angry, at our little old ADHD selves. Maybe you’ve been there. You spend 10 minutes trying to get somebody’s attention, increasing your volume and impatience incrementally. Then you’re yelling, and they look at you incredulously like “What the heck are you yelling for?”
I disliked those moments, and I didn’t want to have them anymore. I thought about those times when people were able to successfully get my attention, and I realized that they introduced something new for my mind to suddenly latch onto. A stubborn mind will resist this trick, but if you change the name you call your kid by, you’ll increase your chance of getting her attention. This worked beautifully with my non-ADHD girls, but I found it to be the key to reaching my ADHD darling.
ADHD can be a detriment, but there are many upsides to the disorder. You’ve probably noted your child’s intelligence and creativity. There’s also greater trust and warmth, too. It comes with that extra intensity. Why not use your child’s sensitivity to boredom to your advantage? If your kid is closing you out, try switching up the nickname you call her by. You may find that she responds to you more, and you mangle her name less. Names.