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Old 07-17-17, 10:11 AM
ChRoTa3 ChRoTa3 is offline
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Re: Let's talk about Hyperfocus

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression and other Disorders. James T. Webb, PhD., ABPP-CI, Edward R. Amend, Psy.D., Jadia, E. Webb, Psy.D., Jean Goerss, M.D., M.P.H., Paul Beljan, Psy.D., ABPdN, and F. Richard Olenchack, Ph.D.. 2004.

"Some professionals believe that if a person with ADD/ADHD has the ability to focus and pay attention in certain situations, then he is showing a condition that has been called "hyperfocus" (Hallowell & Ratey, 1994). Hyperfocus is an anomaly in some people with ADD/ADHD in which they are able to concentrate unusually well in a specific area. It is important to note that there are no empirical data that support hyperfocus as an aspect of ADD/ADHD. In gifted children without ADD/ADHD, this rapt and productive attention state is described by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) as "flow."

In children who do suffer from ADD/ADHD, the experience of hyperfocus is more likely to occur in the presence of events that are fast changing and engaging, such as action movies, sporting events, or computer games. There is empirical evidence for something called "perseveration" in children with ADD/ADHD, which means difficulty changing from one task to another (Barkely, 1997). These children will have difficulty switching from one frame of mind to another or from one task to another. School settings typically require such frequent attention shifts, and tasks required of the child are often not intrinsically rewarding and involve some effort. ADD/ADHD is not necessarily characterized by an inability to sustain attention, but rather by difficulties in appropriately regulating the application of attention to various tasks, particularly to tasks that are not personally rewarding or require that effort.

Most importantly, these children have difficulty abandoning strategies, even when they are not succeeding. They will doggedly persist in doing something that doesn't work, hasn't worked in the past, and is unlikely to work in the future. What has been coined "hyperfocus" in persons with ADD/ADHD seems to be a less medical-sounding description of perseveration. Thus, the apparent ability to concentrate in certain limited situations does not exclude the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD."



The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know. Maureen Neihart, Sally M. Reis, Nancy Robinson and Sidney Moon. 2002.

"A third reason for misidentification of this population is their unusual attentional profile (Kaufmann & Castellanos. 2000). The reinforcement gradient for children with AD/HD differs from that of normal children (Kaufmann, Kalbfleish, & Castellanos, 2000). The reinforcement gradient is the rate at which reinforcement strength decreases as the time interval between a behavior and its consequence increases. For children with AD/HD, the gradient is lower than normal when reinforcement is delayed and higher than normal when it is immediate. In practical terms, the first pattern means that a primary characteristic of the disorder is that children with AD/HD have more difficulty than normal children sustaining attention in low-interest, low-stimulation activities with distal reinforcers. Unfortunately, such tasks characterize much of the work assigned in schools (repetitive homework, studying for unit tests, researching topics that are not interesting to the student, etc.). At the same time, however, the second pattern means that children with AD/HD can sustain attention better than normal children when interest is high, tasks are challenging, and reinforcement is rapid. Examples include working under deadline pressure, video games, and self-selected creative expression. Under these conditions, children with AD/HD enter a state called "hyperfocus" that bears a strong resemblance to the state of "flow" described by (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; 1997). In this state, their attentional problems disappear, leading observing adults to believe that their problems sustaining attention on more routine tasks are due to a failure of will, rather than a cognitive handicap. The discrepancy between these two attentional profiles in a gifted child with AD/HD is frustrating for teachers and may lead them to not nominate such students for gifted programs."
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