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Hyper-Focus

By Archer

One of the most prominent characteristics of my Asperger’s has been the “hyper-focus” that occurs in many people on the spectrum. The best description that I have for hyper-focus is an almost obsessive/compulsive desire to do an activity. My hyper-focus has been both a boon and a curse when considering the various things that I’ve focused on. It has been helpful when the focus is directed towards a school subject or assignment but not so helpful, in the opinion of my parents, when directed towards things like video games.

In my experience the hyper-focus is unpredictable. I don’t know what will interest me or when. When I was younger it was usually a new game or toy. When I was a little kid I got a two hundred dollar Lego set for Christmas. The directions said that it would take a person twice my age a week to build but I managed to build it in three days by staying up late and ignoring everything but the need to use the restroom. When I focus on a new video game the usual result is that I spend every spare minute playing the game and resist most, if not all, attempts by my parents (or pets) to do anything else.

The downside of my hyper-focus is that I disregard almost everything other than my desire to do what I’m focused on. On numerous occasions I have even disregarded the need to eat, skipping breakfast, lunch, or both. Most attempts by my parents to get me to do something else, be it chores or opportunities for exercise, are brushed aside.

In many situations the hyper-focus can be seen as a distraction but it can also be useful. When I was focused on learning Chinese for school I was able to pick up several phrases that I can still remember. However, when I lost interest in learning Chinese my grade took a nosedive. In order to temper the hyper-focus I try and moderate the amount of time that I’m focused on something unhelpful, like gaming, while knowing when to continue focusing on something that is helpful like learning another language.

My parents believe that my hyper-focus is OK as long as I am prioritizing the important things like work, hygiene, and relationships, and not allowing unhealthy activities to get in the way. The key to preventing constant arguments about this? Communication.