Hi, I’m Jeff Owens, an Autistic person who is trying to make sense of the world and my place in it. I like to help other people …
Autism and Hyperfocus
One Autistic trait that I have is the ability to hyperfocus on something that I am really interested in. While many Autistic and ADHD people share this ability not all of us do. I’m reminded of a saying we like to use, “If you’ve met one Autistic person, you’ve met one Autistic person”. This means that we are all different, and though we might have some shared characteristics, many could be different.
Learning New Skills
I’ve used the ability to hyperfocus to learn new skills in a really short amount of time. I will typically bombard my brain 24-7 with the new information I am trying to learn. I am able to deeply concentrate to the point where everything outside of what I’m doing simply fades away. This has enabled me to accomplish many important goals in my life. One example is that I was able to completely change my career in less than six months.
However, it is not without its drawbacks. Being in a state of hyperfocus means I often can’t respond when someone is trying to get my attention. This means I may appear to be rude or aloof. When I was in college and was walking across the campus, I would often be lost in thought. People would tell me that they saw me walking and had hollered out my name and tried to get my attention but I didn’t respond. This is an example where my hyperfocusing affected someone’s opinion of me or worse, caused hurt feelings.
Autism in the Media
The media likes to share stories about Autistic people with extraordinary abilities in math, science, or the arts. This sort of focus tends to minimize the real struggles Autistic people have by implying we all have some great gift we can rely on. Some Autistic people may have unique gifts but many of us do not. I happen to be one of the lucky ones in that regard, but many are not. Yes, some Autistic people may talk about an ability they have as their “super-power” but please don’t get the wrong idea. If the stereotype of the Autistic savant with an extraordinary ability continues to be the main narrative pushed by the media, it can be used to minimize the real struggles Autistic people go through every day.