Do You Find It Difficult To Keep Your Focus On Something Without Getting Distracted?
I also have a problem with concentration and focus which are probably more commonly associated with #ADHD, but that is the topic I would like to cover here as it has also affected me throughout my life.
People have always told me that 'I' have a problem with concentration, but I've given this a lot of thought and I'm coming to the conclusion that they have got it wrong.
I don't have a problem with concentration, I can concentrate on a topic that interests me for hours and hours. In fact I quite often have problems switching my attention to anything less interesting. I have come to realise that a lot of my difficulties are down to speed of delivery as opposed to subject matter. Even the most interesting topics can be tuned out if they are delivered at the wrong speed.
How Quickly Do You Grasp Concepts?
Speed It Up Or Slow It Down!
I have two different speeds that I process information at!
1. When showing me a process that I will need to learn and repeat, it helps if it has been broken down into small steps. Then sequence them with me and allow me extra time to physically practice them. This broken down approach will usually allow me to acquire the new skill but I may still need to repeat them regularly to force it into my procedural memory as that is usually quite challenging for me.
2. When discussing a 'concept' with me it helps if you gloss over the detail so that I don't get bored because then my attention will slack and whatever kinaesthetic input I'm receiving at the time will be all I remember afterwards. I have an amazing visual and kinaesthetic sense and can quickly see the whole picture and get a real feel for what you're getting at. So... SKIP TO THE END so that I don't get bored while you slowly explain stuff I'm already on-board with.
Please Don't Talk Down To Me!
People who saw me struggle with things they felt should be easy then talked slower and went over everything in more detail as though speaking to someone with a limited intellectual ability and that has always irked me.
I felt people talked down to me, they explained things to me as if they were explaining it to a small child. It vexed me because the way they talked to me actually made me want to switch off completely!
It also made me want to hide my difficulties rather than seek help with them. I didn't want people judging me or assuming I was slow or stupid. I wanted to be talked to as an equal!
I wanted to be talked to at my own 'intellectual' level not have people alter their speech to accommodate to my 'slow' learning style.
A Difference Of Perception
A Way To Disengage
In fact, slowing everything down just led to me losing interest, disengaging and doing things to stimulate myself like shake my knee, tap my pencil, rock on my chair and other things that seemed to disrupt the class or office staff where I worked.
Different Approaches Lead To Different Results
My Pet Peeve
The most annoying thing about having neurodiverse differences like dyspraxia and dyslexia is that people see the things we struggle with and assume that means we can't do other things either. People who come out with statements like 'she can't 'even' tie her own shoelaces' really need to ask themselves what the 'even' is doing there. Are they judging someone as unable to do or think a certain way just because they have a difficulty with their fine motor coordination and sequencing.
I can't tie my shoelaces but that does not affect my intelligence or ability to think AT ALL!
My Text To Speech Software
The software is great although it does take some getting used to. I have found it invaluable for things like proof reading as I always struggled to spot my own mistakes. I used to read what I thought I had written, not what I'd actually put down on the paper and mistakes would always go through. I'm sure I still make mistakes now but thanks to the software I can proof read documents in minutes rather than days!
What I realised very quickly was that I was loosing interest in 'reading' what was written because of the speed I was reading it at. By the time I ended a sentence I usually couldn't remember how it had started. Now when I first got the software I had it set at its preset levels. I set it to read full sentences but it wasn't really working for me because it was reading close to my own reading speed. It was slow and deliberate, something that some people with these differences might appreciate but I found it no better than trying to re-read my own work and initially found it hard to use because I still had the same problem of losing my attention while I was listening.
Then as I was looking through all the settings I realised that I could speed up and/or slow down the voice. So at first I thought maybe I needed to slow it down a little but that only lasted seconds. I could not bare receiving information at that speed. So bit by bit I turned the speed up. My setting is now at + 90% of the original speed. I can get through huge documents in a fraction of the time and I can still spot spelling mistakes faster and with more ease than I ever could by normal proof reading.
By raising the speed of the speech it means I have to use multiple senses. I use my visual sense to track the position of the words and although I cannot read many words by sight it allows me to feel as though I can as I can recognise where I am in the text and keep up with the speaker. My audio sense wasn't just on, it actually required actual attention. I found that all of a sudden when things were speeded up I could function better than I could at slower speeds. I was not getting distracted because I had to focus on listening. Using my two senses combined helped me to stay focused, the fact that I have to keep pausing it for errors or bits I want to add or correct means I also got to use my kinaesthetic sense to click on the mouse and move back to the bit that didn't sound right.
This speeded up approach is certainly working for me!
Think About How You Work Best
I'm sure many people my age will have done this, maybe not while playing Adam And The Ants though. They might have just forgot to readjust the setting and just forgot to change it till they heard how fast the song was playing. Maybe they tried it out to listen to their favourite songs sung by Smurfs or maybe, like me, they actually found it easier and even more enjoyable to listen to things at a faster pace.
I then remembered that when I was teaching myself to do PowerPoint presentations I did it by watching speeded up YouTube Tutorials and just slowed it down when I needed to establish what process was used.
Turns out I take in more and achieve better results at a faster pace because I don't lose interest, I don't get bored and my attention doesn't wonder at the very first distraction that occurs. This might not have the same results for everyone who has a similar problem to me with keeping focus but it won't hurt to give it a go and find out what speed you work best at.
Identify Your Difficulties
I will be trying some of those books I've always wanted to read, speeded up on my new text to speech software for sure. I am an avid reader, but I cannot read stories, the style of writing usually throws me completely, unlike reading research documents, in stories I'm meant to remember what has happened, who did what, how people look, what they act like and other things that I struggle to retain from the story. I can read full pages, turn the page and then realise that I haven't got a clue about anything that happened on that page. This no longer happens when the speech is speeded up! It forces me, or allows me, to focus easier.
A Plea To The Neurotypical Community
As a result it can take us longer to learn 'processes' but we do get there in the end! If we can use the broken down and sequenced slower pace for learning new processes our self-esteem is more likely to come out the other side undamaged too.
Never assume that means you have to slow anything else down for us though!
Please Do Not Confuse Our Difficulties With A Lack Of Intellectual Ability
When you are talking big picture, concepts, ideas and passions NEVER slow it down for someone who has these difficulties? This is because not being able to use your working memory effectively, and being slow at transferring acts, to procedural memory are totally different skills to those required for creative thought, insight and innovation. Please don't think we are any less capable than you of seeing the big picture!
Those of us who struggle with manual dexterity and gross motor coordination, or with being able to write by hand or read out loud, or behave in a socially acceptable way may have difficulties which I'm sure neurotypical people pick up on but they rarely notice the things that our brain types allow us to excel at.
Try It And See If It Works For You
See if you can find some online tutorials for something you are interested in learning about and speed them up if you can... see if you get the picture. Can you learn something new just by forwarding and stopping at strategic points?
Let Me Know How It Goes
For me, speeding things up us has in some circumstances allowed me to perform reading tasks better and quicker than most neurotypical people manage them. Managing my difficulties is a full time job for me, has been for years. However, the more of these little techniques I come across, the more tools I acquire, the more able I am to have a life and contribute to society as well as manage my day-to-day life.
Final Thoughts For The Day
When you have a hidden impairment it always feels (to me anyway) as though people always notice the things I struggle with and they try to find ways to 'fix' those. I can understand why parents want to make life easier for their neurodiverse children because it is hard for them to manage in a world that does not cater for their needs. I personally believe that the moment we stop trying to 'fix' these differences will be the moment we will gain acceptance for our differences.
and how much we can achieve as opposed to our weaknesses.
A Day where they help us realise our potential
by adapting their teaching methods to our frequency.
Click HERE to see my previous blog 'blogs by the neurodiverse - for the neurodiverse