Absentminded DD hard to reach - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 09:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am posting because I am worried about my DD. She is 4 - turning 5 this summer - and very caught up in her own mind. She has a vivid imagination and very good at expressing complex thoughts in picturesque language.

But she is very hard to communicate with in general. She is extremely absentminded. A lot of the time she simply doesnt hear when you talk to her. A lot of the time she is clearly "somewhere else" but I also suspect that she is sometimes using her absentmindedness to sheild her from unwanted communication - such as me telling her to put on her shoes or - well any directions really. I know she is very sensitive to criticism or hard talk, but my patience is tested SO MUCH with her that I often get irritated or act impatient and it clearly makes it worse. Generally it is hard to have a two-way conversation with her, as she just doesn't seem particularly interested in listening - only in expressing her own - often abstract or out-of-context thoughts. An exception to this is stories or adventures - that will keep her interest. But not everyday communication about practical matters or just chit-chat. A real two-way conversation with her is rare - you know a conversation where I tell stuff, she listens and answers, tell stuff herself, I listen and answer - basic stuff like that. I hope you get the general picture..

I know this was a problem for me as a kid too - my parents often said that talking to me was like talking to a wall. I have never had my DD tested and don't know if she qualifies as "gifted" but I know the problems she is dealing with are often associated with giftedness which is why I am hoping someone here would have experience on how to help her - and me - deal with this in a gentle respectful way.

I know she is not autistic as she has shown signs of empathy from a very early age, but I still wonder if maybe some of the tools you use to help kids with autism can help her too? If so then could someone guide me to resources about communicating with absentminded children?

TIA

Single mom to ds(8), dd(6) and ds(5)
 

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#2 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 10:54 AM
 
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I have no children (yet, maybe), so I have no experience as a mother. I can, however, tell you about my own experience - which is similar to your daughter's, and possibly your own. I was a daydreamer, extremely sensitive, and not much for small-talk. I always being told "watch where you are going!" and I'd always be the one kid who got caught because everyone else saw the teacher/parent coming and stopped what they were doing.

I am someone who was eventually in "gifted" programs, but at 5/6 years old I was completely off in my own world. I actually have *no* memory of 1st grade - not my teacher, not other students, not what we learned - except that the classroom was decorated with a dinosaur border. I had such a daydreaming problem that, at the teacher's suggestion, my parents took me to a psychiatrist (who, for the record, pronounced me "perfectly normal"). I snapped out of it to some degree when I transferred to a different school in 2nd grade, but placement tests put me into the lowest-level for both reading and math. By fluke, I happened to be listening to the advanced-level math group one day and was surprised that the advanced kids were having so much trouble understanding their lesson - it seemed obvious to me. When I reported this episode to my father he saw to it that I was retested and moved up a level (twice over the next two years). My reading also improved, though less dramatically and with more effort on my part.

Since childhood, I've thought a lot about my "daydreaming problem" and I'm fairly confident that it was caused, or at least exacerbated, by boredom. I'm sure "keep her challenged" is not particularly useful advice, but that's what I think would have helped me.

Also, looking into tools used with autistic/asperger's kids is a really great idea. Whether or not your daughter is "on the spectrum", I think you'll find that parents of (and others who communicate with) aspies deal with a lot of the same issues. The parenting board on WrongPlanet.net would be one place to look.
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#3 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 11:07 AM
 
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Autism is a spectrum, and many people with autism (which includes asperger's and PDD-NOS) regularly demonstrate empathy. It's much more complex than that.

If looking at "disorders" you could check out auditory processing disorder as a possibility. I'm not suggesting that there is a disorder as I don't get that from your post, but thinking about possibles.

Strategies: if you research executive functioning (one of which is attending) you may find some good info. Smart but Scattered (avail on google books with free preview) is a good place to start.

Also, the James T Webb books on giftedness are very good resources.

Mom to a teenager and a middle schooler.

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#4 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 11:41 AM
 
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You use the word absentmindedness. Could you tell us a little bit more about what that looks like? Like she is forgetting something you told her a minute ago or something else?

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Originally Posted by joensally View Post
Autism is a spectrum, and many people with autism (which includes asperger's and PDD-NOS) regularly demonstrate empathy. It's much more complex than that.

If looking at "disorders" you could check out auditory processing disorder as a possibility.
Yes, I agree with both of those observations.

As far as strategies I would suggest:

1. Making sure you have her attention before you start speaking. One strategy that might help is making some physical contact like putting a hand on her shoulder. Asking first - "are you ready for instructions?" Obviously you don't want to do some mean "look me in the eye kid" sort of thing, but gently giving her the opportunity to shift her attention may help. Try to be respectful of her need to be involved in activities and give her some notice of the need to transition to something else.

2. Use of visual aids and predictable routines. This might be having the night time routine on a poster. A picture of a toothbrush, a picture of pajamas, a picture of books. She can help make the routine chart. This will help her be able to visualize the steps and take you out of the role of having to be a nag her with lots of directions. Make a strong routine and let the routine be the boss. Set it up so she can relying on seeing instead of just hearing.

3. Practice turn taking conversation through role play. We found puppets were helpful with this. You may want to also read to Google floortime, a method used with kids with developmental delays. It is basically a kind of play developed by Stanley Greenspan where the child directs the action but you use it as an opportunity to expand language skills and interaction. Parts of it probably wouldn't apply to her situation, but I strongly encourage you to read about it because I think having some sessions of floortime might really improve her communication and desire to interact.

4. Teach her specific phrases she can use to start conversations such as "Would you like to hear about..." "Do you have time to hear about..." "I didn't understand could you please repeat that"
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#5 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 12:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seie View Post
She is extremely absentminded. A lot of the time she simply doesnt hear when you talk to her.
have you had her hearing checked? For people with minor hearing problems, hearing takes real effort. It seems possible to me that something is slightly off -- not enough so that she is hard of hearing, but enough that more effort is required for her than for most people.

This is where I would start.

Quote:
Generally it is hard to have a two-way conversation with her, as she just doesn't seem particularly interested in listening - only in expressing her own - often abstract or out-of-context thoughts.
My DD with PDD-NOS is like this, and she also has shown empathy from a young age. But there are a myriad of things that could be causing this the communication problem, not neccesarily and asd.

Quote:
An exception to this is stories or adventures - that will keep her interest.
I'd build on that. (which, by the way, is exactly what books on autism and asperger's recommend). Start with what the child is interested in and expand it. Would she like dress up clothes or props to go along with it? Would she like to dicate a story to you for you to write down? Could you find a maze book with the an adventure theme?

Quote:
A real two-way conversation with her is rare - you know a conversation where I tell stuff, she listens and answers, tell stuff herself, I listen and answer - basic stuff like that. I hope you get the general picture..
my DD is currently in a social skills class and this is the kind of thing they work on. This is a skill that can be taught and learned, even though it comes naturally to most people. You might start checking around for social skills classes for younger children -- they are considered appropriate for kids with ADHD, aspergers, high functioning autism, etc.

And I also agree with suggestion for visual communication -- a bedtime routine posted on the wall with pictures for each step, a morning routine, a leaving the house check list, etc. There are simples ways to cut down on how much we repeat ourselves to our kids and help them take more responsibility for themselves at the same time. This is also useful for kids on the spectrum, who might also have a visual check list for going to the bathroom and other routine activities.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#6 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 04:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you thank you thank you So much input already. I will definately look into the different methods suggested.

To explain in more detail what her absentmindedness looks like then it is not so much that she forgets stuff, but rather that she literally seems to be "elsewhere". It is rare that I can just call out her name and get her attention. Usually I have to say out her name many times or raise my voice before she - maybe - catches that someone is trying to contact her. And even then if what is being said is not interesting to her at the time she will shift back to what she is doing and you are left there with the words hanging - and it really does feel like talking to a wall or a piece of furniture. I don't think she does this on purpose (well sometimes I am sure she does, but it is not her default if you kwim) I believe most of the time if what is being said is not interesting or useful to her, she prefers to enter back into her original chain of thought that was clearly taking up all of her attention.

I do hear her speaking with other children and that sounds fluent enough most of the time - possibly because other kids are more likely to be in the same imaginary world that she is. But even her big brother (two years older) often gets angry with her because he tries to communicate boundaries to her and she just doesnt (want to? ) listen. She does not have a problem talking or conversing as long as it is only on her terms. Meaning you listen to her ideas, songs, stories etc and comment on them. But she just seems to "block out" anything that is boring, demanding, practical or irrelevant at the time. Or well - simply anything that is said to her while her mind is occupied with something else (most of the time).

A lot of your advice makes a lot of sense to me. For instance the reminder that it is always easier to talk to her if I take the time to touch her, get down on her level and demand her attention BEFORE i start speaking. I have done that occationally but without being very aware exactly what I was doing, and it does seem to help. I will try to be more consistent about doing that before getting irritated.

I don't think she has a hearing problem. It is something i have questioned myself before, but she seems able enough to hear interesting things. My parents called it "selective deafness" -as I was exactly the same. However I wont rule it out. I do think it is worth looking into so thanks for reminding me.

Thanks a lot for suggestions and resources. Input still very welcome

Single mom to ds(8), dd(6) and ds(5)
 

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#7 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 09:45 PM
 
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Does she have friends? Can she engage in give and talk while playing?

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#8 of 15 Old 04-21-2010, 10:19 PM
 
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Hi! Found this thread by way of New Posts.

Touching her shoulder and gently touching her face to prompt her to look at your before you speak might be helpful.

If you are telling her several things at one time, you might want to try reducing the number of things you are telling her to one or two at a time.

A visual chart for bedtime routine or a getting dressed routine can be really helpful.

You may have to walk over to her, touch her, gently say her name to get her attention. That just may be the way you have to do this, instead of only calling out to her.

I don't normally post in here, but ds#1 was gifted, so I do have some experience dealing with these issues.

Good luck!

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Plato
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#9 of 15 Old 04-22-2010, 12:31 AM
 
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My ds1 is exactly like this (as am I some days, and my husband most days). When he was four we went through a battery of tests and assessments in an attempt to figure out what was wrong. The main conclusion we've come to is just that if nothing interesting is going on, he tunes out into his own world.

We give notice of transitions, and I have found that I need to come up to him, touch him and say, "Are you listening?", then wait for his attention before I give him any instruction. At four he could usually keep track of one instruction before he would get distracted, now at 5.5 he can usually do two or three things (especially if they are part of his routine) with just a check in as he completes each one.

The other things we've noticed is that he is not hearing impaired -- his hearing is actually very acute. So, when I am trying to give him instructions he may be listening to the car driving down the street or the bird outside the window or the humm of the fan. Try cutting down on background noises in your house -- radio, tv, music playing -- when you are trying to get something done or get somewhere.

Also check that she is not absorbing information or experiences that might take a lot of thinking about. If we listen to the news, or to public radio where there are a lot of serious topics being discussed, or he is around a lot of intense adult conversations, he will spend a lot of energy trying to figure out what he heard, rather than focusing on the present moment. Same with too much exciting television, movies or video games. It seems to capture his imagination so deeply that it becomes harder to get through to him.

I'm a bit scatter brained myself right now, but I hope something in there helps.

Jill , mom to Andrew (09/04), Aaron(01/07), and Emma (11/09)
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#10 of 15 Old 04-22-2010, 12:54 AM
 
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Auditory processing disorder does not involve a hearing issue as such - it's more about how the brain receives and processes auditory information.

I grabbed this in a quick google:
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/auditory.htm

Quote:
Human communication relies on taking in complicated perceptual information from the outside world through the senses, such as hearing, and interpreting that information in a meaningful way. Human communication also requires certain mental abilities, such as attention and memory.
It isn't typically tested for until ~ 8, but it's worth investigating.

The challenge with gifted kids is that many quirky things can be due to giftedness OR something else, and it's important to tease out when it's a quirk or when it's something more complicated, significant or requires intervention or support.

Mom to a teenager and a middle schooler.

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#11 of 15 Old 04-22-2010, 04:06 AM
 
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[QUOTE=jilly;15325988]
The other things we've noticed is that he is not hearing impaired -- his hearing is actually very acute. So, when I am trying to give him instructions he may be listening to the car driving down the street or the bird outside the window or the humm of the fan. Try cutting down on background noises in your house -- radio, tv, music playing -- when you are trying to get something done or get somewhere.

Also check that she is not absorbing information or experiences that might take a lot of thinking about. If we listen to the news, or to public radio where there are a lot of serious topics being discussed, or he is around a lot of intense adult conversations, he will spend a lot of energy trying to figure out what he heard, rather than focusing on the present moment. Same with too much exciting television, movies or video games. It seems to capture his imagination so deeply that it becomes harder to get through to him.

I'm a bit scatter brained myself right now, but I hope something in there helps.[/QUOTE
My bold, DD is the same. Also ditto to the second paragraph.

grateful Mama to DD May '06 and DS May '09
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#12 of 15 Old 04-22-2010, 05:13 AM
 
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My (highly gifted) sister was just like this as a kid. Totally lost in her own world. It was apparently a very interesting place She was so impossible to engage with on others' terms or to motivate externally that our parents essentially gave up.

I have a strong memory of them leaving to go to dinner or something, when I was perhaps 10 and old enough to be in charge without a babysitter. They asked "us" (ha!) to empty the dishwasher while they were gone. I did my half and waited. Nothing. I bugged her. Nothing. I got annoyed and bugged her more aggressively. Nothing. So of course, I emptied the rest of the dishwasher, because I cared, and she didn't. Not that she didn't love my parents and not that she wanted to defy them -- this whole dishwasher thing just did not even penetrate to the level where she was even considering doing what they asked. When my folks got home, I told them what happened, and they said they understood my frustration, but they had no idea how to get her to care, so there was no point in punishing her. Totally true -- she would have had no idea why it was happening, and it would have been completely ineffective in changing her behavior. She was just unreachable.

She was also unmovable by teachers. Her good teachers were the ones who left her alone. The bad experiences were with the ones who tried to make her do her 150 long division problems instead of making lovely drawings around them. When she took standardized tests, she would make patterns with the bubbles rather than answering the questions. Etc. It is a family joke that when my mom asked her what reading group she was in, she had no idea; however, I knew (even though I was two grades ahead of her and never in her classroom).

Fast forward -- she is now 42, and not like that at all. She became a great (meaning, achievement oriented, perfectionist) student who totally responded to teacher cues and values. She is easily reached, pays attention, responds, is gregarious, is very observant of other people's moods and feelings.

I guess my point is that this is not necessary permanent. I do think it was highly connected to her gifts and the fascinating internal landscape in which she was living. It would not have been kind to pry her out of it before she was ready. My folks were worried about her ability to fend for herself but they still let her be, and I think that was crucial in allowing her to come to her interest in other people and what they were thinking/doing/wanting on her own.

So not to say that this could not be related to hearing issues or being on the spectrum, but it also might just be gifted miasma. Your DD sounds cool. I bet she'll do very interesting things in her life.

Loving Lucy Amelia
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#13 of 15 Old 04-22-2010, 10:15 AM
 
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You may want to take a look at imaginational overexcitabilities:
http://www.sengifted.org/articles_so...heGifted.shtml

My ds has a very, very rich inner world. He needs nothing more than his brain for days of entertainment. It is very frustrating for me when I need his attention and he is "there." One vivid memory I have of him is when he was just 3, sitting on our sofa and staring off. I asked him what was wrong, and he quietly said, "Shhh. I'm thinking." What I have found to be very helpful is to spend time with him in his world - finding out exactly what is going on in his mind - instead of continuing to jolt him out into my world. He would sometimes draw what he was thinking and now he is better able to use words. He is a very interesting, very creative, very perceptive person.

He now pulls it together when he is with friends, but a boring classroom or a boring dinnertime conversation will send him there. There have been people along the way that have suggested autism (he is not on the spectrum) or other dx's, but nothing sticks. It's who he is.

You may also want to read up on visual spatial learners:
http://www.visualspatial.org/

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#14 of 15 Old 04-24-2010, 03:59 PM
 
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I wondered about ADD, the dreamy, inattentive kind.

Anyway, with responding, I wanted to echo earlier posters about using her name to get her attention, walking over to her (I have heard this called GOYB parenting, as in get off your...), one request at a time, one sentence...

... and also I wanted to encourage you to start with where she is NOW. IME the most gentle way to work toward where you want to be is to start with what she needs and trust that as you meet the needs, they will lessen.

Also, 6 seems old enough to me to talk to her about what you would like and ask her for what she needs to help her respond.

We have also worked hard with ds that he doesn't need to DO as we say, unless we say "right now" or it's an emergency, but he needs to RESPOND: He can say, "Will you reconsider?" or offer alternatives, or ask if he can do it soon but not now. This seems to lessen the cotton-eared problem some if he knows we will put his requests on the table for consideration (sometimes we turn him down but I do try to consider what he asks).

Heather
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#15 of 15 Old 04-27-2010, 11:32 PM
 
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My son is like this. If he is doing *anything*, it's very hard/impossible for me to call out to him or talk to him and expect him to hear me. He also tunes me out a ton when I am just telling him to do stuff. I know it's not auditory processing, etc. because he listens to anything his brother says and usually responds immediately ;-)

I really eased up once I came to understand that he has such a rich inner life. His thoughts are fascinating to him. who knows what will come of his thoughts one day? It hit me one day when I was reading an account of Isaac Newton in A Short History of Nearly Everything. He said Newton was "famously distracted (upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sit sometimes for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head)"

So it's just part of who he is! And I can help him embrace it and enjoy it and develop it.

He tunes out at school, too, but it hasn't caused problems.
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