07 June 2007

My ASD - Attention Surplus Disorder

I've realized that I have an attention problem. Most literature focuses on ADD - attention deficit disorder. Yet the problems stemming from ADD seem hard to recognize. Flitting from topic to topic, inability to stay focused ... all seems perfectly fitting for a culture made up by surfing the web, channel surfing, and the modern style of ping pong conversations that bounce from topic to esoteric reference to topic. ADD is less likely to make one a pariah than to make one fit in.

By contrast, I have ASD - attention surplus disorder. I find myself absorbed for hours by good books. The 15-page articles in the Atlantic or Foreign Affairs strike me as scarcely long enough to do justice to the topic. When I find myself wanting to relax in a hotel, I invariably find myself tuned to PBS or HBO because the incessant commercial interruptions elsewhere drive me to distraction and even if the movie or documentary is bad, I'm likely to watch it simply because it has a large enough canvas to actually paint something that isn't the time equivalent of a miniature.

This can work to my disadvantage. I've long ago learned to resort to quips and quick observations in conversations. Any arguments that take more than 4 minutes to unfold, or involve more than 2 points, are likely to leave people with a glazed look, so I typically avoid those. Those suffering from ADD can be the life of the party; those of us with ASD suck the life out of parties.

Had my case of ASD been coupled with sufficient intelligence, I could have become one of the disillusioned intellectuals who write long and ignored books. Fortunately for the world, my case of ASD has been paired with sufficiently less intelligence and its damage is limited to a smaller radius of friends and family, usually manifest through conversations or blog postings that go on for too long.

Like anyone suffering from the human condition, those of us suffering from ASD need your compassion. Pretend to listen to us. Nod and say, "That's really a good point," when we stop to catch our breath. When that fails, send us to the corner with a fascinating book. It'll be hours before we look up. Until then, you're safe.


Anonymous said...

I often suffer from over-stimulation from being WAY too sensitive to my environment. Sometimes, I feel like I don't even have my own feelings because I get so lost in those of people around me.

Everybody else is in a huge rush, and forgetting things, and I am absorbing everything down to the minutest detail, and committing it to memory. It leaves no room for surplus knowledge. (You can imagine what this does to my brain over the internet. Talk about over-stimulation.)

It's one of the drawbacks to being so sensitive to my environment. I have to be careful about who gets in. It has to be complementary.

I like long conversations about stuff. But only when I am not trying to focus on a task, because I like to get positively lost in what I am doing. I believe that everything has a time and place, and would most likely want those sorts of conversations to take place during my leisure time, so I could pay attention.

Dave said...

You know you have ASD when people nod out ten minutes before you get to your point; after all, prologue is everything.

Ron Davison said...

Ah, but Dave, we can always get work assisting the insomniacs. :)

exskindiver said...

that's really a good point, ron.

Ron Davison said...

You know, if hadn't earlier assured me that you would never make fun of me, I could swear that you were making fun of me.