Taking attention to detail too far... what to do?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by gcvmom, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    This is a question I'll be posing for difficult child 1's therapist on Friday, but what do you think can be done to help a difficult child who gets stuck on details and can't ever seem to finish a project because of it? (Holy cow, he's a carbon copy of MY dad!)

    For example, difficult child 1 was to color a WWII political outline map based on whether the country was part of the Allied or Axis group, and label the map. That's it. Sounds pretty simple, right?

    Well, he took it one step further. He attached a list of every single country, no matter how small and seemingly inconsequential to the "big picture". Then he color-coded the list. Then he colored in the map according to the country's alignment during the war. But then he started reading further and realized that some countries switched their alliances mid-way through the war. So he struggled with how to handle that data. I told him to forget it and just pick where they were in the middle of the war and go with it. But he kept going back to his list and editing it over and over -- adding some countries, removing others (I have no idea what it was based on since I'd decided to let him work on his own as much as possible this week.) Then he'd sit for hours worrying about formatting of the list -- the autonumbering wasn't working right and it was confusing him. Finally I told him to remove ALL the numbers and just list the countries!

    But he just wasted so much time on this one simple project that now it's the evening before all his work is due and he's not finished with the rest of the assignments (hasn't finished the chapter reading, hasn't taken his 2 online quizzes, hasn't written his 1-page essay, hasn't done today's French assignment). Plus he put stuff off this week and opted to play around, so now he's freaking out. Even earlier today he kept going outside with his paintball gun to try to hit a ground squirrel that keeps digging in our yard.

    I'm just so frustrated -- he had two more days this past week to work on the assignments than he had the first week he started at this new school and he still isn't ready for tomorrow. The big difference is that I did not hover and micromanage him like I did last week.

    Are there cognitive things we can work on? Is it just a matter of me sitting with him more to help with the time management? Is it a medication issue? What?

    Whenever he has to write on the computer, he gets caught up in the formatting and wastes a ton of time.

    I do know that the strategy for next week will involve saving the project for LAST, and I will probably have him write his essay long-hand first.
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Sounds like it's based in perfectionist tendencies, which has its roots in OCDish anxiety. That's how my daughter M is. She also has slow processing speed, which we learned from her WISC testing. So schoolwork and homework are slow and painful processes all around. What has helped on the homework front is hiring a high school tutor a couple of afternoons a week to sit and work with her. Just someone to keep her focused and on track rather than me nagging her all afternoon and into the evening.
  3. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    What Smallworld said. My daughter gets this way, except instead of actually doing all that detail she decides she can't do the project because they want it done a certain way and she "can't" do it that way. She has to include everything else or not do it at all, and so she shuts down. I don't know how much is autism and how much is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which she has, too.
  4. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I agree with Smallworld and Flutterby. I get that way myself. It is part of a perfectionistic tendency. Everything has to be so perfect, down to the tiniest detail. I can take the simpliest task and make it so overwhelming just like your difficult child is doing. I couldn't understand the big picture, the simplicity of it so would make it more complicated just to make sure it was how I understood the end result and that it would be correct.

    I think many kids with anxiety have a perfectionistic trait. If things are not just so they have a hard time handling it. Just last night difficult child told me that school is so hard, he just doesn't get a lot of it. Even though he is getting all A's and B's so on some level he is "getting it", just not at the level he is doing the work as - he is looking for more details to really grasp the materials.

    I think this assignment is a perfect example for therapist. I am very interested in how therapist proceeds - it could help my difficult child.
  5. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Yes, I agree with the others...

    It is anxiety-related.
  6. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    After my own bit of research over the last week, I think it sounds Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the anxiety spiked when there was no definitive answer to some of his questions. I guess many people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) want 100% certainty about things they are obsessing over. I actually think it is a great thing that he could research and get into that much detail, however if he was not getting pleasure from the research and felt more of a compulsion to do the research, which is stressful, then I definitely think it's a problem.
  7. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Today I wrote another rough outline for him to follow for the essay. That seemed to really help give him direction. Then I sat in the room and fired questions about the topic and as he answered I told him to write down what he was saying. He's got about 1/3 of the essay done now. Then I had to take him to school for his French class, which gets out in about 30 minutes. I'll go pick him up and bring him back home so we can spend from 11:15am to 12:45pm finishing the essay. He meets with his history teacher at 1pm to turn in all the work for the past week and take this week's test. Then it starts all over again until next Wednesday. I think he should be able to wrap up the rest of this o.k. But hopefully we can structure things better for next week. He's already started the reading for next week (apparently he wasn't paying attention to which chapters he had to read for this week and got ahead of schedule), so that's really good. But he needs to write down a schedule for each day and plan out the work he will do. And I'm going to have to take a very active role in this process. Fortunately, husband is working from home today and he took the other two kids to school so I could focus on difficult child 1. :) I need to let the school psychiatric know about my observations so that she can keep this tendency of his in mind as she evaluates him for an IEP.
  8. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Mission accomplished! He finished the essay with about 15 minutes to spare before he had to leave for his check-in meeting at school. :whew:

    He found out he got an A on his test last week, which was great for him and me to hear! He felt pretty positive about his performance on today's test as well. Funny thing, while he was polishing up the essay before printing it, he commented that he's never gotten a bad grade on a test or quiz -- he almost always gets A's or B's on those. I reminded him that he truly is a bright kid, and that his only downfall is in finishing assignments. So that is what we're working on the rest of this year.

    After he took a break for lunch and to relax, I had him map out the next round of assignments for the next week. I broke down the chapter reading into manageable chunks and he wrote down his tasks for each day. He's already finished today's work and I'm hoping tomorrow is equally productive.

    I'm glad husband has seen just how time-intensive my job is with the kids since he was home today!