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The Challenge of Keeping My Impulsive and Hyperfocused Son Safe

When our family moved to a small suburb of Portland, Maine, two years ago, my 6-year-old son asked if we could explore our new neighborhood on our bikes. My son has ADHD and autism, and he can be quite impulsive, so I was nervous about taking him out in an unfamiliar area. But I agreed.

As we made our way down the side streets, we were passed by a pickup truck. “Daddy, look! That truck is an F-350 Super Duty!” my son excitedly said. He’s obsessed with trucks and loves pointing out the makes and models. He was so hyperfocused on the truck traveling away from us that he didn’t see a pothole near the curb in front of him.

I called out to him several times, each time louder. “Stop!” I said, “Look out for the hole!” But he didn’t hear me, even though I was only a few feet behind. He was in his own head, watching the truck and making engine noises of his own. He hit the pothole and went down hard.

Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt. And after dusting himself off, he was ready to ride again. But a little way down the road, an older man fixing a car told him that he liked his helmet. My son stopped and told the man, “My name is Benjamin, and we just moved to this neighborhood.” And before I could stop him, he blurted out our new street address.

These are just a few of the ways my son makes my wife and me worry about his safety. We worry he might get hurt because he’s curious and doesn’t stop and think before exploring a new place or trying a new activity. He gets so caught up in things that interest him that he doesn’t notice potential danger in his surroundings.

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