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Monotropism, hyperfocus & ND

What are monotropism and hyperfocus?

Monotropism and monotropic thinking is a different way of processing information; it is the ability to have an intense focus on a smaller number of topics/interests. Monotropic thinking creates a tunnel of focus which is narrow and enriched. During this intense focus, external distractions are often blocked out. This can also be called ‘hyperfocus’ and having a ‘narrow attention tunnel’.

It can feel very calming to be in hyperfocus and bring great joy to look into the small details of one topic; shifting from one topic of focus to the next can be challenging.

In contrast, someone with polytropic thinking has a wider ‘attention tunnel’ and focuses on more things at once. Less details are focused on which often leads to a more shallow understanding of the topic. Switching between different topics is often easier for a polytropic thinker.

  • Monotropic focus – processing a small amount of information in great depth, with sole focus on it.
  • Polytropic focus – processing a large amount of information, across multiple areas, often in less detail.

This video was created by Kieran Rose (, Josh Knowles (Josh Knowles animation), Dr Georgia Pavlopoulou (Anna Freud Centre) and Dr Ruth Moyse (AT-Autism), HEE-funded National Autism Trainer Programme. Although the video refers to monotropism in autism specifically, it can be very relevant to other neurodivergent brain types too.

Monotropism & ND

Neurodivergent brains often have more monotropic thinking styles as well as montropic functioning; this processing/attention style influences the way day-to-day tasks are completed.

Illustration of check list with green apple

Who found out about monotropism?

Originally, monotropism first came about as a strengths-based interest model in autism, developed by Dinah Murray and Wenn Lawson. Since this development, people are discovering that other forms of neurodivergence, e.g., ADHD, may also have monotropic thinking styles too. More research is needed, but it is likely that other forms of neurodivergence may show this thinking style but just in different ways.

How monotropic functioning might look in neurodivergent children/young people

How can we support and work with monotropic brains?

Often schools, workplaces, and environments are made for polytropic or neurotypical brains. This can mean that it is exhausting for neurodivergent and monotropic brains to function in these environments. Therefore, we need to create an environment and working style that supports the way our brain processes information. It is important to remember that everyone has a different brain type and processing style; we should always try to work with our brain and not against it.

Key conversations, information and research on monotropism are gathered on this website.

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Monotropism in practice

The monotropism website has a ‘monotropism in practice’ part of their website, where they have plenty of resources and information about supporting monotropism in school, play, work, and in mental health.

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The Autistic Advocate

The Autistic Advocate website contains more in depth written information and training discussing monotropism.

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