Stimulus overselectivity is a term used to describe a phenomenon whereby a person focuses on only one aspect of an object or environment while ignoring other aspects.
Overselectivity refers to an individual's tendency to focus on minute characteristics of an object or person, rather than the whole. For example, when looking at a car a child with ASD may not focus on the totality of the car, including the color, shape and individual parts, but rather will over select on a feature and focus only on that one part such as the wheels.
Often described as "tunnel vision."
** IMPLICATIONS FOR LEARNING **
Children on the autism spectrum overselect aspects of their environment to the expense of others. They focus on irrelevant stimuli and to what is not pertinent to the learning situation. In the classroom, they focus on the noise the fan makes instead of focusing on the teacher's lesson. Teachers often misconstrue their lack of focusing on non-salient aspects of the environment to be an attention deficit.
This tendency to over select and focus on specific features of an object or person rather than the whole hinders learning new concepts and interferes with the child's ability to interpret relevant meaning from information in his or her environment.
The idea of responding to only one of many aspects or dimensions of an object may make it difficult for the child to learn about his/her world. For example, if a child is being taught to differentiate between a fork and a spoon, the child may attend or focus on the color (a very salient aspect) rather than the shape. In this case, the child will experience much difficulty when trying to decide which utensil to use.
** STRATEGIES **
It is important to help students with ASD direct their attention to relevant aspects of an object or the environment. For example, when having a child select an apple from a bag of apples and oranges, he should be instructed to attend to color and texture. In contrast, when teaching the child to find the family car in a parking lot, he should direct his attention to the color and shape.