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Old 11-18-05, 11:22 AM
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Understanding ADHD and the Creative Child

http://www.webmd.com/content/article...000_5022_pe_02

Understanding ADHD and the Creative Child

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Feature


Creativity and ADHD share similar traits; now, some experts weigh in on how frequently the two are confused.

Frankie was a daydreamer, so much so that he continually frustrated teachers when he just couldn't concentrate on what they said. Both Sam and Virginia were considered "problem" kids as well, talking so incessantly in school they frequently disrupted the class.

Little Tommy had so much energy he was often asked to actually leave the room, while Nicky gave both his teachers and his parents cause for great concern with impulsive, oftentimes dangerous behaviors.

In many circles, these children would likely be diagnosed with ADHD -- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neurologically based diagnosis hallmarked by a lack of attention, an abundance of misused energy and random, impulsive behavior, all of which can severely limit a child's ability to learn.

But that diagnosis might be a big mistake. The reason: The childhood behaviors described above were exhibited by some of the brightest, most creative minds of our time: architect Frank Lloyd Wright, writers Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Virginia Woolf, and inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

Indeed, while many experts automatically link overexcited, impulsive, and even disruptive behavior to ADHD, there are some who believe this same conduct may simply be the earmarks of profound creativity looking for a way to flourish.

"People who don't understand intelligence and giftedness and creativity think that if you're smart you ought to know how to behave, and if you don't behave you're not smart -- or you have something wrong with you -- but that couldn't be further from the truth," says Minnesota child psychologist Deborah Ruf, PhD, National Gifted Children's Coordinator for American Mensa and author of the book Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind.

Ruf tells WebMD that as a result, an alarming number of children who are simply creative, gifted individuals are mistakenly being diagnosed with ADHD.

"The numbers are just astounding -- you have to assume that something is amiss here," says Ruf.

Clearly, creativity and ADHD are not the same, but they do have some behaviors in common, derived mostly from what San Diego child development expert Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD, calls a "common shared pathway," or similar neurological chemistry, within the brain itself.

"This means the behaviors can manifest with a similar appearance, but there are very different reasons behind their cause," says Palladino, author of Dreamers, Discovers, and Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School.

As such, many experts say the potential to confuse the two is not only possible but probable, and that the probability rises when the diagnosis is made by someone not familiar with the creative mind.

"Really comprehensive evaluations of children with ADHD are rarely done. Many parents go to a pediatrician and describe their child's school behavior, and based on that, a diagnosis of ADHD is made," says Bonnie Cramond, PhD, associate professor and director of the Torrance Center for Creative Study at the University of Georgia. Most of the time, she says, the child is immediately put on medication without any further evaluation.

And what prompts the parents to seek a pediatrician's prescription in the first place? Cramdon says most of the time it's the teacher, who will often report to the parents that the child has too much energy, won't sit still, and won't be quiet.

"Our educational system is trying to fit a medical model where we look at anything atypical as subnormal, so if a child is different, we right away tend to assume there's something wrong with him, even if there's not," Cramond tells WebMD.

And, in fact, there has been research suggesting that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD can be plotted according to the rigidity of a school system. According to Ruf, one reason may be that teachers are simply not being taught how to recognize children's individual differences and celebrate them.

"We have become such a politically correct society that we are not allowed to acknowledge that kids differ, and teachers have bought this hook, line, and sinker, so much so that when they see there are differences, they explain it away with a diagnosis," says Ruf, a former teacher herself.

Diagnosing ADHD While Redefining the Creative Spirit

While for some creative kids it may be the "one size fits all" mentality that is responsible for their misdiagnosis of ADHD, for others it may be the very definition of creativity itself that is getting in the way. Indeed, in many circles creativity is defined as not only being able to "think outside the box," but to carry those creative thoughts to fruition. When that doesn't happen, children are frequently diagnosed as unable to focus and labeled as having ADHD.

But the problem with that line of thinking, says Palladino, is that those making the diagnosis often don't stop to consider the complexity of the creative child's idea or the skill level necessary to carry it out.

"Very bright, creative kids are the ones who think of very elaborate ideas, so they sometimes have difficulty carrying them through simply because they don't have the learned skills necessary to do so," says Palladino.

By contrast, she says, sometimes the children who can bring their ideas to fruition do so because the idea is relatively simple to begin with.

"You have to ask yourself, which kid is more dysfunctional -- the one who came up with the brilliant idea and couldn't finish it, or the one who came up with the simple idea and did finish it? The answer isn't always so obvious," Palladino tells WebMD.

Complicating matters just a bit further: Being creative and having ADHD are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

"There are kids who are creative that are misdiagnosed with ADHD, there are kids with ADHD whose diagnosis is missed completely, and there is a very large part of this population that falls into what we call dual diagnosis, dual exceptionality, or 'twice blessed' -- we're not talking about 'or' but rather 'and' -- because having ADHD and being creative can coexist in one child," says Palladino.

Not only can they coexist, but some believe that not getting the "dual" part of the diagnosis right is the point at which many treatment plans fail.

"In most instances the goal of ADHD treatment is to remove the stimulation, when in fact, highly creative children actually seek stimulation, and when they don't get it, the behavior problems can escalate," says Cramond.

Conversely, she says, give them stimulating creative activities and "it goes right to the heart of what they need."

Bringing Out Your Child's Creative Best: What Every Parent Can Do

Whether your child is exhibiting a creative streak a mile wide, or they are, as Palladino says, "twice blessed" with a dual diagnosis, experts say one of the most effective ways to bring out their personal best is to stay "strength centered."

"When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, we tend to see the disorder first, and sometimes, only the disorder, but it's vitally important to see the creativity first and view the disorder as simply a challenge because their confidence in themselves comes from our confidence in them," says Palladino.

Also important, she says, is to remain nonevaluative of your child's work, bypassing that urge to "correct" them when they make a mistake, particularly with creative pursuits.

"All day long in school your child is going to get corrected, and that's discouraging, so when, for example, they are writing at home, don't correct for grammar and spelling, just let them write," says Palladino.

At the same time, she says, try not to lavish too much praise on their efforts either, since doing so might send your bright, creative child the wrong message.

"We think we are doing a great thing when we praise the child's work, but oftentimes bright, creative children are also perfectionists, so complements can make them feel pressured because they are being judged," says Palladino. Instead, she says the greatest complement and most encouragement we can give our children is involvement, and interest in, and attention to, their work.

Also important, say experts, is to give your child the freedom to explore many different creative outlets. While the limits of their ADHD may become obvious when they can't maintain interest in one area -- like music or art lessons, for example -- Ruf says don't be so quick to conclude that the dysfunction is driving their need for change.

"You can't expect a normal adult to know before they try something if they are going to like it, so don't put that kind of demand on your child," says Ruf.

Instead, she says, parents should see their job as "exposing their children to a lot of different things during childhood." For example instead of turning every forced music lesson into a battleground, Ruf says sign them up for just one pay period, and allow them the space for their interests to change.

Lastly, Cramond says never underestimate the power of "recess" in helping to expand your child's creative wings. And if their school is one of many that have now cut this important "time out" from the rigors of learning, make certain to provide some physical activity for them at home.

"Most people say keep them quiet and minimize activity at home, but it's really the opposite. If you give these kids creative ways to expend a day's worth of pent-up energy, they will remain more engaged and interested in all things -- and with or without ADHD their creativity will flourish," says Cramond.
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Old 11-18-05, 03:23 PM
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Reading that makes me wonder how many kids like us were are being held back in life because the school system didn't, or does not know how we operate.

School serves to stifle and create sheep, treats all kids like we all got formed by the same cookie cutter.
What kind of society might we have if instead of being treated as functional retards our curiousity was built upon, instead of trying to teach us boring stuff we/they are not paying attention to anyway.
If I was taught in a school where a student could choose what he wanted to learn about, to teach a kid how to maximise their curiousity, and more cool science stuff. I am positive I could have had a much more rewarding experience in school.
I was way ahead of them, but nobody knew it
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Old 11-18-05, 03:40 PM
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I was way ahead of them, but nobody knew it

I knew it, about myself and my Granmere knew it about me, Toad.
If not for that sole support factor, even as brief as it was, my life would've taken an entirely different path.
That's all that mattered, and still matters most to me.
And when I got to be a grown up...I was finally able to voice it, and make myself and my Granmere proud (as she gleefully beams at me, from wherever her spirit is wanderin', every chance she gets)
You should voice it too.
Joseph Campbell says to follow your bliss and you will always be successfull.
I think my Granmere was having a spiritual affair with that man (0;
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Old 11-18-05, 04:28 PM
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I wouldn't change who I am for the world.
I know who I am, and it suits me.

The nobody knew it part:
Ever been teased by the 'normal' kids because something you understood was way ahead of their understanding, so according to them you are retarded and spew non-sense?
To yourself, you'd understand a scientific concept, and want to share your thoughts, but the only response you would get from the normals is:
Are you burnt?!?!
Yeah, I was stuck with that label in grade 8.

Burnt! Being called that was my personal hell. Made me very depressed.

And it led to bad teasing, ironic that the teasing ringleader has recently died of luekemia, but that was kid stuff and I had wished to see that guy in my life again to see the adult, not the kid, he was a good guy, but he got carried away with the teasing bit.
I think we all did that, something we all (most all) regret.
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Old 11-19-05, 09:14 PM
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Our educational system is trying to fit a medical model where we look at anything atypical as subnormal, so if a child is different, we right away tend to assume there's something wrong with him, even if there's not," Cramond tells WebMD.

And, in fact, there has been research suggesting that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD can be plotted according to the rigidity of a school system. According to Ruf, one reason may be that teachers are simply not being taught how to recognize children's individual differences and celebrate them.

"We have become such a politically correct society that we are not allowed to acknowledge that kids differ, and teachers have bought this hook, line, and sinker, so much so that when they see there are differences, they explain it away with a diagnosis," says Ruf, a former teacher herself.


I have always felt schools wanted every body to fit in the same square hole, because it is easier that way. It is like every child should be able to learn the same way, at the same rate and if you couldn't excell it had to be your problem...never the way it was taught.

Good atricle Nova.
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