ADHD And Creativity: New Research Says ADHD Is Being Mistreated In Schools

Research now shows what many people who have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder — or those who parent someone who does — have long since believed there is a huge link between ADHD and creativity, often referred to as the “upside of ADHD.” And according to an extensive report by Salon, in focusing solely on the difficulties those with ADHD have — such as poor attention and impulse control — kids with ADHD are falling through the cracks, educationally speaking.

To begin with, researchers identified 22 recurring personality traits in creative people. Of these 22 personality traits, 16 are considered positive, such as independent, energetic, curious, risk-taking, emotional, and artistic. The remaining six traits are considered negative, and include such terms as impulsive, hyperactive, and argumentative.

Dr. Bonnie Cramond, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Georgia, saw that many of the traits found overlapped significantly with clinical descriptions of ADHD, including the fact that those who are highly creative and those who have ADHD both exhibit such habits as high levels of spontaneous generation of ideas, a tendency to day dream, sensation seeking, and impulsivity.

Furthermore, recent studies in the field of cognitive neuroscience draws a strong connection between ADHD and creativity, as well, showing that both creative thinkers and people with ADHD have trouble “suppressing brain activity coming from the ‘Imagination Network.'”

All of this creativity — and with it, the inability to control those creative thoughts — can be seen as either positive or negative. Creativity is a valuable asset, but so is being able to control one’s thoughts and impulses, and obviously, a creative mind that is always spontaneously generating new ideas or constantly daydreaming interferes greatly with the ability to pay attention in the classroom.

But by treating kids with ADHD as if they have an educational disability, it could be that many incredibly bright kids are falling through the cracks.

Statistics show that a total of nine percent of kids between the ages of 5 to 17 are diagnosed with ADHD per year, and then placed in special education programs. But only one percent of students who are eligible for Individuals with Disabilities Act services are in gifted programs, and only two percent are enrolled in an AP course. One report bluntly concluded that “students with learning and attention issues are shut out of gifted and AP programs, held back in grade level and suspended from school at higher rates than other students.”

Research shows that kids with ADHD score lower on tests that involve working memory, which is the “ability to control attention and hold multiple streams of information in mind at once.” But tests that assess and measure creativity — which many children with ADHD excel at — are notably absent from testing for gifted programs.

All of this research has some pretty big educational implications. With recognizing that ADHD does present students with difficulties, such as paying attention in class, among others, and that those issues need to be addressed, the potential, positive flip-side to ADHD should also be addressed, as well. As one researcher said, “In the school setting, the challenge becomes how to create an environment in which creativity is emphasized as a pathway to learning as well as an outcome of learning.”

In 1949, a young man at Eton college wanted to become a scientist, even though he was last in his science class. And the comments from his professor on his report card seemed to show a student who had little promise.

“His work has been far from satisfactory… he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way… I believe he has ideas about becoming a Scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous, if he can’t learn simple Biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a Specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time on his part, and of those who have to teach him.”

But that student did become a scientist. He was Sir John B. Gurdon, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on stem cells. And had he been a student in 1999 rather than 1949, he would have most likely been sent for testing and diagnosed with ADHD.

For more examples of highly creative and successful people who also have ADHD, click here — you may be surprised!

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