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.
Getting any child up and out the door in time for school can be a trying experience, but if a child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), this process can make you want to pull your hair out.
Think about all that can go wrong: The backpack may not be where it was supposed to be or the dog may have literally eaten the homework. Suddenly, a child remembers he or she is supposed to bring something special to school or flat out refuses to wear a raincoat when it's monsooning. The list...
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
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
"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
"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.