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