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ADHD in Children Health Center

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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 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.

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