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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.

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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