ADD/ADHD and Creativity: Is There a Link?

brainwavesAttention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children and can often carry on into adulthood. The symptoms could pretty much be used to describe any child: hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness. Though never formally diagnosed, I myself have always suspected to be a member of the ADD crowd. While it can be a struggle to live with, recent studies show that the disorder may in fact be a double edged sword, as those afflicted appear to be more prone to creative thinking.

In 2006, a study was conducted by Dr. Holly White of the University of Memphis and Priti Shah of the University of Michigan about how subjects diagnosed with the condition responded to divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Those with the disorder scored higher on the divergent tests (utilizing creativity in problem solving) and lower on the convergent tests (using logic to find the one correct answer to questions).

This study perfectly reflects my entire education. Tests were often a source of dread. I would excel on essay questions where divergent thinking is used, but bomb on the multiple choice portions. Sadly, multiple choice continues to be the go-to test format, and questions that aren’t targeted to the convergent-minded are few and far between. This out-of-the-box way of thinking can be a hindrance to children growing up in a traditional education system, and can be a huge factor to declining grades.

Perhaps we should start thinking about these disorders in a different way. The term ADHD carries a negative connotation, and often stirs up images of “problem” children who have unbounded energy and refuse to adhere to societal rules. However, with this new information, parents of afflicted children can now focus on where their kids’ limitless imaginations will take them, and maybe even consider it a gift rather than a curse. While they may be faced with some challenges, a creative mind is something I wouldn’t trade for report cards filled with straight A’s.

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