A review of the literature indicates that there are striking similarities between the behavioral manifestations of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and creativity. A brief history of ADHD is given tracing the difficulty researchers have experienced in defining and accurately diagnosing this condition. Of particular concern is the fact that the defining characteristics of ADHD, inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, are also key descriptors in biographies of highly creative individuals. The possibility of an overlap in the conditions of high creativity and ADHD is proposed, and some individuals exemplary of both conditions are described. Educators and parents are cautioned to consider the practical implications of mistaking one condition for the other, and warned about the problems with diagnosing ADHD in bright and creative children. Finally, they are advised about appropriate actions to take if a child is suspected of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, referred for psychological screening, or diagnosed with ADHD.
The Coincidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Creativity
When Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is suspected
- Be open-minded to the possibility that difficult behaviors may be indicative of special abilities, such as creativity, as well as problems.
- Become knowledgeable about the behavioral manifestations of creativity and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) throughout the life span.
- Observe and record under what conditions the key behaviors are intensified or reduced.
- Ask the child what s/he is thinking about right after a period of daydreaming.
If the child is referred for psychological screening
- Whenever possible, choose a psychologist who is knowledgeable about giftedness and creativity as well as ADHD, or willing to learn.
- Be sure that a creativity test or checklist is completed in addition to the ADHD checklist.
If the child is diagnosed as having ADHD
- Get a second opinion.
- Be cautious about recommendations for the use of methylphenidates or other drugs.
- Be cautious about recommendations for an unstimulating curriculum with lessons broken into small parts.
- Provide opportunities both inside and outside of school to enhance creativity and build self-esteem.