ADHD

“For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure.”
-Emerson

ADHD is the greatest gift and the heaviest burden this life has bestowed me.

A billion miles per hour. In every direction. Undulations, oscillations, attentive and inattentive, accelerating and breaking, simultaneous stretching.

When you read, your mind absorbs, unrestrained. Information flows and floods. My mind, quite literally, cannot hold all the thoughts. They burst at the margins of my mind. They desperately want to escape. Onto paper, into discourse, through my hands. They need to be expressed and organized outside of me.

What is it like to have ADHD? Consider what it is like to be in a perpetual car wreck. You are out of control, hurling toward objects, objects hurling towards you, debris flying everywhere.

The ability to turn it off and on is more a matter of chance than control. When it is on, it runs, for hours, with no stopping. It keeps on going until there is nothing left, or until it gets derailed with a less stimulating distraction.

The mind just goes. There is no censoring. Content careens into the cranial cavity.

But just as it can go on for endless hours, the mind can be slow to start. If it isn’t warmed up, or properly stimulated, it is dysfunctional. Simple problems and answers flutter and fly from the mind no sooner than they land.  Thoughts seem to evaporate without a trace. Complete lines of thought blur over as quickly as they were drawn. Is it frustrating? Absolutely. It is paralyzing. The lack of control is choatic. It leaves an anxious residue dripping in the back of my mind, all day every day. The driveling drip echoes like a dilatory daydream.

Class leaves me feeling contemptuous, confined. I resent the cold hard framework. The formality. The rigidity. There is no creation. Only analytics. Repeat. Regurgitate.

They give students questions and answers. If students are lucky, they’ll have an opportunity to come up with their own answers. But what of the questions? Do teachers want students to cognize their own questions? To frame problems? Is that even encouraged? I gotta say, on the whole, no.

I recently read an article on ADHD, creativity, the classroom, and the like. I found it fascinating, and illuminating:

“A new study led by researchers at the University of Memphis and the University of Michigan extends this theme. The scientists measured the success of 60 undergraduates in various fields, from the visual arts to science. They asked the students if they’d ever won a prize at a juried art show or been honored at a science fair. In every domain, students who had been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder achieved more: Their inability to focus turned out to be a creative advantage.”

“Those undergrads who had a tougher time ignoring unrelated stuff were also seven times more likely to be rated as “eminent creative achievers” based on their previous accomplishments. (The association was particularly strong among distractible students with high IQs.)”

“According to the scientists, the inability to focus helps ensure a richer mixture of thoughts in consciousness. Because these people struggled to filter the world, they ended up letting everything in. They couldn’t help but be open-minded.”

“Such lapses in attention turn out to be a crucial creative skill. When we’re faced with a difficult problem, the most obvious solution—that first idea we focus on—is probably wrong. At such moments, it often helps to consider far-fetched possibilities, to approach the task from an unconventional perspective. And this is why distraction is helpful: People unable to focus are more likely to consider information that might seem irrelevant but will later inspire the breakthrough. When we don’t know where to look, we need to look everywhere.”

“Psychologists at Union College surveyed several dozen elementary school teachers in 1995. While every teacher said they wanted creative kids in their classroom, they were mistaken. In fact, when the teachers were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures – the list included everything from “individualistic” to “risk-seeking” to “accepting of authority” – the traits mostly closely aligned with creative thinking were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. As the researchers note, “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.” -Jonah Lehrer, Against Attention, Wired.com

For the pdf article: Creativity: Asset or Burden in the Classroom?

How right you were Emerson.