Win with ADHD: Mark Aro

Mark Aro, artist, animator, and director, credits his ADHD with his vast imagination – and he wouldn’t change it for the world.

Brush being dipped into used paint set by someone with ADHD
Brush being dipped into used paint set by someone with ADHD

Mark Aro, 45, was born in Oregon, and he often fondly remembers his grandparents’ farm surrounded by hay fields. “Some force kept me alive,” he says of his childhood. “If I imagined or envisioned anything, I did it.” That had its perils. Once he jumped from second-story barn rafters into a pile of hay that hid an upright pitchfork.

Aro survived this incident, and many more, moving from pitchforks to pitches for a 22-year career in TV and film. Aro caught the 3D bug as a draftsman at an engineering firm, and joined the fledgling video game industry, at Sierra Online, in Oakhurst, California, as a 3D artist and animator.

Having worked as a successful 3D artist, art director, and animator at NBC-TV, Marvel Entertainment, and the Tolkien franchise, among others, Aro now runs his own business, Hyperactive Studios. He creates and develops projects and does freelance work in animation and visual effects for clients such as Disney/Pixar, Mattel, MTV Movie Awards, American Greetings, and many more.

A sweet, likable kid, Aro nonetheless found his school years unbearable. “I was in another world,” says Aro, whose hyperactivity fueled his thoughts and restlessness. In high school, Aro didn’t do any homework. He graduated because he was good at taking tests, and didn’t want to let down his stepdad. He got A’s in art, music, and sculpture, all of which held his attention.

At 35, Aro worked in the video game department at Universal Studios. His wife, Lisa, believed that their eldest daughter had ADHD, but Aro disagreed. While Aro was away on a business trip, Lisa took their daughter to a pediatrician, who diagnosed her with attention deficit. When Aro saw his daughter’s dramatic improvement on a math test after taking stimulant medication for one day, a light bulb turned on. “I went to our pediatrician and said, ‘What is going on?’ I realized I had spent my life coming up with coping mechanisms to suit a world that really wasn’t wired for me.”

Aro was diagnosed by his daughter’s pediatrician and started taking ADHD medication, which helped him to slow down, pause, and organize his thoughts before taking action.

“I love having ADHD. I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I can imagine something, it can be my reality.”