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Dina Needs to Take Her Creativity Meds

What if your child had Creativity Deficit Disorder (CDD) in a world where the ADHD brain was coveted for all of its strengths?

Author note: What if the tables were turned and most of society possessed the ADHD nervous system and a minority exhibited more normative learning styles? It suggests that attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) might be less of a “disability,” and more of an alternate set of strengths and weaknesses. It forces us to contemplate the possibility that it might be the school or workplace that needs fixing rather than the individual with an alternative brain structure. Here is a “story” about how a neurotypical middle school student would fare, if that were the case.

Dina, age 11, is not doing well in school. She has been getting C’s and D’s in her divergent thinking classes and, despite all of her hard work, received a disappointing C+ in science. Her project on plant life showed, according to Mr. Riley, “little original thinking.” Mr. Riley said, “It’s meticulous, but hundreds of kids have done something similar.” Dina is losing her confidence and feels inferior to the majority of kids who are much more creative.

Dina attends the Simon Academy for Creativity, which, like nearly every other school in the country, focuses on creativity and divergent thinking. Despite being superb at math, reading, and memorizing factoids, Dina is forced to attend a traditional creativity school. The one alternative school in the district that focuses on competency in math, science, reading and writing is too far from Dina’s home and costs a hefty $18,000 per year.

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Dina has always felt out of place at school. While the other kids are bouncing off the walls, Dina sits still at a desk (a special accommodation), waiting for instructions from the teacher. Going all the way back to first grade, Dina’s teachers expressed concern about her “lethargy.”

“All she seems to want to do is sit down and read, while many of the other kids are running around the class, learning by doing,” observed Mrs. Weller. “Dina also has a strong need to receive instruction and is not sufficiently self-directed.”

Now that Dina’s in middle school, the school suggests that Dina take a battery of psychological tests to determine if she has a learning disability. After the testing, the school psychologist, Dr. Schmidt, called a meeting with Dina’s parents for 3 P.M., showing up late as usual.

“The good news is that Dina has a wonderful working memory, which is undoubtedly an asset. But the tests also indicate that Dina is a classic case of Creativity Deficit Disorder, or CDD. Have you seen the new movie on Jackie Robinson?” asked Dr. Schmidt, interrupting himself. “Oh, yes, back to Dina. The excessive control functioning in her brain often makes Dina unavailable for learning and is holding her back academically.

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“Among the many questions Dina was asked on the test was how many uses she could think for a hard-boiled egg and a spoon. Dina could think  of only  14, which was significantly below the average of 21, putting her at the 35th percentile in Creativity Quotient (CQ). These numbers suggest Dina is an at-risk child,” he stated. “The test also revealed a glitch in her conceptual understanding of ideas. While Dina scored in the 96th percentile in short-term memory, she scored much lower in critical thinking. Because school is so much more focused on critical thinking than memorization, this is going to hurt Dina’s performance on tests.”

“What can we do about it?” Dina’s parents asked. “Well, fortunately, there’s a new medication out called Freeal, which relaxes the prefrontal brain systems and allows for more creativity and less self-editing. While we can’t mandate that she take it, I can say from experience that it will make her a much better student. I think it’s important that Dina catch up with her peers, lest she develop an inferiority complex. Also, these learning difficulties, unaddressed, will, as she goes into the world of work, make it hard for Dina to start her own company and innovate, be a poet, or start a dance company.”

“Dina’s pediatrician prescribed similar meds once before and Dina does not like the way she feels on them,” her mother said. “It makes her feel out of control.” Dr. Schmidt assured her that Freeal has fewer side effects than previous medications.

“Teachers are seeing immediate results. Normally quiet kids are now calling out. Several of the CDD kids are finally able to come up with original ideas and are doing much better in school.”

Dina’s parents sat down together to discuss Dina’s predicament. “I can’t stand that the school is so one-size-fits-all,” her mom says in frustration. “This world still needs line managers, and I can’t imagine anyone better cut out for that work than Dina.” Her dad counters, “Ultimately, Dina has to adapt to the existing system. We all do. She needs to go to creativity college if she is going to start her own company or be an artist someday. Let’s ask her to try the Freeal.”

[What I Wish the World Knew About My Child’s ADHD]

Updated on July 16, 2019

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  1. OMG! Every teacher needs to read this article. This is exactly how a classroom works. And every doctor needs to read this article. They might look at meds differently. And every parent needs to read this article.(they need to try to look at the world through their child’s eyes) We do have organizations (Cub Scout)and camps (Mad science) that cater to the creative brain, but regular public school structure seems to be a real problem. Time to make a change!!
    Nikki

  2. Brilliant!
    We should be looking at how to support kids’ strengths instead of focusing only on their weaknesses just because they don’t conform to the way we’ve been doing things–which may be overdue for change. We should be nourishing their creativity, which helps them develop resilience, become productive citizens, and function well in the gig economy that is here to stay.
    Of course, all that takes investment in our schools, which I’m not sure we’re willing to do here in the U.S.
    –Nancy, the Sensory Smart Parent

  3. It is diffifult to take this kind of article seriously when most creative people do not have ADD/HD. Our condition forces us to find creative solutions, since organization and planning are so difficult. This does not mean we are inherently more creative by having this disorder, despite how articles like this would have us think.
    Rather than proposing that ADD/HD comes with ‘gifts’ (an idea I’ve never heard attatched to any other neurological disorder), science-backed research and realistic support are our way forward. We cannot expect the world to appreciate us, warts and all. At the same time, balanced self-awareness with self-compassion and self-appreciation might help us on our way as best as possible.

    1. All of the science of creativity points to the fact that the ADHD brain is wired for creativity. As this story suggests, recent neurobiology research is uncovering the location in the brain, and the mechanism in cognition, that makes people creative. These are not studies of ADHD, they are studies of creativity. And what they show is that what is known as the “default mode network” is the part of the brain that lights up when synergistic, creative connections are happening. In order to light up this area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, where executive function happens, must be tamped down. The DMN lights up precisely when we are not engaged in tasks requiring executive function, and instead are daydreaming or snoozing, letting our minds wander. In other words, creativity REQUIRES inattention and a lack of focus.

      Similarly, research on the concept of “flow,” which is extensively studied outside of the ADHD industry, shows also that the key to triggering “flow” is temporary hypoprefrontality. In other words, a temporary suspension of executive function. It is becoming one of the hottest topics — how can we induce “flow” so people can become more creative? What is flow? It is hyperfocus.

      Not all people with ADHD are artistically creative in the sense that we generally think of it, but when you define creativity a bit more broadly, say looking at the sort of big-picture, outside-the-box, wide-ranging-connections kind of thinking and the emotional intelligence and empathy required for entrepreneurship (Ned Hallowell calls ADHD “the entrepreneurial trait”), actually most people with ADHD are highly creative. We have just had our creativity crushed by an industrial school and employment system that has valued compliance and efficiency over creativity for 150 years.

      Mel Williams, Casey Neistat, Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, Roberto Blake, Seth Godin — they all have or likely have ADHD. They are highly successful entrepreneurs who have learned to outsource executive function so that they can get down to business making and creating. We are all capable of that, once we overcome the traumas inflicted on us by a neurotypical world.

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