Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Attention Disorders, Kids, & Creativity

Attention Disorders, Kids, & Creativity

FUN FACT: Calvin from Calvin & Hobbs has ADHD! Well it’s not explicitly stated, but there are scenes where he talks about having trouble focusing and others where he’s on ADHD medication.

As we discussed in class, there is thought to be a link between mental illness and creativity. Specifically, in the field of mental health, there has been a movement towards relating ADHD and other attention disorders to imagination and creativity rather than disability.

A study done by Gary Davis in the book, “Creativity is Forever.” Davis reviewed literature from a 40 year span (1961-2003) and identified common characteristics of creative people. There were so called “positive” and “negative” traits. Some positive traits were high energy, curious, and artistic. Some of the negative traits were impulsive, hyperactive, and argumentative. Nearly all of the traits that Davis found to be shared among creative people were also shared among and even used to diagnose those with ADHD. You may have noticed that the identified traits could probably describe just about any toddler as well.

While Google searching ADHD diagnosis, there were two very common questions that kept popping up: is my just “being a kid” or if they have ADHD and do I have ADHD or just a creative personality? Gary Davis’s study confirms why many parents cannot determine whether or not their child had ADHD and why people are unsure of their own diagnosis, it is simply because the symptoms are strikingly similar.

So as far as “What’s Creative,” apparently children and those with ADHD are since their most prominent personality traits are same as those of creative people.

As far as I can tell, there are two ways that attention disorders stimulate creativity: ability of the mind to wander and a need to find creative solutions for accommodating the disorder. The latter example can be seen in the first comic, where Calvin derives a creative solution for this attention disorder. While there are limited studies to be found on creativity derived from attempts to compensate for ADHD, it is commonly seen from ADHD blog. Bloggers with ADHD will often post about unique organization tips and tricks, for example, or "life hacks" so to speak, that will help compensate for ADHD. The need to alter one's lifestyle (relative to that of someone without ADHD) due to an attention disorder requires creative solutions. 

The ability of the mind to wander due to attention disorders can be seen in the comic above. It is believed that creative geniuses like Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon had ADHD due to showing the traits listed earlier. Current celebrities in the music and comedy industry have been diagnosed with ADHD including Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Jack Nicholson, Howie Mandel, Vince Vaughn, Jim Carrey, Adam Levine, and Avril Lavigne. Music and comedy are related because they both require a “wandering” mind. For example, when writing music, most artists hear a tune in their head as opposed to focusing and formulating a tune. Their mind must be able to wander to follow the tune and the possible directions it may go. Similarly, comedians often find humor in obscure connections. need to think on the spot! They must have an active and wandering mind to make unexpected connections between topics and to "think on the fly" so to speak.



  1. I personally have ADD so it was extremely interesting to hear about how it effects children and creativity. For many years of my childhood I thought that having ADD had no benefits until I started realizing how much it attributed to my creative side and who I am. It is very easy o find your mind wandering, but the places it can go are often very interesting.

  2. This is really interesting. My brother has ADHD and I see a lot of these traits in him. He is super creative and talented musically. He takes medication for his ADHD for school, and I wonder if it dampens his musical creativity. When he's not taking the medicine, he's always humming or singing or tapping out beats. He does not do that nearly as much when he's on his medication. His focusing problem is interesting. Naturally he has problems focusing, but only when he's not interested in the subject. When he is invested in whatever he is doing or researching, he can sit and pay attention for hours. He researched musicians and musical theory for hours on end, but it can take him three hours to do one worksheet for school.


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