The Genius of ADHD

“ADHD makes me creative. I love building games and building stuff. I’ve been like that ever since I was little. I started with big blocks and now I’m pretty much just into video games. I’m also really good at Math. I have very creative ways to get answers. I also think of creative strategies to do stuff. My brain goes really fast, it just can’t function in school. I really understand other kids that have ADHD or other problems. I know they’re good people and I care about them alot and want to help them.” – Jason, 9 years old

If you consider the stereotypical “creative type” and “absent minded genius” they are characterized by being disorganized, hyper focused, having inconsistent personal lives, social difficulties, intensity, and impulsivity.  People with ADHD have a high sense of creativity and are definitely not limited to “the box.”  They tend to be unconventional in their thinking patterns, perceptions, and their experience of the world is from a different perspective allowing them to see possibilities that others miss.  Their ability to hyperfocus is a trait that they are able to leverage to their advantage and pushes their talents to a heightened level.  Their energy can also be an asset, particularly in sports such as in the case of Michael Phelps, U.S. Olympic Swimmer and ADHDer.

It has often been claimed that many of the world’s geniuses had ADHD, such as Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, both brilliant, innovative, and energetic.  We can’t have a reliable diagnosis of historical figures however psychologists and historians draw reasonable conclusions based on accounts of the person’s life.  For example, it is well documented that Leonardo da Vinci was restless, had erratic sleeping patterns, an inconsistent personal life, and was held back professionally by a lack of organization and reliability with clients.  Others that worked with him such as Marcantonio Della Torre shared similar concerns about his inability to finish projects but recognized that it was in part due to his hyperfocus on his art. Marcantonio Della Torre said that DaVinci possessed an attention to detail that was so singular it impeded his ability to finish projects.  Da Vinci shared about his difficulty with time management and focus in his journal when he wrote, “It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end”.  His creative masterpiece, “The Mona Lisa” took him four years to paint.  Although Leonardo da Vinci has been immortalized by his legacy of creative genius, in his lifetime his inconsistencies cost him the respect of his clients.

“Pope Leone X employed Leonardo in 1514 but frustration took hold of the Pope’s heart when he noticed Leonardo’s inability to attend to his duties. In desperation, Leone X exclaimed: ‘Alas! this man will never do anything, for he begins by thinking of the end of the work, before the beginning’ (Vasari, 1996) Leonardo’s presence in the Vatican lasted less than 3 years” (Catani, M., & Mazzarello, 2019).” 

A more modern example would be Dav Pilkey who has ADHD and is the author of several popular children’s books, including the “Captain Underpants” series. Dav began writing this series in the second grade while sitting in the hall for his disruptive behavior in class. His writing is wildly popular with children and with his creative genius he has been a trailblazer in the genre of graphic novels for kids. I smile when I see Jason enjoying his books. Ironically they hold his attention far longer than other books. []

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