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ADHD and Creativity: Thinking Outside of the Box

In my practice as a clinical neuropsychologist, the word I hear most often to describe children, adolescents, and young adults with ADHD is “inconsistency”.  While able to accomplish difficult and complex tasks one day, parents and teachers of children with ADHD are frequently frustrated by their child or student’s trouble completing similar, or even easier tasks, the next.   In the past few decades, researchers in neuroscience have attempted to better understand this lack of consistency in how children and adults with ADHD process information.    Findings in many of these studies have identified weaknesses in organization, time management, and ability to filter out distractions as just a few of the difficulties that contribute to this inconsistency.

In the past year or two, however, some researchers have begun shifting their focus away from the information processing deficits associated with ADHD to other neuropsychological differences in the brains of individuals with ADHD that may actually enhance their learning.  The study below, published just last year, found that college-age adults with ADHD actually performed BETTER on measures of creativity and ability to think of solutions to problems in unconventional ways.

What I found to be the most revealing piece of this study, however, was that the researchers noted that their sample of subjects were college-aged individuals with ADHD who had almost certainly been well supported by their families and school environments for many years in order to be able to to overcome the “inconsistency” of ADHD and demonstrate their creative strengths.   As a clinician, these findings for me validate the need for children and adolescents with ADHD to receive appropriate and consistently implemented accommodations and instructional supports in their early years, so that they can demonstrate their full potential – consistently.


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