ADD/ADHD: Making Something Out of Nothing

                            ADD/ADHD:  Making Something Out of Nothing.                                                          Randy W. Green, Ph.D.                                                  "All that we do is done with an eye to something else."                                                                                  Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
Have you or your child been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD?  You are hardly alone; millions of Kids today --and many adults who grew up never having heard of "ADD"-- are being "diagnosed" with this "illness."  It might surprise you to know you are in good company.  Do you know how many famous people have either exhibited characteristics associated with ADD/ADHD, or were actually diagnosed with it?  Here is a brief list of some of those. Feel free to count them if you'd like! 
Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Jules Verne, Alexander Graham Bell, Woodrow Wilson, Hans Christian Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mariel Hemingway, Steve Mc Queen, George C. Scott, Tom Smothers, Suzanne Somers, George Bernard Shaw, Beethoven, Carl Lewis, "Magic" Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, Thomas Edison, General George Patton, Agatha Christie, John F. Kennedy, Whoopi Goldberg, Dustin Hoffman, Pete Rose, Jason Kidd, Robin Williams, Louis Pasteur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert Kennedy, George Bush's children, Prince Charles, Galileo, Tom Cruise, Charles Schwaab, Henry Winkler, Danny Glover, Walt Disney, John Lennon, Winston Churchill, Henry Ford and Nelson Rockefeller.
What do all these people have in common with you, other than defined ADD/ADHD characteristics and perhaps a "diagnosis?"  According to Thomas Hartmann, Beyond ADD, people who possess characteristics associated with ADD/ADHD are driven to achieve a sensation of "aliveness."  This urge, according to Hartmann, is so visceral; they are willing to forego safety, approval and even relationships for the privilege of attaining this experience. This is a novelty-seeking stimulation, often through the visual and kinesthetic channels that drives them deeper into an "open awareness" state; a way of experiencing the world that often leads to creative expression!
But is there a way of acknowledging the creative urges of ADD/ADHD children while still encouraging them to embrace safety, relationships and attending to required tasks? Surely, putting that which is novel to work is equally as important as creating-- especially for children in school. "Ideas don’t build mountains, bulldozers do. Ideas simply show the bulldozers where to dig."
There are basically two kinds of attending states that are controlled by the frontal lobes of our brain: A Focused State, in which attention is directed at a single task or event for extended periods to achieve a purpose, and an Open Awareness State, characterized by attending to many details in the environment simultaneously. The former is the goal of any ADD/ADHD treatment regimen, as this type of attention represents school performance, among other things.  In contrast, an open awareness state, which occurs when playing sports, driving, or in other contexts requiring attention to the interplay among several events, characterizes those identified with ADD/ADHD.  Both attending states are important in our lives.  Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulants such as "Ritalin", applied to ADD/ADHD children, tends to force a "sort" for focused awareness, thereby increasing "on-task" behavior as defined by teachers and parents.  Over time, the administration of drugs can inhibit the body's natural ability to shift between these two states of awareness and that could cause a problem when an "open" state is required, such as when driving or playing a sport.  Imagine, for example that while driving your car, being so focused on one detail-- such as rehearsing a work presentation or reviewing test material-- that you could conceivably miss someone having slammed on his brakes in front of you!  Or if you are a child, imagine doing something similar while standing in the outfield after someone has just hit a fly ball to you! 
It is the trait of constantly shifting points of view, characteristic of an "open awareness" state that leads to creativity. An ADD/ADHD child’s "visual" sensory channel is frequently scanning the environment for stimulation—or perhaps, as Hartmann pointed out, to achieve a sense of aliveness!  As a result, this individual gains insight by seeing unexpected things where others see only the obvious; or, at times, by discovering the unexpected within the obvious!  This latter point may explain the uncanny ability to find something that had been missing, often right "under someone’s nose", so-to-speak!  This is also the state that has frequently given birth to ingenuity, as evidenced by the accomplishments or inventions of those aforementioned individuals above.  In the course of openly scanning the environment for what’s there, something else becomes noticed and seems to "fit" somewhere, unexpected; thus the dawn of "making something out of nothing!" 
In addressing ADD/ADHD Kids (or adults), recall that the first place all behavior shows up is in the body. As is the case with acting or feeling demoralized or inferior, there is a corresponding somatic form for "noticing the unexpected"; in general, behaving creatively. And it can be identified by paying attention to what someone does inside when he is simply scanning in the open awareness state. This becomes a positive and potent foundation on which to build an enthusiasm for learning the kinds of skills and information that to this point has been challenging for the ADD/ADHD child. After all, how many times do Kids lose points on tests for failing to have "noticed" something from a text book; or for not having grasped—then successfully applied a particular concept or example?
So how does a parent or teacher sustain this creative, receptive way of being through time? Be sure to be here again, next time…
  Dr. Randy W. Green is a NYS Licensed Psychologist, Consultant, Educator   and Author who conducts private practices in Mt. Kisco & Hopewell Junction, NY.        Contact him at: 845-226-2356, or visit him on line at: or