Medicating When It Is not Needed
Creativity is a complex and vast construct that has been vital to the progress of human civilization and the development of human reasoning processes. Indeed, the immense array of creative endeavors encompasses the works of such disparate activities as those undertaken by painters, sculptors, nuclear engineers, landscape architects, graphic designers, and software developers.
Sadly, many of the brightest, most creative children are misdiagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders such as ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, Bipolar Disorder or OCD. As a result, many often receive medication needlessly along with inappropriate and ineffective counseling.
Behavioral descriptions of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), including higher levels of spontaneous idea generation, mind wandering, daydreaming, sensation seeking, high energy, and impulsivity overlap many traits of creative personalities. Physicians, psychologist, counselors and parents are often unaware of characteristics of gifted children and adults that can mimic pathological diagnoses.
Research has supported the notion that people with ADHD characteristics are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement than people are without these characteristics. Results indicated that adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking on the verbal task of tests and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD. In addition, comparison of creative styles found that preference for idea generation was higher among ADHD participants, whereas preference for problem clarification and idea development was greater among non-ADHD participants. These findings have implications for real-world application of the creative styles of adults with and without ADHD.
Nine percent of children aged 5-17 years old are labeled ADHD on average per year, and placed in special education programs. However, data from The National Center for Learning Disabilities shows:
•Only 1 percent of students who receive IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Act) services are in gifted and talented education programs, compared to 7 percent of general education students.
•Students who receive IDEA services make up 12 percent of all high school students but are only 2 percent of students enrolled in an AP course.
The report concludes, students with learning and attention issues are shut out of gifted and AP programs, held back in grade level and suspended from school at higher rates than other students.
Every student deserves the room, the space, the opportunity to excel, the metaphorical equivalent of a desk of his or her own. Assessments of creativity are notably absent from most gifted and talented programs in this country. Instead of automatically putting children with ADHD characteristics in special education, a broader assessment should be conducted. Some of these children are talented kids who need room to be creative in order to excel in their studies.
Assessment could also allow students with ADHD characteristics to display their creative strengths, including divergent thinking, imagination, and hyperfocus (when interested). People with ADHD often are able to focus better when they are deeply engaged in an activity that is personally meaningful to them. This too would allow those who have ADHD to excel in particular areas, a chance to be the “smart one,” instead of being labeled as in need of special services.
Medicating a child is a serious matter with far reaching consequences. Our contemporary society often wants a quick fix, which is not necessarily the best choice for a children, but an easier solution for an overburdened school system and frustrated parents. Talk to a health care professional about concerns you may have about your child’s health. Never hesitate to get a second opinion when it comes to a diagnosis of ADHD in children.