Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Creativity and ADHD Part II

She slid around the corner of the bread isle in Vons - one hand on her hip, one straight up in the air, rock star style. In her self proclaimed over exaggerated, deep, sweaty, Bon Jovi voice she belted out, "Cause I'm wanted...wante-e-ed...dead or alive!"

She is 17.

Everybody turned to look, froze, and stared.  The butcher almost dropped his meat. A man with his young son in the cart, eyes wide as saucers, hastily moved on in an act of protection. 

When Casey Schwatz wrote ADHD's Upside is Creativity, Says New Study for The Daily Beast this might have been what she meant when she talked about a lack of inhibition.  I was reading her article; which talked about divergent thinking, creative problem solving and lack of inhibition - all aspects of ADHD - and their effect on creativity.  A flood of personal examples come to mind. So many that it is hard to choose which to write about.

Some are perfect examples of brilliance, some are a little scary, some are just funny, most are all of the above.  Maybe they are the good, the bad, and the extreme of life with ADHD.

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That same 17 year old, Mariah, that shocked the mild mannered shoppers in the grocery store is a musician and lyricist herself.  That same lack of inhibition or impulsiveness that would send her reeling around the corner in the super market allows her to create, sometimes instantaneously, a masterpiece of music and lyrics. This clip is only a little bit that will be in an upcoming movie.  There is no doubt in my mind that her impulsiveness transforms her creativity.  She speaks through her music.  I have watched it overtake her, an irresistible force that cannot be contained.  It is hard to describe, it is such an energetic and real experience.

 
Sometimes the speed at which this creative movement takes place is astounding.  I have watched people sit in awe as my oldest would carry on a conversation and draw at the same time. From scribble to detail in moments.  Her younger siblings all have fond memories of what they called "drawing stories."  She would sit and illustrate a story as she made it up and told it to them. The speed at which she creates, transforms her artistic ability to movement and emotion on paper.  It is not overly thought out.  It is simply expressed.  In fact, whether it is in her art or writing, when she does try to plan, the planning really becomes a stumbling block for her. Her inhibition or impulsiveness is her greatest tool.

This force of creativity and energetic thought fights for an expression.  Unanswered, this creative force, will fester and  like a balloon that is filled with too much air - it will eventually pop, emotionally and/or physically,  in one way or another.  I have seen that too. 

Some years ago my husband, Mark, started working on a children's story to express this very real ADHD experience of being overwhelmed by thoughts and ideas.  "Bean Pole McCoy was a regular boy - except for his really large head."  His head was so full of ideas that he could not manage them all.  His head grew and grew until it over took everything in his world.  You can see in Mark's illustration how these ideas and Bean Pole's growing head overshadow his whole world.  I know from listening to my Husband and all of my many ADHD children that this is a real and persistent struggle.

In addition to a lack of inhibition the article also talks about divergent thinking.  I am not at all sure that the term "thinking outside the box" even begins to describe the type of divergent thinking that is involved in ADHD.  I would say it is a perspective difference at its core.  I see it in a thought pattern that I cannot even follow or understand.  The intrinsic difference between the "why" thinker and the "why not" thinker.  Interestingly enough, it seems that my ADHDers all understand the perspective and train of thought that leads them while to me it takes a lot of work to get it, if I ever "get it" at all.

I thought this picture taken by my daughter, Mary, really illustrated that difference in perspective.  I would never think to take a picture over a person's shoulder, catching their candid expression in the side mirror of the van.  Then again, Mary rarely thinks of taking a picture strait on.  I would never see the sunset as Rachel sees it and think of tragic star crossed lovers cursed to only touch in that moment when twilight meets dusk.  I love it and I enjoy their perspective. I enjoy what is created when their divergent thinking, influenced by their lack of inhibition meets their talent.


There is not doubt in my mind that divergent thinking quickly leads to creative problem solving.  There is an element of creative brilliance hidden in some moments of ADHD problem solving.  I say hidden because you have to look past the initial shock value of some of these experiences to find the brilliance.

When Mary was about 4 her bedroom faced the street with a really huge window.  It had mini-blinds that we tried to keep closed so that people couldn't see into their room and because when the blinds were lifted up they left a very long cord hanging down.  Mary had already tried to make a tightrope with a bathrobe tie spanning from the bed to the crib.  We caught her mid air, as she took her first step onto it.  We did not want to see what she could do with a long dangling cord.

We told Mary that she would be in big trouble if she opened those blinds because it was dangerous.  We have always tried to explain the reasons behind rules - it seemed to make our children more invested in keeping them.  And she did keep the rule, she did not open those blinds again.  Imagine our shock, though, when we came in one morning to find a perfect square cut out of those metal mini-blinds with plastic pre-school scissors.  Her explanation was simple, "You told me to not pull up the blinds and I couldn't see out, so I cut a square to look out."  She solved the problem...creatively.

The good, the bad and the extremely ADHD.  What an adventure our lives are - certainly nothing I ever dreamed of when I thought of sunlit nurseries and raising children.  Then again, life is in the journey - isn't it - and isn't it the journey that shapes us. 

Our children have definitely shaped me, they stretch me as a parent and a person everyday.  We strive to shape them by helping them understand their brains and learn, as best they can, to manage that incredible instrument.  We try to feed their talents and give them the positive outlets they need to use their fast paced creative minds, their free thinking brains, to express the many ideas scrambling for a chance to come out.  We also try to teach them to filter and abandon the bad ones; but, that is very much a work in progress.


For example, When discussing how gross and disgusting the trash cans had become in the hot summer, Mariah, came up with a solution.  We don't pay the bill, they will collect the stinky things. Then we pay to restore service and they deliver fresh clean cans. 

Always a work in progress, always an adventure.

 * all ideas, art, photography and music in this post are the copyrighted property of their individual creators respectively: Mark Aro, Mariah Aro, Rachel Aro, Mary Aro.

** pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them

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