Creativity – the hidden superpower of ADHD
October is ADHD Awareness Month. Pea’s very own Co-founder, Claire, is a passionate advocate for ADHD – and even though (by her own admission) she’s not an expert, she’s written candidly about the topic in every medium, from social media to glossy magazines. Her experience and her knowledge have guided many of the principles that Pea was founded on.
Our mission with bedrooms from Pea? To inspire creativity. Everything we do is about giving children inspiring homes for their imaginations; personal spaces, where growing minds are free to explore and to dream without limitation. For children with ADHD, creativity is one of the most valuable, defining and powerful characteristics they possess.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: reframe it as creativity
Creativity is completely taken for granted, the education system has a tendency not to value it as much as academic subjects, but it’s what makes humans the most powerful beings in the universe. It’s what flew us to the moon, wrote every book and song – it’s what made the device you’re reading this on.
Our mastery of creativity separates us from every other animal on the planet. Some animals might use tools, but only humans design them. Birds might sing, but humans develop rich harmony. Yet we still take our defining, most powerful feature for granted.
Inside children (and adults) with ADHD is a well of creativity, which, when unleashed brings, calm, happiness and crucially self-esteem.
Through creativity, children with ADHD can find calm, focus and flow – traits that most would never associate with the terms “attention deficit” or “hyperactivity”.
The calming effect of creativity comes from the inherent curiosity and insatiable craving for stimulation that ADHD gives an individual. Creativity is novel and often unexpected, and that’s highly stimulating.
That constant novelty leads to unusually high levels of engagement that can last for hours on end known as hyperfocus.
In a neurotypical person, the general flow of day-to-day life is usually enough to keep their brains engaged, interested and focused. Starting and completing tasks – even if they’re not that interesting to them – is achievable without much struggle.But repetitive and expected outcomes don’t stimulate the mind in someone with ADHD. This brain wants to explore the limits and every possibility. It doesn’t want to do the expected things – and that can make starting and sticking to everyday activities harder than it is for neurotypical people.
Creative activities that an individual with ADHD has a profound interest in, have the exact opposite effect, though. They’re easy to start and to stick with – because the rewards are instant and long-lasting.
And this is so important, because it builds confidence. They find something they’re good at and that they love to do. In children with ADHD who don’t have a diagnosis, or adequate support, the constant reigning in of behaviours and hearing their name followed by “STOP!”and “NO!” can wear their confidence and self-esteem down.
Even with those who have been diagnosed, it is estimated that children with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages by the age of 12, than neurotypical children.
Creativity positively provides a safe space for exploration, without limits or reigns. It should absolutely be encouraged in all children – but especially those with
A brain wired for novel approaches to problems.
All children are natural born explorers, but the ADHD brain tends towards exploring in novel, impulsive and risk-taking ways. But it’s precisely the willingness to take risks, the ability to make unexpected connections with innovative thinking, that leads to discovery.
As leading ADHD authority Dr Ned Hallowell says, “what is creativity after all, but impulsivity gone right!?”.
Maybe that’s why so many prominent leaders in business, arts and entertainment have ADHD. Maybe it’s a hallmark of those who dare to approach tried and tested solutions – and succeed with such enviable style.
While the human brain can be wired in an infinite number of ways, ADHD brains are neurologically different to the rest and have certain attributes. It’s way more complex than this – but the prefrontal cortex, which controls attention, and the limbic system, which controls emotion, are different in people with ADHD.`
The very things that make those with ADHD disorganised and unfocused, also lead to insatiable creativity, often with astonishing results.
It is believed that Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso, and Leonardo da Vinci, had ADHD. Today, we know that Michael Jordan, Erin Brockovich, Will.i.am, Emma Watson, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Richard Branson, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Justin Timberlake, Dave Grohl, and Jamie Oliver have been diagnosed with ADHD. The list goes on. All of these people have changed the world with their novelty of thought and creativity. All of them have or had ADHD. The outliers of society will always be the ones who push it forward.
But, of course, these are the luckiest ones. The ones who were understood, nurtured and got to keep their self-esteem and sense of wonder intact.
The assumption that the ADHD brain is a one-size-fits-all set of characteristics, and that these characteristics are inherently disruptive is not true. Not at all. Worse still, these behaviours – which are usually just emotional explosions from an overworked limbic system, made to do what it doesn't want to – get labels. Awful labels.
Disruptive, oppositional and naughty.
There’s no such thing as a naughty child. No, really – there’s not. There are only children who don’t fit in with the expectations of a society (or indeed a classroom).
Something that isn’t their fault and is damaging in the long term if we expect them to be something they are not. As Albert Einstein remined us when he said: “Everyone’s a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Children with ADHD can’t follow the rules instilled in us from childhood: sit still, pay attention, be quiet – we all live with some variation of these words echoing in distant memory.
Maybe a child with a brain wired for novelty, needs a novel way of being raised, too. Maybe we, as parents, need to liberate ourselves from the old ways of doing things. Just because it was that way for us, doesn’t mean it needs to be the same for them.
Bedrooms that inspire creativity
Give them a bedroom that inspires creativity. Discover themed bedrooms from Pea – and build a world of imagination.