ADHD Can Serve a Purpose

I just read a "60 Second Science" article from Scientific American titled ADHD Genetics Sometimes Beneficial:

If evolution weeds out detrimental traits, why do some seem to stick around? Well, what’s bad in our current environment may have been good in the conditions under which we evolved. New research indicates that even the tendency toward attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may have been beneficial under the right circumstances. The study was published this week in BioMed Central. 

In it, they talk about a study done of two tribes of still followed a nomadic lifestyle and one had settled down in villages. The adult males who had an ADHD-associated gene were studied. In the nomadic group, these males were better nourished. In the village group, they were less fit. The article concludes with this quote:

A boy with this allele might more effectively defend livestock or locate food and water sources. But maybe he wouldn’t do so well at farming ­or sitting in a classroom.

 I find this very interesting. My kids do not have ADHD, but according to Jeffrey Freed (author of Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World) just about all ADHD kids are right-brained. And having an environment ill-suited to their strengths is something that right-brained kids, ADHD or not, often face in school.

What this study seems to point out (at least to me) is that instead of looking at ADHD kids as having "something wrong that needs to be fixed", we should be looking at how they are being taught and whether their environment suits their needs.  Our culture, especially in the early years of education, values left-brained strengths...reading, writing, memorization of math facts. And kids who don't fall into this model of "normal" are given labels and "accommodations" and often struggle in school.

This struggle is not because of any inherent pathology with the child, but rather results from a problem with the learning environment.  The problem is not the child! Yet, too often, the message that the child gets is that there is something wrong with him/her.

Of course there are always those who say that kids have to "get used to it" and that we shouldn't shelter kids because they have to live in the real world. But does teaching a child in a way counter to how they learn really teach them anything besides "you are dumb?" Wouldn't focusing on their strengths and valuing their talents while helping them recognize their weaknesses make much better sense and result in kids who are more confident and know themselves better?

A little while back I read an article called Tracing Business Acumen to Dyslexia about a study that showed that there was a higher than expected number of dyslexics who go on to own their own businesses. I found it interesting that even in this article, instead of just highlighting the strengths of dyslexics, they couched it as "compensating" for their weaknesses. It is also very telling that most of the entrepreneurs interviewed talked about how they had low self-esteem as a child. I found myself reading quite a bit between the lines in this article.

And here is another article, The ADHD Entrepreneur, which compares ADHD traits to those of successful entrepreneurs and finds remarkable similarities.

 Luckily, homeschooling allows us to value our children's strengths and natural timetables. Instead of seeing our children as "needing to be fixed" to fit into a society-defined view of "normal", we can better nurture their talents. Yes, our kids will struggle with some things, just like everyone else. But we can help them put these struggles into perspective and find ways to minimize them. Their struggles do not have to be the main focus and do not have to define who they are.

Makes sense, doesn't it?