Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is ADHD Medication Killing Our Geniuses?

adhd genius
photo credit: ||-SAM Nasim-|| via photopin cc

It turns out my teenaged son has an above average IQ along with being a phenomenal writer and interpreter of information. I learned this while sitting with his teachers, counselors and the school psychologist as we discussed his lackluster academic performance. The psychologist asked if my son took the prescribed ADHD medication, and I said no. Incredulous and frustrated, this guy threw his hands up as he asked, "Why not?" In the most diplomatic fashion I could muster, I told him medication was not the answer, while I really wanted to just give him the finger. 

What if Einstein, Jobs or Davinci were medicated? It's hard to "think different" while doped up on the latest ADHD super drug. No wonder those with ADHD are 300% more likely to become entrepreneurs. Unable to find a suitable work environment, they go about creating their own.

The Creativity Killer

Medication suppresses one of the hallmarks of those with ADHD - creativity. In an effort to get them to face the blackboard, we destroy the unique genius that makes ADHD kids who they are.

shania twain quoteWhen JetBlue founder David Neeleman learned he had ADD, he was relieved to finally understand his struggles with school as a child. Yet, he refused medication for fear it would kill the creativity that helped him build three successful airlines. Imagine if Neeleman took these drugs during childhood. Perhaps today he would dawn a mask every morning as he pulls in to his dreaded cubicle.  Slowly dying inside as he tries to fit in to a world he does not belong. We would not know his name and there would be no JetBlue.

I can give many examples of successful entrepreneurs and executives with ADD and ADHD, but the larger issue is for us to understand the value of their genius.

Every human being is created with a unique gift, some of which are appreciated, while others take time to understand. Now try to envision a world where every gift or talent is something that requires fixing:

"I'm sorry Mrs. Jordan, but your son Michael jumps way too high. Oh, and the tongue thing is a distraction in gym class..."

"Mr. Picasso, we need Pablo to paint inside the lines, otherwise we will flunk him..."

"Mrs. Houston, Whitney sings in ranges far above the other girls. This medication will help with the problem and keep her within the acceptable norm. Then, she can fit in better!"

These made up quotes sound ludicrous but are they any more ludicrous than putting potential future founders or innovators on prescriptions in an attempt to make them "normal?" If we continue down this road, we will all miss out on the contributions these kids were created for.

An Appeal for Better Understanding 

Adults need to do a better job understanding these kids instead of medicating them in an attempt to force round pegs into square holes. Perhaps we should be their students for a while because we have a lot to learn from them. Most of all, let's learn to be more patient with them and with each other.

So, the next time the school psychologist suggest I put my son on genius killing medication, I will resist the temptation to give him the finger and instead politely direct him to this blog post.

My son at age 12 solving the Rubik's Cube with his eyes closed

Destroy this with medication? No thanks.

Godspeed. See you in The Players Lounge.

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