What if ADD and dyslexia are not disabilities?  What if they are actually abilities and only labeled as such because the “normal” (neuro-typical) brain is in greater abundance and simply does not understand the spatial nature of a dyslexic mind nor speed of a brain with ADD?

ADD’ers and dyslexics are non-linear, intuitive learners who process information a thousand (some say thousands) of times faster than a neuro-typical person, because they think in images rather than words.  (One of the biggest difficulties with dyslexia where reading is concerned is that they have trouble processing words that do not relate to an image.  Is, or, the, and, but, if…are often substituted for each other as they have no picture associated with them.) People with ADD and dyslexia are both right brained thinkers who can easily establish complex connections and patterns without much conscious effort at all. Despite popular belief, people with ADD are actually able to focus intensely on a subject for great lengths of time, IF they find the subject compelling enough to shut out the distractions they are acutely aware of, all around them.

ADD and dyslexia are not diseases, they are differences in the way the brain processes information and the parts of the brain used to process information.  People with ADD and dyslexia are not sick, their brains just work differently. A psychiatrist explained it to me this way.  The ADD brain is actually older, from an evolutionary standpoint, than the neuro-typical brain.  When we were hunter gatherers the ADD brain was necessary for survival, noticing everything at once, hyper alert, able to zero in on and focus on a singular detail in the environment.  When we moved as a species from hunting to agriculture, the executive functions of the brain began to evolve.  Executive functions deal with planning, verbal reasoning, inhibition, etc. The linear thinking mind became a distinct advantage in planning crop planting times and rotations for example.

It seems to me, the neuro-typical brain is in greater abundance, because it was genetically beneficial…at the time.  But, what about now?  Is evolution beginning to favor the older right thinking brain?

Computers “learn” the same way people with ADD and dyslexia learn, intuitively.  In addition, dyslexics are able to construct three dimensional images in their heads.  These abilities make both the ADD’er and the dyslexic uncommonly good with computers.  As computers and visual communication become more and more relevant in our fast paced world, will dyslexics and people with ADD have a leg up?

Further, is the ADD / dyslexic mind closer to knowing itself?  Free of inhibition, to a greater degree than the neuro-typical mind, and the nay saying rationale of executive function, is the right thinking brain more open to greater truths about itself and the world at large?

I was reading a friend’s blog the other day and stumbled across this quote by Jung relating to dreams:

The evolutionary stratification of the psyche is more clearly discernible in the dream than in the conscious mind. In the dream the psyche speaks in images, and gives expression to instincts that derive from the primitive levels of nature. Therefore, through the assimilation of unconscious contents, the momentary life of consciousness can once more be brought into harmony with the law of nature…and the person can be led back to the natural law of his own being. JUNG – CW 16 para 351

According to Jung, the person with ADD / dyslexia speaks the same language as the human psyche.  Wouldn’t it be easier to “be led back to the natural law” if we understood the language in which the law was written?

We are forever told to “live in the now” in order to be happy.  “Now” is the default home of the ADD / dyslexic mind.  Past and future are rather abstract concepts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am married to a man who can close his eyes and picture a room in three dimensions, then spin it around in his mind’s eye and inspect it from different angles.  I have given birth to a child who argued with his sixth grade teacher that the cardinal directions of Earth are meaningless in outer space, (for which he was punished and belittled in front of his classmates).  Our two other children are like me, with higher verbal function, but disorganized and with a propensity for tuning out the world around us, and becoming lost in our own thoughts. All of us in this house are drawn to the arts, and all of us have ADD and dyslexia, to greater or lesser extents.  Two of us were labeled “gifted”, one of us slipped through the cracks completely, and the other two were labeled “learning disabled”.  Do we sound learning disabled to you?

The educational system has failed us.  All of us really, right brainers and neuro-typicals alike.  It is particularly difficult though, for those who simply can not obey the commands of sit down and shut up.  Is this the best way to teach our children anyway, or is an interactive learning experience better for them?

I’d like to share with you a list of people known to have ADD and or dyslexia.  What would the world be like had we medicated them in an effort to make them the same as everyone else?  What if we had drugged them so that they might focus on what society deemed important?  What if they had not been allowed to look inside their own magnificent heads and explore what interested them?

Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winston Churchill, Edgar Allen Poe, John F. Kennedy, Vincent Van Gogh, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Benjamin Franklin, Malcolm Forbes, Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Ted Turner, Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo Da Vinci, Stephen Hawking, Leo Tolstoy, and Louis Pasteur to name but a few.  Do they strike you as learning disabled?  Abnormal…in a negative sense?

I am left thinking of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron”:

I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.  Good as anybody else, said George.  Who knows better’n I do what normal is? said Hazel.

Normal, abnormal, able, disabled?  You tell me.

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  1. M Gregory says:

    Awesome article as usual :) will definitely share.

  2. S. Conde says:

    So glad you enjoyed it.  Thanks!S

  3. Leanne Penny says:

    This article is making me smile on a soul-level this morning as I have spent all week contemplating mine and my daughter’s ADD and what to do to help us thrive.

  4. S. Conde says:

    I am SO glad to hear that!  Here’s one from me to you. :)S

  5. Myra says:

    Great article, very empowering. However, I feel that ADD tends to present itself so uniquely to each individual. For some, it can be gift- if they can channel it properly, and find enough motivation and consistency within themselves to use their gift in a positive and productive way. For others, including myself- I have lived my life being so inconsistent, scatterbrained and forgetful, that it has caused much difficulty in my life. I have no concept of time, which makes me chronically late- and has caused me to be fired from my job more than once, to say the least. I have a lack of motivation to do the things that need to get done (prioritizing), that may not be very stimulating to me or cause me anxiety (like paying bills on time, making phone calls, etc)… I tend to put those things off, and forget about them :/And that is what is the most problematic for me- my forgetfulness. After giving birth to my first born, I realized that at times I would forget to feed him on time, I had no consistent routine for him, and if I became hyper-focsed on something on the computer, I would be neglecting him by not giving him the attention and priority he deserves. It terrified me and made me feel horrible as a mother, and that is what made me start taking medication 3 years ago- when I was 28. I was no longer responsible for only myself… now I needed to be responsible for another human being who was entirely dependent on me for survival and a nurturing upbringing… I had somehow managed to “get by” my entire life, being extremely talented and bright, but nothing to show for it because of poor execution skills. All throughout school and college, I struggled with my grades and repeated classes… even my social life was pretty much non-existent, due to social awkwardness and inability to pick up on social cues appropriately. I had such a low self-esteem and felt like I was good for nothing… a failure, who could only be consistent in disappointing and under achieving.What good are all those “gifts”, if you don’t have the ability or tools to actually do anything with them? My point is, for some people with severe ADD, I believe that medication can provide the “push” and motivation required to put our thoughts and ideas into action. Others may be lucky enough to thrive and be happy and fulfilled without it. Medication should always be a last resort, because they are never without side effects… but one should never give up the struggle to be the best version of themselves, don’t succumb to complacency, and always keep trying. 

  6. Kristine says:

    Amen! You highlight an issue I struggle with daily as I medicate a child so he can “fit into” an educational system that is not designed for him. No better alternative yet–but I have a feeling when we look back, that we’ll realize we weren’t evolved enough to get that these kids come to the forefront now for a reason.

  7. Marci says:

    Interesting read. I’m dyslexic, not ADD. I’m in a multi generational study on dyslexia as my dad and little sister are dyslexic as well, all of varying types and degrees. this is the first time I’ve read about the similarities between dyslexia and ADD, so thanks for the intel!

  8. MPN says:

    Appreciate the “shout out”.  Those in the minority rarely have a voice.  I appreciate that you took the time.  When I try to explain this to people, I am left with a blank stare.  I’ve become used to it and have taken up knitting as a compromise.  Gotta focus on things I can impact!  : )Keep on!  xo

  9. Anonymous says:

    I apologize to the last four of you, I didn’t see your comments until just now.Myra, you, me, my husband and at least two of my children have a lot in common.  Speaking for myself, I relate to your struggles very well.  I should make it clear that I am very pro- people doing what they feel is right for them.  My issues are mostly with medicating children.  Unfortunately, it has been my experience that it’s all too often the immediate  reaction, when, especially starting at an early age, a variety of learning strategies can be used to help US overcome some of the difficulties we face.  Ultimately, we all must do what works for us.  Period the end.  :)  Kristine, you may be right.LOL, Marci!  Happy to provide any intel I can.MPN, knit on, knit on!  It was my pleasure…born of my own frustration. I’ve just had yet another in a series of talks with one of my children regarding “tricks” he can use to stay on task.  It’s exhausting, for both of us.  I get it, but these little habits are so helpful in actually getting things done.  I used to manage over 100 accounts across South Florida and the Caribbean.  The only way I could remember who needed what, where, and when, was to write myself post it notes and stick them all over my desk and dashboard (spent a lot of time on the road) as the calls came in.  Once I’d complete a request, I’d throw away the corresponding note.  I looked like a lunatic driving down the street with all those little papers flapping in the wind, but it worked for me, and that’ all that matters.oxox, wishing you all so much love, luck and strength in our daily battles with organization and memory.S

  10. Fionnuala says:

    I have always had a real interest in ADD and Dyslexia, although never properly diagnosed because of the expense costs to get diagnosed I am sure I have ADD. And like Myra I also struggle to be organised. My whole family have problems with reading and Writting. In school I was aw to memorise things until about seven, then things began not to make so much sense, words would jump off the page when I read and I had huge difficulty keeping up with class. Secondary school was a night mare, the constant changing of classes was too confusing for me. I always forgot to write my homework down and do it. I just thought I was stupid. At the age of 15 I had the reading ability of a young child and my history teacher had great delight in telling me so.

    But my gift was not art, although the rest of my family were very gifted this was. My was that I could think differently than other people, I get brilliant ideas, but unfortunately have great difficulty getting them done.

    I passed my leaving certain because my mother paid for every extra tuition she could, and I went on to study Montessori teaching, through learning sandpaper letters I myself learned to read. And things finally started to make sense. However, I could not pass a ten minute grammar exam, dispite doing the exam 5 times.

    Like Myra low self esteem set in, I thought I was a failure, I changed careers and worked in admin, it began to happen at work too, I was always told I was a great worker but just not as fast as everyone else, my note taking was terrible. More low self esteem.

    In my twenties I was determined to change my situation and go back to college, I did two detach, a degree, and a postgraduate I still struggle with paper work today. Like Myra it’s organising myself. I use mind maps and lists to help me, I make daily and weekly and monthly plans, and ironically that’s what I do for a living, I am a life coach and help people to rake the steps in life even when it’s hard.

    I myself refused to be medicated, although was advised by my college doctor who was the first to say, I most probably had Add. But I do take gin chia which is a herbal product that helps keep my find focused and fish oils which are excellent for the brain.

    Medication can help, but we also need alternatives, people need options.

  11. S Conde says:

    Fionnuala,Your story, happily, is not uncommon.  I say happily because it represents the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.  In order for any/all of us to deal with difficulties of any sort successfully in our lives, that element of “I will not give up” must exist.  Congratulations.  Of course, I lament the the trials you have faced and especially the teacher who took delight in making you feel less than.  In the end though, you scored a victory for yourself and your self esteem.  I hope you see it that way.Meanwhile, I came across this article on Twitter and wanted to share it here for all. http://www.worldpublicunion.org/2013-03-27-NEWS-inventor-of-adhd-says-adhd-is-a-fictitious-disease.htmlInterested in your thoughts.  I have long said ADHD is not a disease, only a difference is the function of the brain.  Do you agree?S

  12. bertie says:

    Your article has been most helpful – the one size fits all “syndrome” is definatly related to the way society is organised these days. As time goes by there is less and less room for individuals as “systems” take over.There are so many little things that upset natural rythms – we forget that we have a built in clock for instance, every time it is changed “for our benefit” we have to reset that, in fact there are many things which affect us in similar ways that it is no wonder that many find it difficult to function.Mankind has and still is barbaric in many ways – let us hope that “witch burning” never comes back.

  13. S. Conde says:

    I am very sorry to say, in many cultures, witch burning never left.S

  14. Wow this was interesting!I was told my oldest (7) has a mild ADD and she is a great learner and reader even if other times she is all over the place when she reads she loves it so much she is actually still.This was a great read thank you!

  15. [...] What if ADD and dyslexia are not disabilities? What if they are actually abilities and only labeled as such because the "normal" (neuro-typical) brain is in g (How should we be really looking at ADD & dyslexia?  [...]

  16. [...] What if ADD and dyslexia are not disabilities? What if they are actually abilities and only labeled as such because the "normal" (neuro-typical) brain is in g (RT @Soulseedzforall: #Drugging #Einstein, an article on ADD and dyslexia.  [...]

  17. Ted says:

    Thank you for the article. As a dyslexic I see the point you are making and which it were wider knowledge. There are, however,  a few inaccuracies,  I’m not pointing them out as critism but merely I want to help strengthen your points. Firstly the idea that there are right and left ‘brain’ people is a myth which any decent psychologist will tell you. There is a interesting article here..http://m.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-myths/201206/why-the-left-brain-right-brain-myth-will-probably-never-dieI'm also afraid that the evidence that Einsein was dyslexic is extremely weak. He was a very capable studenshowed achieved well.  Although some of his teachers did report him as a ‘day dreamer’ , this could easily point to a bored student as much as a dyslexic/add.  Along with this there is only circumstantial evidence for many of the historical figures you pointed out.  Although it would be nice if theory were dyslexic in order to reinforce your point, due to this lack of evidence  your point becomes weaker.  Many thanks again for the article. Sorry if I sound harsh.

  18. Amroke says:

    Every personi have known with add/ADHD/dyslexia  and manic depression are extremely intelligent. I often wonder if they are troubled because they have so much more information coming in and out than the average person that they can’t process it all at one time.  Same idea with autism. 

  19. bertie says:

    must admit to having problems with information input – but i am also able to use it well.I am a  surprised to find how little information the average person has – even more suprrised to find that they need to go to school(or university) to learn it.I have very few basic school qualifications – but i was on a team that wrote a uk state exam.Perhaps its about interest ? 

  20. This is information that Windy Row tries to instill every day in our students and in the community at large. It is possible for children with dyslexia to learn to read–which helps them tremendously and is the mission of Windy Row–and it is also absolutely necessary to recognize their creativity and intelligence, the skills that lead them to become artists and entrepreneurs at a far greater rate than the general population.

  21. [...] What if ADD and dyslexia are not disabilities? ADD and dyslexia are not diseases, they are differences in the way the brain processes information and the parts of the brain used to process information. People with ADD and dyslexia are not sick, their brains just work differently. A psychiatrist explained it to me this way. The ADD brain is actually older, from an evolutionary standpoint, than the neuro-typical brain. When we were hunter gatherers the ADD brain was necessary for survival, noticing everything at once, hyper alert, able to zero in on and focus on a singular detail in the environment. When we moved as a species from hunting to agriculture, the executive functions of the brain began to evolve. Executive functions deal with planning, verbal reasoning, inhibition, etc. The linear thinking mind became a distinct advantage in planning crop planting times and rotations for example."  [...]

  22. Shula says:

    Excellent article and very good points.  There is one thing missing however …. and that is that these very same people who are so gifted are also very vulnerable to environmental toxins.  While Einstein and all the others may not have accomplished their great works if they had been on Ritalin … they would also not have accomplished them if they had been eating Fruit Loops or Blue Oatmeal for breakfast.   How do I know that they weren’t?  Simply because those things were not in the normal diet in their day.  The huge number of food dyes, flavorings, and petrochemical preservatives were not really introduced into the modern diet until the late 1950s and 1960s … about the same time as the epidemic of hyperactivity/ADHD emerged.  If you want your ADHD, Asperger, or for that matter, your neurotypical child to accomplish what he is capable of, feed him real food.  There are two good ways to do this … you can go Paleolithic and eat what we were intended to eat during our development as humans, or you can use the Feingold Diet which is a good compromise in which the worst of the additives are removed from a “normal” modern diet, using the Feingold Association’s help and ongoing product research.  No, unfortunately, you can’t depend on reading labels for this.

  23. Teach says:

    Speaking as someone with ADD and who deals with children daily I agree with the way the article explains the brain.  I do however feel that in some cases, and definitely not all, medication is necessary. We have to think of the other students in the classroom who also need to focus and find some behaviours of a child with ADD disruptive. I have had classes that suffered because the behaviours were uncontrollable, even with appropriate discipline and many hands-on and stimulating activities.  As far as the child with ADD goes, many feel better on meds.  One child said she ‘can think one thought at a time’ and felt better once on the proper medication. Many children who are not given the proper meds end up self-medicating as adults and teens, trying to find normalcy for them.  ADD is over diagnosed, but it is real and should be addressed.

  24. Barbara says:

    I cried and cried and cried 40 years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia….but what I discovered was that she simply developed other skills to a higher degree than most….
    Me, I read a lot, but she LISTENS … she really hears others!
    Me, I lived in the world of books, but she lives actively WITH people…she has never met a stranger.
    Me, I laughed or cried with fictional people, she laughs or crys with YOU!
    Me, Learning came pretty easy, but she had to work at it, and learned to get serious about learning and living long, long before I did, she learned not to think everything would be easy, she learned to be resourceful.
    My friends were books, hers were teachers, mentors, friends, colleagues…PEOPLE!

    My tears were silly. Life may close some doors for you or your child, but search all the wonderful paths that God has provided!

  25. […] What if ADD and dyslexia are not disabilities?  […]

  26. Sommer says:

    I loved your article, it makes so much sense. I have ADD and dyscalculua( dyslexic with numbers or directions) and I never felt dumb or stupid or that I had a disability. I’m also a very spiritual person and everyone tells me they’ve never met anyone like me and I do feel different from most people I’m surrounded by. So I’m going to confirm your article as truth. 

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