Creativity, education and ADHD

Neurodivergent students are often asked to fit themselves into boxes. Here’s a bit of direction if it feels that the box doesn’t quite fit.

Graphic by Elle Dalsing

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting children and students. The neurodivergent disorder is commonly characterized by inattentive behavior and hyperactivity, though symptoms vary between cases. Despite the relative commonality of the disorder among students, many still struggle to succeed in the classroom. It’s easy to understand how difficulty focusing and proficiency in fidgeting could cause study sessions to be less productive.

While ADHD enacts a toll on every student with the disorder, students who utilize creativity in their studies face a unique set of challenges — firstly, untreated ADHD inhibits behaviors related to organization and planning. Any creator, writer, or painter can tell you that much of their best work stems from off-the-cuff improvisation. However, planning and outlining a project is still a massive aspect of the overall creative process. Artists who struggle to adequately outline their imaginative aspirations are forced to find different, creative solutions.

That isn’t to say that minds experiencing symptoms of ADHD are inferior to those without, far from it. Different, not better or worse. While it’s true that students with ADHD tend to struggle with schoolwork more so than others, such an impediment has less to do with the cognitive function of the students, and more to do with the foundational infrastructure of the educational system itself. This understanding ought to hold true not just for students with ADHD, but for all neurodivergent brains that operate differently from the typical mind. Different, not worse.

In fact, people with ADHD tend to exhibit high levels of passion and attention towards projects they feel particularly invested in, as well as higher-than-average levels of empathy towards people whom they care about. Additionally, people with dyslexia — a condition often considered to be solely obstructive — appear to perceive certain forms of visual information better than those without dyslexia.

Worried that you recognize yourself in this article? Fortunately, thanks to the recommendations of psychologists and experts in pedagogy, UVU has instituted programs to help neurodivergent students in their adaptation to typical educational systems. Indeed, the university offers an abundance of services intended to improve the mental health of its student body.

One such service provides in-house testing for ADHD and other learning disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder. Testing entails assessments that are always supervised by licensed psychologists. Due to current staffing, estimated waitlists are 6-7 months long for ADHD testing, and roughly 10 months for testing for other learning disorders. Find more details online at UVU’s website for student health, or visit the office directly in room SC-221.

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