Creative Problem Solving and ADD

Creative Problem Solving and ADD
My husband is fond of saying, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" I believe that few people expect the creative problem solving that can be part of having Attention Deficit Disorder. Recently, a student in my class was sitting at my computer, and I wanted him to move to a student desk. "Find a student desk and sit there," was what I told him, fully expecting him to get up and move. Instead, he grabbed a desk and moved it up to the chair where he was sitting. Did he do what I asked? Indeed, he did! Was it what I expected him to do? Nope! It was an example of what I call "ADD problem solving."

A fact sheet from NICHY (The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities) states that one of the hallmarks of executive function difficulties in Attention Deficit Disorder is "weak problem solving." While some people, with or without ADD, do have issues with problem solving, many people with ADD just solve problems in a different and creative way. Researchers have shown that folks with Attention Deficit Disorder think creatively and outside the box when it comes to solving problems.

Three different studies have found that people with Attention Deficit Disorder have higher levels of certain types of creative thinking than the control groups that did not have ADD. Studies in 2006 and 2011 showed that people with ADD scored higher on divergent thinking. Measures of creativity showed that the folks with ADD could overcome constraints and "think outside of the box" when they needed to use creativity. People with ADD also scored higher on original creativity and creative achievement.

Students in classrooms and workers on the job often find themselves in trouble because they don't complete tasks in the same manner that most other people do. Nobody expects the types of solutions that they find to solve the tasks that they have been given. Instead of Plan A and Plan B, the person with ADD will jump straight to Plan G or Plan Z!

What does this mean to you? Sometimes people will be flabbergasted at the way you solve a problem. That's because they had preconceived ideas about how that puzzle should be solved. Instead, you have an innovative solution, one that they just never considered. It is up to you to show them how well your solution works. At our house, the squirrels get at least half of our bird seed from the feeders. They are creative about it!

Don't let your creative problem solving be downgraded because it is a novel outcome. Remember, your outcome may look different, but the end result is the same. Problem solved—with your unique, creative stamp on it!


Abraham, A., Windmann, S., Siefen, R., Daum, I., and Güntürkün, O. (2006). Creative thinking in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Child Neuropsychology 12(2): 111-123.

White, H.A., and Shah, P. (2011). Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Personality and Individual Differences (50)5: 673-677.

White, H.A., and Shaw, P. (2006). Uninhibited imaginations: Creativity in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Personality and Individual Differences 40(6): 1121-1131.

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