Children with ADD have special challenges. They’re easily distracted, hyperstimulated, and impulsive. There’s so much stigma attached to the label ADD that some of these kids are embarrassed to admit they have it. Then there are the popular theories that it’s all hype and ADD is way overdiagnosed. Well, for the families who have an ADD child, here’s a cool theory from Homeschooling the Child with ADD.
The concept of ADD individuals as hunters in a farmer’s world was popularized by Thom Hartmann in his books, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective and Beyond ADD. His theory states that ADD individuals are a genetic remnant of the hunter-gatherers in early human societies. Today’s hunters seek to find a way to survive in what has been a farmer’s world for centuries. Thousands of years ago most people possessed hunter traits: Constantly scanning the environment for prey and danger (distractibility); quick decision-making (impulsiveness); a willingness to take risks; flexibility within time constraints (balancing between waiting for prey and actual hunting); and hyperfocusing (during the hunt). All of these are common ADD traits, which once helped the hunter societies survive and thrive. As a result, some researchers think ADD should be termed an attention “inconsistency” rather than a “deficit”.
As the worldwide agricultural revolution began, followed by the more recent industrial revolution, these hunter traits became less of an advantage to the individual, as whole societies evolved from hunting for survival to farming and eventually manufacturing. The farmer had to keep his attention focused on the tasks at hand in order to sustain a steady, dependable effort. The farmer couldn’t go off wandering in the woods to check out an interesting distraction during planting time or harvest. He had to care for his animals meticulously, day in and day out, month by month, year after year. In an agricultural society, a risk-taking personality could be detrimental, but a careful, patient, and organized individual, a farmer, was likely to bring success. Stability, goal orientation, long-range planning, and a linear sense of time (as opposed to the hunter’s more flexible, elastic time-sense) are needed to assure modern survival.
Eventually hunter societies were eliminated through isolation or outright extermination. Hunters became expendable as farmers needed space and land. Today most modern cultures reward the farmer behaviors. Our schools are based on an agricultural (or industrial) model, using repetitive techniques and stressing linear rather than divergent thinking. Linear thinking is a step-by-step, organized manner of thinking. Divergent thinking involves letting things go, stepping across boundaries, and mixing ideas together in new ways. Divergent thinking is a creative style of thinking. Instead of reaching a final point, one’s thoughts tend to branch out and explore. Divergent thinking is associated with the right hemisphere of the brain and linear (or convergent) thinking is associated with the left hemisphere. While divergent thinking may be compatible with creativity, linear thinking generally is associated with getting things done. Some studies have shown certain creative people are more likely to exhibit mixed or right brain dominance than the general population.
Hartmann stresses that society still needs its hunters, whether most people realize this or not. Hunters are generally the pioneers, the entrepreneurs, the agents of change, the innovators, the creators.