Saturday, October 17, 2009

Different Minds: Chapter 5

Chapter 5 is "Finding Flow: The Wellspring of Creative Endeavor."

What is creativity?

Lovecky looks at different understandings of creativity. Is it original thinking? Problem solving? Problem finding? Is it mental flexibility, the ability to imagine alternatives? Is it building on and elaborating upon the already known? Is is being able to make analogies, seeing that the process by which one thing works could be applied to other areas? Is it divergent thinking ability (fluency of ideas)? (She is less sure about this last one.)

Development of creativity

Young gifted children engage in a lot of imaginative dramatic play, as well as fantasy play (which may lead to an interest in role-playing games as an adult). They also often lead this kind of play, involving friends and/or family. They are more interested in the process of creative play, not the products they can create.
Older gifted children start to become more interested in the products, but not always. They still value the process of playing creatively.
Adolescents take creativity to a further extent, becoming mature enough to work with adults as mentors. They can also accumulate a lot of knowledge, negotiate between the known and the unknown and form /test hypotheses, and use analogy to extend their knowledge.
Unfortunately, asynchrony comes into play here. Asynchrony is when the child's ability to conceive an idea does not match up with the ability to express it. They lack technical skills to give their ideas concrete shape (via words, music, art, science, etc.).
Some researchers speculate that high-achieving students may also be less creative, as if they are making a choice between creativity and achievement. They spend their time achieving success according to the rules of the educational system, but they do not have the kind of time needed to generate creative thinking. Also, some blame the media for pre-programming children to think in certain ways, thus stifling creativity.
Creative gifted children are often very different from the norm; they see things from different perspectives and are less likely to go with the flow. They tend to have unconventional beliefs and ideas. Sometimes the child's creativity can isolate him or her from peers.

Creativity and attention deficits

Gifted kids with ADHD can be highly creative. They tolerate chaos well, they have hyperreactive and flexible minds, and they're willing to go along with unusual ideas and see where they lead. They may have some executive functioning deficits that can make expressing their creativity a challenge. They cannot always recombine parts of a whole into new wholes, and they are primarily holistic thinkers who struggle with details.
It can be challenging for professionals to identify the balance of characteristics of ADHD, creativity and giftedness. Children who have strong ADHD symptoms will be very difficult to manage, but those with milder symptoms may find that their attention deficits have minimal/low impact on their lives. That said, they may need accommodations to help them compensate and thus maximize their creativity.

Gifted kids with AS can lack or seem to lack imagination, but they can be very creative. Demonstrating imagination can involve shifting attention and planning, executive functioning skills that AS kids tend to lack.
Gifted kids with AS tend to be deficient in language when it comes to imagining or predicting social or people-related events. However, they do very well with imagination in other non-social circumstances. Gifted kids with AS can be creative thinkers, but they need to work from already existing knowledge, not be urged to invent something wholly new.

Cognitive and affective aspects of creativity

"Creative people need a combination of six resources...: divergent thinking, problem solving and insight knowledge within a domain; styles of thinking that focus on making one's own rules and working independently; personality traits such as tolerance of ambiguity, moderate risk-taking, and willingness to persevere; intrinsic and extrinsic motivation; and a supportive environment."

Divergent thinking is looking at things from multiple, unusual perspectives. GK (gifted kids) with ADHD are good at this, but they can be easily sidetracked into non-productive, ineffective ways of thinking. AS kids can be good at divergent thinking but can also fail to see the big picture or how the ideas they're having can be put together into a whole. They also don't really understand what the "usual" responses should be because they lack pragmatic language skills.

GK with ADHD are good at problem solving and problem finding (being able to see that there is a questionbut can easily end up with ineffective solutions or, if they lack the ability to work independently, cannot focus enough. GK with AS are good at problem solving and problem finding in their areas of interest. They may lack the ability to explain the problem effectively because they focus on only one part of it.

Visualization is something GK with ADHD and AS are good at. ADHD kids can spend a lot of time visualizing fantasy worlds; AS kids can use visualization effectively to be productive creatively. Lovecky notes Temple Grandin's work on how visualization was so important to her inventions.

GK with ADHD tolerate ambiguity very well, but GL with AS are less able to. Lovecky notes that ADHD kids can sometimes be too open to ambiguity, and they may not be able to critically distinguish among worthwhile ideas. AS kids are more into finding the "right" answers that they have a harder time with ambiguity. They do bettwe with ambiguity with language, enjoying word play and punning.

GK with ADHD work well mainly with intrinsic motivation but may also require short-term extrinsic motivators to help them keep on task and focus. Kids with AS are much more intrinsically motivated when it comes to areas of interest and rarely respond to extrinsic motivators. However, they are hard to motivate at all (intrinsic or extrinsic) when it comes to areas that do not interest them.

Suggestions for developing creativity

*Provide quiet places and unstructured time
*Teach convergent thinking as well as divergent thinking skills
*Understanding the different processes. For example, AS kids will have difficulty with open-ended prompts and need more structuring/scaffolding of a creative assignment
*Use tragic stuff to inspire creativity. (I'm not to thrilled with this suggestion--Wendy)
*Creative work can help students get over bumps in the learning process. (Example: E has some trouble with some things, and Lovecky found that asking him to draw was a way of opening him up and drawing him out. E loves to draw.)
*Control time spent on special interests. As should be obvious, some areas of interest can impede creativity (too much time on video games, for example).
*Some areas of interest are really open-ended, so you have to give kids with these interests more time to develop them.
*Read books to kids that are above their reading level so they can develop more complex language.
*Model your own experiences with creativity with your kids.
*Help kids get started, and work with them to develop a structure for completing tasks when they have a hard time completing them. Offer extrinsic rewards when necessary.

Whew, done! :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009


A week ago, the orthopedist removed my cast and declined to put any additional boot or device on my ankle and pronounced me ready to drive (yay!) and walk on crutches.

What this meant was that my family figured I was ready to 1. go to NY and 2. resume my everyday activities and 3. take care of them.

Today my ankle is rebelling from all the extra activity, so I decided to bang in today. However much I need the rest, though, I know I will end up working on cleaning/organizing.

One of the problems that AS/ADHD kids have is "executive functioning." This means that E will bring his homework folder into the bedroom to show me his spelling words aren't in it, leave it there, go with me into the living room to look for his spelling words then, when his spelling words are found, he will say "Where's my homework folder?" And really not know where to look.

And my husband isn't really strong in this area, either. Yet I keep meeting resistance when I try to get everyone organized. *sigh* My husband made it very clear that while I was in the cast, cleaning was *not* going to be his priority. And now my house is a mess. Now that we have the dog, we have dog hair mixed in with the usual dust, detritus and scraps of paper.

I've been researching books on "executive functioning" as right now that seems to be the major area of concern for E. I have Late, Lost and Unprepared and Smart But Scattered on hold at the library, plus I ordered a copy of Tools of the Mind, the curriculum featured recently in the NY Times and also in Nurtureshock.

Socially, things seem to be improving a little. E now has Cub Scouts every week, which he seems to enjoy (though he's had only one den meeting so far). I still need to work on the social networking with the other parents at school, but I'm starting the process 6 weeks late, and I have to remember it takes some time.

His latest favorite activity is making potholders. I'd bought one of these once upon a time, and a few weeks ago I brought it out for some reason, and he has really taken to it. In fact, we bought a large bag of more loops. He follows the directions beautifully and makes gorgeous designs. He's very good at seeing the patterns and keeping track of everything. But now I have way more too-small potholders than I need. :)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I'm halfway through this book and it just showed up an hour and a half ago. Fast read.

OK, what I've learned:

1. Don't overpraise.
2. Kids don't get enough sleep.
3. White parents need to acknowledge racial difference instead of refusing to talk about it.
4. Kids lie a lot. They do it to avoid punishment/disapproval. They will tell the truth more if there is no threat of punishment/disapproval.
5. IQ tests are not predictive. NYC schools make decisions on gifted and talented placement for kids based on one single IQ test administered at the age of 5. This sucks for the late bloomers.
6. Siblings fight not because they resent the other taking away a parent's attention. They fight over toys. Fighting is ok so long as they have more net positive interactions.
7. Teenagers lie because they don't want to disappoint their parents and because they're practically programmed to. When teens argue with you, it's a good thing. They're negotiating, and when they negotiate, they feel that rules exist but that their parents are being reasonably flexible, and they are less likely to lie.

It's all very interesting to read, but I don't feel like there's a huge lot of there there. However, the endnotes are extensive and probably full of supporting info/evidence.