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Books I recommend:


The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child (Dynamos, Discoverers and Dreamers)


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Beyond ADD: Hunting for Reasons in the Past & the Present by Thom Hartmann


The Minds of Boys:
Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

The ADD Nutrition Solution

More   books...



The Intuitive Brain

ADDers are often said to be highly intuitive. What is intuition? First of all, it's not ESP, and it's not instinct, although the word intuition has historically been used that way. It's an extremely important and powerful form of non-linear intelligence, useful for deciphering patterns from chaotic situations.

I've run across several references to ADDers being highly intuitive, including "The Hidden Gifts of ADD" by Ned Hallowell, M.D. Intuition is form of subconscious intelligence possibly used by the right brain to discern complex patterns and relationships. It is highly underrated. All small children learn primarily through intuition, and at an extremely fast pace (gee, they also have short attention spans, are impulsive, and fidget a lot....hmmm). For example, they learn to speak complex sentences through "absorption," without having any understanding of grammar. Imagine if you had to teach every child language by explaining to them that each sentence must have a noun. You don't, because their subconscious biological computer called intuition has already figured that out, without the child's knowledge. Music is also learned intuitively. People cannot usually explain that the pattern of first, third and fifth notes on the scale has a pleasing sound to their ears because of the mathematical relationship of vibration wavelengths. But our subconscious intelligence knows these relationships. Small children given intense music lessons have sudden increases in their mathematical abilities.

Types of intelligence:

For the purpose of this page, there are three types of intelligence; the following definitions come from usage in the biology and temperament fields.

1. Instinct. This is now thought to be inherited intelligence unique to a particular species. Like a hard disc with information on it before it leaves the factory. For example, a bird knows to sing a certain song, and a dog knows to growl when angry. Humans instinctively know to suckle when infants. Children (and adults) are instinctive afraid of spiders and snakes unless taught otherwise. Many adults will jump with fright when startled by a big spider, followed by embarrassment because they know the spider is harmless.

2. Intuitive Intelligence. Intuitive intelligence is the ability to learn complex skills and solve problems on a subconscious basis; for example, a child learning to speak without learning the rules of grammar. The rules of grammar actually were learned, but the child cannot tell you want they are. This type of intelligence is particularly powerful at picking up patterns in a seemingly chaotic situation. When the right answer to a complex problem pops into your head but you can't figure out how you came up with it, it's probably the product of your intuition. Important: Intuitive intelligence is better at solving certain types of complex problem than our conscience, sensory intelligence.

3. Sensory Intelligence. As described by Jung, sensory intelligence is our ability to think logically and to learn new facts in our world. As children grow up, their ability to learn intuitively appears to decrease as their ability to think methodically and logically increases.

Everyone people possess all three types of intelligence. Sensory intelligence is what we normally think of as intelligence because it is conscience thinking, while the other two types are more mysterious and subsequently discounted. Intuitive intelligence is used to identify relationships and concepts while sensory intelligence is used in remembering details and linear thinking.

A stereotypical ADD child is doing poorly in school and is a complete whiz on computers. Why? Partly because computers are best learned intuitively. Just sit down and start hitting buttons, and see what happens. Do it enough, and that subconscious intelligence starts picking up complex patterns and relationships. The intuitor begins to get an instinct for what to try next, while the average person with predominant sensory intelligence lacks this advantage and wants detailed written instructions or someone to teach them each new thing they do on the computer. I suspect this is one reason why intuitors are so over-represented on the internet.

Intuitors have differences in how they perceive and retain information. Their memories are often impressionistic and lacking detail. One ENTP intuitor described it this way:

    "I was 10 when I realized that I was in awe of my S [sensory intelligence] mother's memory. She'd describe every detail of a store, recall the exact coarseness of the velvet upholstery, remember photographically where a slightly skewed landscape painting was hung, remark upon how the clerk's left cuff link was tarnished and his thumbnail broken; meanwhile, I'd recall that the place seemed dark and cluttered, maybe dusty, and that the clerk might have been a man. I knew that there was a secret world of miniscule, fleeting and sometimes glaring things which was visible to most earthlings, but rarely to me; that's why the kids called me "space cadet" and waited to watch me trip on the sidewalk cracks. I knew that, in the classroom, they "saw or heard, then remembered" - while I never saw and never heard, and usually had to figure out what I should have remembered. Even though I usually had the answer right, I regarded them as superior; my mother and my classmates seemed gifted with especially acute senses while I was burdened with the need to compensate for my poor powers of observation. Fortunately my N [intuitive] father was also a descendent of the Space Cadet Clan - as spaced out, zoned out, ditzy, "in the clouds" and oblivious as I was - and, as the philosophical extraterrestrial told the stuttering spaceman, I knew that I 'was not alone'.... "

Intuitors lose detail, but more often get the big picture. They are also good at coming up with ideas, concepts, and relationships that others miss. Hallowell says that ADDers are highly intuitive and have "flashes of brilliance."

My own personal example: In English Class, my peers were discussing a book we had all read. I couldn't remember the names of any characters or places, dates, or even the sequence of events which occurred in the story, and felt truly stupid. Granted, I had skimmed entire paragraphs in my rush to read the book at the last minute. OK, I skimmed some pages. Alright, I admit I completely skipped a few of the middle chapters, but the point is, I couldn't remember any detail and was mortified that everyone else could. But when our written summaries of the book were graded, the professor pulled me aside after class and said I was the only person in the class who really understood what the story was about . And he said he would have given me an A, but my spelling was horrible and my paper too sloppy. (I've been working on my spelling ever since.)

Left Brain vs. Right Brain

Both ADDers and highly creative individuals are thought to have differences in the left brain vs. right brain relationship.

"We have all met people who are good at grasping facts but tend either to be too literal in interpreting them or to miss the point altogether. Likewise, we know others (often people with artistic talent of some sort) who are erratic in dealing with facts and do poorly on tests but who have an amazing ability to grasp the gist of a story, the subtle shadings of meaning. We can only speculate whether these differences can be traced to hemispheric specialization"

- Howard Gardner (author of "Multiple Intelligences") from "Art, Mind & Brain."

Well, I like to speculate and have absolutely nothing to lose. So here's a list of right brain vs. left brain characteristics which I found on the Net. I'm told the list is partly popular conjecture and partly fact (the brain is really still a mystery). But lets run with it anyway, just for the shear fun of it .

Right Brain Traits:

  • Intuitive: Follows hunches, or feelings, takes leaps of logic.
  • Nontemporal: having little or no awareness of time.
  • Random: arranges events and actions haphazardly.
  • Causal and Informal: deals with information on basis of need or interest at the time.
  • Concrete: relates to things as they are commonly known or understood. Explicit, precise.
  • Holistic: sees whole things all at one, overall patterns. Leading to divergent ideas.
  • Visual: uses imagery, responds to pictures, colors, shapes.
  • Nonverbal: responds to tones, music, body language, touch.
  • Visuo-spatial: uses intuition to estimate, perceives shapes.
  • Responsive: listens to music.
  • Originative: interest in ideas and theories imaginatively.
  • Emotional: suspicious judgment until it feels or seems right.
  • Learning: through exploration

Left Brain Traits:

  • Methodical: organizes information, classifies, categorizes, structures.
  • Temporal: keeps track of time, thinks in terms of past, present, future.
  • Sequential: arranges events and actions in consecutive succession.
  • Linear: thinks in terms of sequence, one thought directly following another. Leads to convergent conclusions.
  • Factual: deals with details, items, the particulars, features of a thing.
  • Verbal: used words to name, describe, and define things.
  • Systematic and Formal: processes information methodically, in a well-planned way.
  • Learning: through systematic plans

    After reading the above lists, it may seem that ADDers are simply missing their entire left brains, but I haven't yet run across that in the literature. What I do find are theories about "disinhibition from normal levels of dominant hemispheric control." I think that means the left brains aren't quite as dominant in ADDers as they are with "normal" people, so the right brain has a looser rein, so to speak. The right brain is therefore allowed to go further, to do more.

    "The proper, unique, and perpetual object of thought:
    that which does not exist
    that which is not before me
    that which was
    that which will be
    that which is possible
    that which is impossible."

    - Paul Valery, who probably loses his car keys a lot
    (printed in "The Cerebral Code")

    This does not mean ADDers are right brain dominant. But their left brain may simply be less dominant than in others. Dyslexia, which is unusually common in ADDers, is also thought to be related to differences in hemispheric domination, so that neither sphere is the boss.


All BTE pages were written by Teresa Gallagher unless otherwise noted and may be photocopied (but not reprinted) without permission.  BTE Web Design now creates websites for small businesses. Perhap "BTE" really means "Born to Entrepreneur..."