ADHD And Autistic As Personality Types

Food for Thought

My British friend Martin recently moved into my neighborhood, so he asked me to introduce him to a good restaurant. This Dominican restaurant is right across the street from my apartment. I’ve eaten here more times than I can count. If you have never been here, get the baked chicken—and DM me, I’ll come down.

I was telling Martin that I hate traveling. I don’t mind traveling and staying put in one place for a long time but my idea of hell is to constantly travel from one place to the next. Martin then told me that he gets bored if he does anything for too long. We are opposites in this sense.

I believe most creative people are on the spectrum of either ADHD or autism. I’m on the latter, and I think Martin is somewhere on the former. He doesn’t like the idea of medicalizing personality traits but I’m using the term loosely to describe the different ways people pay attention. So, “ADHD-like” or “autism-like” would be more appropriate here.

ADHD-types constantly shift their attention. If something else seems more interesting, they quickly drop what they are doing and jump to the shiny new object. Autism-types tend to stick to the same object and keep digging into the details. But what they both have in common is the intensity of their attention. When they pay attention to anything, they do so with a passion which is a key ingredient for creativity.

Creativity is about making meaningful connections between unexpected things. There are two ways to approach this. One way is to acquire knowledge in the fields far apart from each other. Say, for instance, you love knitting and motorcycles. Since they don’t often coincide, you might come up with something useful that nobody has ever thought of before. ADHD-types are more likely to achieve this because they are constantly shifting attention to different things.

The other way is to dig deep within one field. If you can go deeper than everyone else, you would be able to connect what you find there with everyday things.

In short, ADHD-types make unexpected connections horizontally whereas autistic-types do so vertically.