THE BLOG

For Once, Let's Celebrate ADD

08/24/2013 11:22 EDT | Updated 10/24/2013 05:12 EDT

My sister's housemates went on vacation for a week. She's a very social person, and I thought she might be lonely. "Isn't it funny?" I asked. "You love to be surrounded with people, and I desperately crave my alone-time." "Well," she admitted, "I crave alone-time, too, when I visit your family."

Not in the least offended, I laughed until I cried.

I live in the House that ADD (attention deficit disorder) Built. Not everyone would choose such a house, but I knew what I was getting into when I married David. ADD changed his life, for better and for worse, and stood beside him when I promised to love them 'till death do us part. ADD made him into a sensitive adult by making it hard to fit in when he was a child. ADD made him into a brilliant attorney by enabling him to see issues and opportunities that almost everyone else misses. When people ask David how he is able to think outside the box, he replies, "What box?"

Now we have two brilliant, beautiful children who also see no box. Andrew will ask if he can tell you something, and then regale you with chemistry jokes, facts about the video game industry, unusual words in foreign languages that we don't have in English, and a variety of other obscure and amusing factoids he has looked up just because he felt like it. Because he sees no box, everything is interesting. Because he sees no box, he is kind and accepting to everyone, and cannot imagine how prejudice exists.

Caitlin has an incredibly rich internal life, and you can see it spilled out on her carpet: a half-finished puzzle; dozens of small toys set out in an intricate pattern; art supplies; and a large stack of books she's read beside a larger stack of the ones to read next. I ask only that we adhere to fire-safety rules and keep a clear path from the bed to the door. Because she sees no box, the world is full of creative possibilities. Because she sees no box, she finds beauty everywhere she looks.

ADD is constantly in the news, and the news is never good. Is it more common now because of chemicals in the water? Can we treat it without medication, and are doctors medicating kids without a diagnosis? Blame is placed on parents, or on watching too much television. Teachers can't be expected to handle these kids in the classroom.

Some of these issues are very real and very serious. However, I will not address any of them today. Instead, I would like to take this small opportunity to celebrate the very things that drive some people crazy. Let's shout a big "hurray" for the following:

Disorganization and clutter: Researchers have found that a cluttered desk is a sign of a creative mind, and a productive employee.

Changing topics mid-sentence: If you have so many wonderful ideas to share, by all means, get them out.

Inability to sit through class: The old shut-up-and-listen classroom of the past is on its way out, anyway. Chances are, even the kids without ADD were bored out of their minds.

Reluctance to follow the rules: Fire drills aside, why should we all do things the same way? Where would innovation be without people who challenged the status quo?

Many people find this century exciting because of technology. Space tourism coming soon! Cars that drive themselves! Solar energy! Vat-grown meat! Robot nurses! The list grows every day.

I find this century exciting because of the progress we are making as human beings, recognizing and accepting differences between us. The new generation hardly blinks when they see purple hair, facial piercings, artificial limbs, or an interracial or gay couple. This is the time to celebrate being different! So while we're at it, let's include ADD, dyslexia, introversion, and other traits that do not fit the mold. That technology we're all so excited about probably came from ideas thought up in labs by nerdy, near-sighted, ADD, dyslexic introverts. So who's "cool" now?

Different is beautiful. I know, because I live in the House that ADD Built.