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ADHD and the Edison Gene

A Drug-Free Approach to Managing the Unique Qualities of Your Child

Published by Park Street Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

Explores how the ADHD gene is and has been critical to humanity’s development

• Shows how artists, inventors, and innovators carry the gene necessary for the future survival of humanity

• Explains why children with this gene are so often mislabeled in public schools as having a disorder

• Offers concrete strategies for helping children reach their full potential

In ADHD and the Edison Gene, Thom Hartmann shows that the creativity, impulsiveness, risk taking, distractibility, and novelty seeking that are characteristic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are not signs of a disorder at all but instead are components of a highly adaptive skill set utilized by our hunting and gathering ancestors. These characteristics have been critical to the survival and development of our modern civilization and will be vital as humanity faces new challenges in the future.

Hartmann, creator of the “hunter versus farmer” theory of ADHD, examines the differences in neurology between people with ADHD and those without, sharing recent discoveries that confirm the existence of an ADHD gene and the global catastrophe 40,000 years ago that triggered its development. He cites examples of significant innovators with ADHD traits, such as Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison, and argues that the children who possess the ADHD gene have neurology that is wired to give them brilliant success as artists, innovators, inventors, explorers, and entrepreneurs.

Emphasizing the role that parents and teachers can play in harnessing the advantages of ADHD, he shares the story of how Edison was expelled from school for ADHD-related behavior and luckily his mother understood how to salvage his self-esteem and prepare him for a lifetime of success. Offering concrete strategies for nurturing, educating, and helping these children reach their full potential, Hartmann shows that rather than being “problems” such children are a vital gift to our society and the world.


Providing Discipline and Structure for the Edison-Gene Child

Separating Person from Behavior

I was in the local food co-op recently, and about four feet from me a two-year-old child in a shopping cart reached out from the cart and grabbed a bag of dried sweetened pineapple pieces. “Mine!” he said, tossing them into the cart.

His mother’s reaction was immediate. She grabbed the pineapple from the cart and put it back on the shelf, then turned and glared at her son. “Don’t be a bad boy!” she commanded, wagging her finger in his face.

His reaction looked to me like a mixture of pain and pride; the former from mother being unhappy with him, and the latter from some inner knowledge of identity, confirmed by her words. He reached into the cart and grabbed a can of soup, glancing at me, his audience, and prepared to throw it on the floor. Mom intervened by roughly grabbing the can and again demanding that he not be bad, this time giving him a slap on the hand. I found my cookies and moved away as the little boy began looking for a new audience for his behavior.

Whenever we react to a person’s behavior--particularly a child’s--we can do it in either of two primary ways. One addresses the individual’s personhood and ties it to his behavior, and the other addresses his personhood and disconnects it from his behavior. This is a critical distinction.

People who think they are their behaviors are caught in a continuous loop: in order to define themselves or to feel okay about themselves, they must continually bounce their behaviors off other people. Most people who start with this as children also become early and vulnerable targets for the advertising industry, whose primary message is that you are your possessions or that you are your body.

In each parent/child interactive situation in which the child is defined by his behavior, the “I am” center of his personhood becomes disconnected from any state of inner centeredness. Happiness and selfassurance come only with doing or getting and have no relationship to simply being, to “I know who I am, and I’m larger and deeper than what I do or what I own or what my body looks like.”

The lack of this important self-knowledge begins with parents or the media telling children that they are their behaviors. Thus the alternative to saying, “Don’t be a bad boy,” is to say, “If you do that, we won’t be able to continue shopping.” For a more severe behavior, it may even be, “I love you so much that I’m not going to let you do that.” It brings the core of the interaction back to the community of parent/child and doesn’t speak at all about the child as a bad or good person.

Break the Pattern with a Positive Message

The child in the supermarket also reminded me of one of the best lessons in childrearing that Louise and I ever learned. A friend of ours, an NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) practitioner and psychologist, shared it with Louise back in the early 1980s.

One of our children was in the habit of throwing fits in the supermarket, demanding things and shouting loudly when the demands weren’t met. We’d tried both placating and punishing, and neither worked; the behavior just continued. Our friend had a two-part suggestion. “Do something unexpected,” he said, “and do it in a way that reinforces both your love and the idea that life can be fun.”

We started by priming our child during the day, talking about how much fun Louise was going to have shopping in the afternoon. “Would you like to have fun with me at the store?” she asked our four-year-old. “Yes!” was the enthusiastic reply.

When they got to the store and were going through the aisles, our child began to throw the predictable fit in the predictable place. At that point, Louise had a shopping cart only half full of food. “Oh,” she said, “I thought you wanted to have fun with me here. But if it’s not fun for both of us, it doesn’t work, and it’s not fun for me if you’re throwing this fit.”

She propelled the cart--complete with demanding child--to the service counter in the supermarket, where she said to the startled clerk, “I came to the supermarket to have fun shopping with my child, but my child doesn’t want us both to have fun, so I’m going to leave these groceries here, drop my child off at home, and come back alone to finish having fun shopping.”

“Okay,” said the clerk, nodding the way people do to the inmates in an asylum.

Louise picked up our child from the cart, drove the two of them home, came into the house, and said to me, “Our child wasn’t willing to let us both have fun at the supermarket, so will you baby-sit while I go back to the store to have fun shopping?”

“Of course,” I said, watching our child’s astonished expression. “I hope you have a lot of fun!”

“I will,” Louise said cheerfully as she went out the door. It was the last supermarket fit we ever experienced, and the story highlights one aspect of how many hunter-gatherer tribal children are raised: interactions are cooperative and positive, even as the adults clearly define the parameters of behavior and the values that underlie those parameters.

About The Author

Thom Hartmann is the host of the nationally and internationally syndicated talkshow The Thom Hartmann Program and the TV show The Big Picture on the Free Speech TV network. He is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of 24 books, including Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, ADHD and the Edison Gene, and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, which inspired Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The 11th Hour. A former psychotherapist and founder of the Hunter School, a residential and day school for children with ADHD, he lives in Washington, D.C.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Park Street Press (September 17, 2015)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620555071

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Raves and Reviews

“Like Edison, Thom Hartmann is a visionary who uses history to illuminate the potential cost to society of shackling unique minds aching to soar. He questions the cultural imperative that compels us to label what is outside the bell curve as pathological rather than extraordinary. In this new edition, Hartmann urges us to nurture the fearlessly innovative child and celebrate their differences. Our futures will ultimately be shaped by those undaunted by the spectra of the impossible--because they have been taught to believe in their own self-worth.”

– Ellen Littman, Ph.D., coauthor of Understanding Girls with ADHD

“Instead of pathologizing the differences we call ADHD, we need to value neurodiversity, and Thom’s book shows us in rich detail how and why this is true. Thom’s work can help protect children and adults from the devastating effects of being viewed through a pervasive pathological lens--a much more severe problem than ADHD could ever be!”

– Sari Solden, M.S., L.M.F.T., psychotherapist and author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder and

“Thom Hartmann has made one of the most important contributions to transforming our understanding of ADHD. Thom was the first to consider ADHD in an evolutionary context. He showed that ADHD has not only a significant survival advantage in hunter gatherer societies, but that it also confers powerful advantages in our contemporary civilization. Thom was one of the very first to comment on the link between ADHD and creativity. He will be recognized as a pioneer contributing to the reconceptualization of ADHD from being simply a ‘disorder’ to being viewed as a ‘mode of thought’ characterized by strengths, such as enhanced creativity.”

– Richard Silberstein Ph.D., professor emeritus, Swinburne University of Technology

"From the marvelous mind, and lively pen of Thom Hartmann comes this new opportunity to celebratethe magnificent diversity of how we learn to thrive Read it... and start a new conversation with your kids."

– Rabbi Hillel Zeitlin, Director, The Maryland Institute for Ericksonian Hypnosis & Psychotherapy

“The very gene associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have helped humans survive sudden climate changes before the end of the ice age. Thom Hartmann explains that children and adults with ADHD have characteristics such as risk-taking, distractibility, creativity and impulsiveness that are ideal for life paths that could well save us in the future. They're ideally suited to becoming entrepreneurs, explorers, inventors, innovators, emergency room physicians and fighter pilots. Drugs are not the answer; nor is the structured education system which has no room for "problem" children. Hartmann has strategies to help parents and teachers bring out the best in so-called hyperactive kids.”

– Nexus, February 2016

“The very gene associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have helped humans survive sudden climate changes before the end of the ice age.…children and adults with ADHD have characteristics such as risk-taking, distractibility, creativity and impulsiveness that are ideal for life paths that could well save us in the future. They’re ideally suited to becoming entrepreneurs, explorers, inventors, innovators, ER physicians and fighter pilots. Hartman has strategies to help parents and teachers bring out the best in so-called hyperactive kids.”

– Nexus Magazine, March 2016

“There is a lot of practical advice on how to interact and encourage ‘Edison Gene’ children; showing how to celebrate their skills rather than condemn their behavior. I found this book insightful, informative and inspirational. The message I took away from this book was: ‘child-hood’ is not a psychological disorder--stop drugging our kids.”

– New Dawn, Sandy Brightman, March 2016

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