The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child

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Overview

New scientific research shows how the ADHD gene has been critical to humanity’s development for 40,000 years

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

• Explains why children with the Edison gene are so often mislabeled in our public schools as having ADHD

• By the creator of the “hunter/farmer hypothesis” of ADHD

Thomas Edison was thrown out of school for behavior that today would label him as having ADHD, but ...

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Overview

New scientific research shows how the ADHD gene has been critical to humanity’s development for 40,000 years

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

• Explains why children with the Edison gene are so often mislabeled in our public schools as having ADHD

• By the creator of the “hunter/farmer hypothesis” of ADHD

Thomas Edison was thrown out of school for behavior that today would label him as having ADHD, but his mother understood how to salvage his self-esteem and prepare him for a lifetime of success. The quick-thinking and impulsive characteristics of what we term ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) are not signs of a disorder at all, but rather are parts of a highly adaptive and useful skill set that served our hunting and gathering ancestors very well. In The Edison Gene Thom Hartmann shows that these characteristics have also been critical to the survival and development of our modern civilization and will be vital and necessary as humanity faces new challenges in the future.

Hartmann, creator of the “hunter/farmer hypothesis” of ADHD, examines the latest discoveries confirming the existence of an ADHD gene and the earth-wide catastrophe 40,000 years ago that may well have triggered its development. Citing examples of significant innovators of our modern era, he argues that the brains of the children who possess the Edison gene are wired to give them brilliant success as innovators, inventors, explorers, and entrepreneurs, but that those same qualities often cause them problems in the context of our public schools. Hartmann offers concrete strategies for helping Edison-gene children to reach their full potential and shows that rather than being “problems,” they are an important and vital gift to our society and world.

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Editorial Reviews

Jenny Richter
"Hartmann gives us a deeper explanation of ADHD, explaining its origins and characteristics and offering strategies to help."
John J. Ratey
 "Once again, with tireless scholarship and a bit of poetry, Thom Hartmann helps take us to the edge of knowing ourselves, our brains, and our world."
Spirit of Change
"Offers concrete strategies for helping Edison-gene children to reach their full potential."
Kathy Heckler
"The Edison Gene is an impressively well-written and well-researched book."
AZ Net News
"Shows that, rather than being problems, such children are an important and vital gift to our society and the world."
Kerri Connor
"Hartmann shows the positive sides of ADHD and how as a society we have turned these same traits into negatives."
Stephen Larsen
“Thom Hartmann is truly a visionary pathfinder in our sometimes confusing, labyrinthine world.”
P.H.M Atwater
"Not only challenges majority opinion and does so effectively, but backs up each observation with real, authentic evidence."
May/June 2004 Spirit of Change
"Offers concrete strategies for helping Edison-gene children to reach their full potential."
Aug/Sept 2004 AZ Net News
"Shows that, rather than being problems, such children are an important and vital gift to our society and the world."
Edward Hallowell
“Thom Hartmann demonstrates that ADHD can be associated with creativity, high achievement, and a most successful adaptive style.”
Manuel Mota-Castillo
"For those who believe that ADHD can be treated without medication, this book could be akin to another New Testament . . ."
M.D. Edward Hallowell, M.D.
Thom Hartmann demonstrates that ADHD can be associated with creativity, high achievement, and a most successful adaptive style.
— author of Driven to Distraction
Ph.D. Stephen Larsen, Ph.D.
Thom Hartmann is truly a visionary pathfinder in our sometimes confusing, labyrinthine world.
— coauthor of Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind
Publishers Weekly
In his new work, the author, a former psychotherapist who has written previously on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective), recommends techniques for raising children diagnosed with this condition. Although many of the specific strategies will be very useful to parents raising ADHD children, too much of the text is devoted to complex genetic and evolutionary theory. According to Hartmann, ADHD is a trait (referred to here as the Edison gene, because the inventor Thomas Edison is believed to have had the trait) rather than a disorder, because it once provided useful skills for functioning in a hunter-gatherer society. The hunter abilities contrasted sharply with the farmer trait, which carried the skills required in farming societies. For example, hunter children have a short attention span, beneficial in a dangerous world where the environment had to be constantly monitored. The innovative but impatient hunter child is usually placed in special ed classes and is looked on as a disciplinary problem; but Hartman believes that ADHD children should be thought of separately. He provides specific guidelines for parents, partly based on the work of Alfred Adler, which encourage mutual respect between parent and child. Hartmann is not an advocate of drug therapy, and he argues for educational reform and alternative schools or home schooling as better learning situations for ADHD children. Hartmann believes that creative outside-the-box thinking, characteristic of those with ADHD, is a real asset to solving many of the world's serious problems. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The Midwest Book Review
“Thom Hartmann surveys new genetic evidence that kids with ADHD have gifts and unique abilities.”
From the Publisher
“Thom Hartmann surveys new genetic evidence that kids with ADHD have gifts and unique abilities.”

"For those who believe that ADHD can be treated without medication, this book could be akin to another New Testament . . ."

"Hartmann gives us a deeper explanation of ADHD, explaining its origins and characteristics and offering strategies to help."

"Once again, with tireless scholarship and a bit of poetry, Thom Hartmann helps take us to the edge of knowing ourselves, our brains, and our world."

"Thom Hartmann demonstrates that ADHD can be associated with creativity, high achievement, and a most successful adaptive style."

"Thom Hartmann helps take us to the edge of knowing ourselves, our brains, and our world."

August 2005 The Midwest Book Review
“Thom Hartmann surveys new genetic evidence that kids with ADHD have gifts and unique abilities.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892811281
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Thom Hartmann is the award-winning, bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, and Unequal Protection. A former psychotherapist and founder of the Hunter School, a residential and day school for children with ADHD, he lives in central Vermont.
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Read an Excerpt


From the Introduction

. . . The premise of this book is that children who have what we have come to know as ADHD are an important and vital gift to our society and culture, and, in the largest sense, can be an extraordinary gift to the world. In addition, for those adults who have been similarly diagnosed or defined, this book offers a new way of understanding themselves and their relationship to the world--a way that brings insight, empowerment, and success.

Genetics and Differences
The long history of the human race, as we’ll see in this book, has conferred on us . . . a set of predilections, temperament, and abilities through the medium of our genetic makeup. These skills were ideally suited to life in the ever-changing world of our ancient ancestors and, we have now discovered, are also ideally suited to the quickly changing modern world of cyberspace and widespread ecological and political crises that require rapid response. I will call this genetic gift the Edison gene, after Thomas Edison, who brought us electric lights and phonographs and movies and--literally--ten thousand other inventions. He is the model for the sort of impact a well-nurtured child carrying this gene can have on the world. . . .

When Edison’s schoolteacher threw him out of school in the third grade for being inattentive, fidgety, and “slow,” his mother gave the teacher a piece of her mind, withdrew him from school, and became his teacher from then until the day he went off on his own to work for the railroads (inventing, in his first months of employment, a railroad timing and signaling device that was used for nearly a century). She believed in him, and wasn’t going to let the school thrash out of him his own belief in himself. As a result of that one mother’s efforts, the world is a very different place. . . .

What exactly defines those bearing this genetic makeup? Edison-gene children and adults are by nature: enthusiastic, creative, disorganized, non-linear in their thinking (they leap to new conclusions or observations), innovative, easily distracted (or, to put it differently, easily attracted to new stimuli), capable of extraordinary hyperfocus, understanding of what it means to be an “outsider,” determined, eccentric, easily bored, impulsive, entrepreneurial, and energetic.

All of these qualities lead them to be natural explorers, inventors, discoverers, and leaders.

Those carrying this gene, however, often find themselves in environments where they’re coerced, threatened, or shoehorned into a classroom or job that doesn’t fit. When Edison-gene children aren’t recognized for their gifts but instead are told that they’re disordered, broken, or failures, a great emotional and spiritual wounding occurs. This wounding can bring about all sorts of problems for children, for the adults they grow into, and for our society. . .

1993: The Hunter Gene
Dozens of studies over the years have demonstrated that ADHD is genetically transmitted to children from their parents or grandparents. From the 1970s, when this link was first indicated, until 1993, when my first book on the topic was published, conventional wisdom held that ADHD, hyperactivity, and the restive need for high stimulation were all indications of a psychiatric illness that should be treated with powerful, mind-altering, stimulant drugs.

But could it be that ADHD, this psychiatric “illness” has a positive side? . . . Here’s a chart from my first book, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, that broadly summarized my 1993 view of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and that contrasts the hunter-gatherer skill set with the skills of the farmer:

The Hunter/Farmer View of ADHD
Traits As They Appears in the “Disorder” View:
1. Short attention span, which can become intensely focused for long periods of time
2. Poor planning, disorganization, and impulsiveness (tendency to make snap decisions)
3. Distorted sense of time; lack of awareness of how long it will take to do something
4. Impatience
5. Inability to convert words into concepts and vice versa; a learning disability may or may not be present
6. Difficulty following directions
7. Daydreaming
8. Acting without considering consequences
9. Lacking in social graces

Trait As It Appears in the “Hunter” View:
1. Constant monitoring of the environment
2. Ability to enter the chase on a moment’s notice
3. Flexibility; a readiness to quickly change strategy
4. Tirelessness; the ability to sustain drive, but only when “hot on the trail” of some goal
5. Visual/concrete thinking; clear sight of a tangible goal even if there are no words for it
6. Independence
7. Becoming bored by mundane tasks; enjoying new ideas, excitement, the “hunt,” or being “hot on the trail”
8. Willingness and ability to take risks and face danger
9. “No time for niceties when there are decisions to be made!”

“Farmer” Trait:
1. Attention is not easily distracted from the task at hand
2. Ability to sustain a steady, dependable effort
3. Purposeful organization; long-term strategy that’s adhered to
4. Awareness of time and timing; tasks are completed “in time,” on pace, and with good “staying power”
5. Patience; an awareness that good things take time; a willingness to wait
6. Playing on a team
7. Focusing on follow-through; tending to details and “taking care of business”
8. Taking care to “look before you leap”
9. Nurturing; creating and supporting community values; attuning to whether something will last

In 1996, the Journal of Genetic Psychology published an article titled “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: An Evolutionary Perspective,” in which they suggested that, “ . . . ADHD may have served an adaptive function and may have been selected by the environment for survival.”  

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D

Acknowledgments

Introduction: A New View for Our Children
Genetics and Differences • 1993: The Hunter Gene • Distractibility • Impulsivity • Risk-Taking • Where Have All the Hunters Gone? • Indigenous Hunters Today • The Agricultural Revolution • Our Society's Hunters • The Edison Gene • The Crisis-Survival Gene • Hunters Before the Holocene • Adapted to Adversity and Change

Part 1: The Past

1.   The World of the Edison-Gene Child
The Ancient World  •  The Salt Pump  •  The Great Ice Age  •  Heated by the Great Conveyor Belt

2.   The Dawn of Civilization 
What Made Us Human?  •  The Bacteria That Took Over the World  •  The Human Bottleneck  •  Before the Bottleneck

3.   Three Ways Humans Were Killed Off by Weather 
Warming by the Sun  •  Vulcan's Hammer  •  Survivors: AIDS Chimps and the Black Plague  •  Creativity Saves the Day  •  ADHD and Creativity  •  The Beads: Clue to the First Edisons

Part 2: The Present

4.   Anatomy of a Diagnosis 
How Edison-Gene Children Are Different  •  Are They Disordered?  •  Anthropology Meets Psychology  •  From Hunters to Inventors

5.   The Mystery of Novelty-Seeking Behavior
The "Novelty Gene"  •  The Novelty Gene and ADHD

6.   Genes Move Around and Turn On and Off 
The Genetics of Behavior  •  Turning on Genes  •  Codominant Genes  •  Turning on Edison Characteristics

7.   Other Genes and Influences 
Neurotransmitters and Personality Characteristics  •  The Reasons for Genetic Variations  •  Culture and Genes

8.   Scientists Find the "Adaptive" Edison Gene 
But Some Say It's a Disease  •  Is It a Disorder?  •  Novelty Seeking

9.   The ADHD Gene and the Dawn of Human Civilization 
The Time Machine  •  The News Hits the Streets  •  The Edison Gene and Democracy

10.  Brain Development and the Edison-Gene Child 
Sense of Self  •  A Process that Mirrors Evolution  •  The Reptilian Brain  •  The Limbic Brain  •  The "New" Brain  •  The Unique Prefrontal Brain  •  The Brain Develops After Birth, Too  •  The First Pruning of the Brain  •  The Impact of Stress  •  The Brain in the Birth Period  •  The Brain in the Toddler Period  •  The Brain in the Early Childhood Period  •  The Brain in the Teenage Period   •  The Brain in the Early Adult Years  •  Adult Memory of the Stages of Brain Development  •  Intuition versus Information  •  The Loss of Intuition  •  The Tragedy of Lost Potential  •  Invasion of the Lizard People?  •  Are We Stuck in a Loop?  •  Triggering Events  •  Raising Fully Human Children  •  Schools May Be the Key  •  School as Torture  •  Condemnation  •  School as Work  •  Comorbidities  •  Applying Comorbidities to Edison-Gene Children  •  Breaking the Loop  •  Offering a New Story

11.  The Edison Gene, Drugs, Exercise, and Nutrition
Nutritional Deficiencies Are Rampant  •  Environmental Toxins  •  Nutriceuticals  •  Yerba Mat麠Nature's Ritalin  •  Drugs for Edison-Gene Children  •  Medications Bite Back  •  Burning Out Brain Cells? •  Do Drugs Help Over the Long Term?  •  The Loss of Play  •  EEG Neurofeedback  •  Exercise: The Optimal "Treatment"?

12.  Providing Discipline and Structure for the Edison-Gene Child 
Nurturing the Hunters  •  Reward/Punishment versus Inclusion/Interdependence  •  Separating Person from Behavior  •  Break the Pattern with a Positive Message  •  Watch for Islands of Success  •  The Importance of Mastery  •  Turn Off the Television

13.  Alfred Adler's Principles for Raising Children 
Promote Mutual Respect  •  Encourage  •  Foster Security  •  Avoid Reward and Punishment  •  Use Natural and Logical Consequences  •  Act Instead of Talk in Conflict Situations  •  Use Withdrawal as a Counteraction  •  Withdraw from the Provocation, Not from the Child  •  Don't Interfere in Children's Fights  •  Fighting Requires Cooperation  •  Take Time to Teach Essential Skills and Habits  •  Never Do for a Child What He Can Do for Himself  •  Don't Overprotect  •  Avoid Being Overly Responsible  •  Distinguish Between Positive and Negative Attention  •  Understand the Child's Goal  •  A Habit Is Maintained If It Achieves Its Purpose  •  Minimize Mistakes  •  Try a Family Council and Have Fun Together  •  The Edison-Gene Family

14.  Educating the Edison-Gene Child 
Learned Helplessness  •  Reframing Identity = Success in Learning  •  Government Studies Pronounce on Medication  •  They Ignored the Environment  •  The Study Proved Ritalin Doesn't Improve Learning  •  But It Makes the Teachers Happy  •  Lighting a Fire for Learning  •  Education and Testing Corporations  •  How Modern Education Came About  •  German Schools Come to America  •  American Education and the Catholic Problem  •  Backlash Against the Authoritarian Model of Public Education  •  Maria Montessori  •  Rudolf Steiner  •  Free and Alternative Schools  •  Homeschooling and Internet Schooling  •  But What About Socialization?  •  Why Homeschooling Works for Edison-Gene Children  •  The Edison Gene through the College Years  •  Find a Mentor or a Coach

15.  Edison-Gene Girls and Women 
Be a Good Girl  •  Cinderella in a Hostile World  •  Cultural Barriers  •  Cultural Programming and Expectations  •  Healing the Wounds 

16.  Spirituality and the Edison-Gene Child 
Edison-Gene Mystics  •  The Hunter's Reality  •  The World of the Hunter's Dreams  •  Dreaming with the Natives  •  Learning to Know  •  Understanding the Real World  •  Wild People and Tame People  •  The Loss of True Wisdom  •  When Access to Personal Spirituality is Lost

Part 3: The Future

17.  How Edison-Gene Children May Change the World 
Glimmers of How Culture Works  •  What Causes Culture?  •  The Biology of Culture  •  Primal Human Cultures  •  Cultural and Genetic Selection

18.  Is Human Evolution Finally Over? 
As Good As It Gets  •  We're Going Downhill  •  It's the Fault of Those People with ADHD!  •  Are We Standing Still?  •  Distant Bottleneck Events

19.  One Generation to Save the World 
Climate Flip-Flops to the Next Ice Age  •  A Global-Warming Bottleneck

Afterword: Yesterday's Child by Janie Bowman

Notes

Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    Thom's best ADHD book

    In this book, Thom logically progresses up an ¿abstraction ladder¿, from brain cells and parts, to the individual child and their genes. He then moves to our institutions and postulates that our modern schools are oppressive and are profoundly wounding our Edison Gene children by treating and labeling them as ¿disordered¿. Thom asks the reader to take a new look at methods for raising Edison Gene (ADHD) children and how the very survival of the human race may ultimately depend on these hyper-creative and novelty seeking brains. Thom believes that the millions invested by some interested parties to label these beautiful children ¿disordered have biased research. You may disagree with the conclusions, but there is enough proof provided here to convince even the most ardent skeptic that Thom¿s premise, that ADHD is a naturally selected trait and beneficial to society, deserves serious consideration. Thom illustrates in this book that the world will be losing something great if we don't learn to accept, love, and nurture our 'Edison Gene' children and their gifts.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 10, 2012

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