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

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

by Thom Hartmann


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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)

About the Author

Thom Hartmann is the award-winning, bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. 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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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.”

Table of Contents

Foreword by Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D


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 Maté: 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



What People are Saying About This

Kerri Connor

"Hartmann shows the positive sides of ADHD and how as a society we have turned these same traits into negatives."

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."

Kathy Heckler

"The Edison Gene is an impressively well-written and well-researched book.

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4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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