Autism, ADHD, and Creativity
I am doubtful of such associations, such as popular myths connecting depression, substance abuse, or other mental health issues to artistic genius. I wonder if statistically there truly is a significant correlation between talent and difference. Although we know the many famous stories of depressed or addicted writers and artists, what about the numerous artists no more or less challenged / impaired than the rest of the population?
When asked if I believed that my autistic traits contributed to my creativity, my reply is that every person's traits contribute to that individual's success in a chosen field. It is plausible that my sensory issues affect how I write about experiences, but that does not make my writing better or worse than anyone else's writing.
Practice, even if one has what might be called natural talent, is key to mastery of any artistic or intellectual pursuit. Practice, practice, and more practice. When you are passionate about an activity, it is easier to practice that activity. No one has to tell me that the more I write the better my writing will be. It is true that some autistics focus on an activity. Individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also focus intensely on favorite activities.
However, I know many autistics unable to focus on a skill or activity. These individuals focus on remembering facts or observed details. Only a small fraction of the autistic adults I have met are creative artists. Yet the reality is that few people are professional creative artists. I have not met a higher percentage nor a lower percentage of autistics with unusual, superior creative abilities.
When I speak to groups, parents often ask how they will discover the savant skills of their autistic children. Statistically, fewer than 10% of autistics have splinter or savant skills. A splinter skill means that one has unusual aptitude performing a task, but not a creative form of the skill. For example, being able to play music after hearing a song once is a splinter skill, not savantism. Being able to copy, mimic, or re-create is not the same mental process as generating new insights and connections.
Many individuals in my family are creative. My sister and father have artistic talents, and I consider them creative individuals. My mother enjoys many craft hobbies, such as sewing. Therefore, I do not consider my interest in arts and crafts to be related to anything unusual about me. I believe all children are interested in creating, but throughout school we tend to dampen the innate creativity of the human mind. Thankfully, my family never discouraged my creativity.
Instead of asking if people with atypical neurologies are uniquely creative, we should wonder why we are not better at nurturing the creativity of all individuals.