410f0tjyr9l_sl500_-2 Right Brained Children

Source: Togo Akira

“Today’s child is a scanner. His experience with electronic media has taught him to scan life the way his eye scans a television set or his ears scan auditory signals from a radio or stereo speaker.”
– Tony Schwartz, The Responsive Chord

21st Century Child

Meet the 21st century child: He is the product of today’s short attention span culture, which demands constant stimulation that bombards us with sensory overload and rapid-fire images. From birth, his environment literally wires and rewires pathways in the brain. More and more of these children are fidgety and easily frustrated, their attention spans are minimal and cannot hold a thought for long. The only things that hold their attention are art projects and computers.

Today’s children are different from those of their parents or grandparents. Our parents grew up listening to radio dramas, and most of us grew up with a couple of movie theaters and a few television channels. But our children are exposed to an overwhelming array of cable channels, computer programs, video games and web sites. It’s no wonder they think differently.

While children of this generation are rapidly changing, at the same time, there is a growing concern over these changes that has lead to some confusion. One of the problems is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

In the USA, more than 2.5 million children nationwide have been identified as having ADD and the numbers are still growing. ADD is described in current literature as a neurological syndrome that has 3 primary symptoms: impulsivity, distractibility and hyperactivity. In classrooms, they are often unable to focus, forget homework, disorganized or fail to complete given tasks. Although ADD children are usually hyperactive, they may sometimes sit in a corner and stare into space for a long time, both at home and at school.

The above are just common traits among ADD children but the main concern is their learning capability. ADD children often encounter problems in spelling and mathematics, thus slow in progress. For spelling, they frequently reverse letters and have problems with certain specific letters, and they sometimes cannot complete simple arithmetic.

The Gifted/ ADD Connection

However, luckily enough, some consultants have made a startling discovery during the course of working with both gifted children and ADD children. The teaching techniques that work so well for gifted, right-brained students also work for children with ADD i.e. they share the same learning style. Simply put, they are highly visual, non-sequential (random) processors who learn by remembering the way things look and by taking words and turning them into mental pictures.

Further studies have shown that ADD children are very observant, extremely sensitive and right-brained, and have a learning style different from the norm. They process information in a random, non-linear way (holistic) and are quite visual in the way they learn. In addition, they are extremely creative; possess an acute sense of spatial awareness and a remarkable memory. Based on the findings, these ADD children were given a different kind of learning method and the results were astonishing.


However, there is no blood test for ADD, and children are labeled ADD as the result of a highly subjective evaluation process. As a result, when faced with difficult children, many teachers conveniently labeled them as having ADD without fully understanding the differences or to carry out proper identification and, not to mention to use a different approach to guide them.

Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, our culture is now producing a whole new generation of ‘short-attention-span kids’, showered with an ever more rapid succession of images and stimulation from today’s fast-paced media. Incidentally, kids nowadays may have evolved into right-brained children who process information visually and holistically grasping information in quick and rapid chunks. These children may not be having ADD after all.

Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World

While whether some of these children have ADD or are they simply right-brained remains unclear, one thing is for sure: these children have evolved but they were not born that way; we made them the way they are. These children are a product of our fast-paced, visual and over-stimulating culture. Because of these cultural influences, our current education system may have failed to understand and adequately address it.

The reason why these children do poorly in school is because educators tend to be left-brained: detail oriented, auditory processors who view visual learners as ‘flawed’. People who go into teaching tend to have done well in school themselves, who have experienced comfort and success when they were being introduced in first grade to memorize intricacies of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Teaching is congruent with the left-brained way that they think.

As one Dr John Philo Dixon, an expert in gifted education, wrote in The Spatial Child: “there are right-hemispheric children who have the potential for understanding the interconnected patterns in quantum theory, thermodynamics, matrix algebra etc. Yet they go undiscovered in our left-brained educational system because some of these children have trouble deciphering Dick and Jane in the first grade”. The cost of such rigidity is incalculable, and the lost potential is astronomical.

Sadly, for many children, labels such as ‘disordered’, ‘defiant’, ‘stupid’ become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The child who believes that his parents and teachers have written him off as flawed and who no longer believes in himself, is much more likely to be at risk of becoming a dropout or a delinquent.

The so-called crisis in education is simply the failure of our schools to identify these growing numbers of children and determine the best way to teach them. Instead of treating them as ‘defective’ and ‘disordered’, we need to recognize their innate strengths and improve their self-esteem and enthusiasm in learning.

The Great Learners

Numerous researches were carried out to study the learning styles of great thinkers and have found compelling evidence that many of them were visual, right-brained learners, including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Nelson Rockefeller, etc. They were identified by grade school teachers as having dyslexia or another learning disability. Today, many of them would probably be labeled ADD!

One perfect example would be Albert Einstein. The young Einstein, who did not learn to speak until the age of 4, hardly shined at simple arithmetic and was considered only moderately talented. Yet, his dynamic thinking skills and brilliant mathematical intuition led him to emerge as one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever known.

The Powerful Right Brained Children

The typical right-brainers see a minimal need for rules, are impulsive, question authority and embrace new challenges and ideas. They are highly imaginative and more often than not, they would spin into explosive thoughts that gave rise to revolutionary insights and ideas. As well as imaginative, right-brainers are also creative geniuses and may be naturals at art or music. In addition, being spatial and three-dimensional in their thinking, they prefer drawing and creating, and have a natural ability to hold images in their heads for prolonged periods of time, far surpassing their left- or whole-brained counterparts in these areas. For example, many architects can ‘see’ in their mind an image of the finished product long before it’s translated into a blueprint. And artists report they can visualize exquisite details of a painting in their mind’s eye before they are transferred to canvas. It is precisely this extraordinary visual memory that, if harnessed, can enable right-brained individuals to succeed and excel in the academic environment.

While our current educational system may remain focused on the development of our left-brain skills, least we now know that the right brain possess an enormous potential that our children can train and develop, regardless whether they are right- or left-brained. These will be the children who, because of their innovativeness, creativity, and holistic thinking skills, will lead us into the new millennium.

13 Responses

  1. Helena….It is very desirable to focus on his musical interest including the possibility of learning a musical instrument….play on his positives rather than his limitations….give him special praise for his talent in music…he will find some compensations for his left brain problems as he grows older. Sid

  2. Thanks for the clear explanation,
    I have a four year boy nephew, he is unable to focus, hard to spell before (now has such progress), interest to music prior to clasical music. it proved when we go to church he can put a lot intention for music or note. I know this boy is right brain, and i told to his mom. i said that this is obviously different child. we have to treat him differently. He was not put really attention if someone talk but he can remember the word and ask the word by sudden. I said he is a blessed child. My question, is there any possibility for CAAD become under IQ? He is just assesed by a psicology and waiting for the result? Many thanks and hope hear from u.

  3. wow, amazing, i’m incredibly swayed this way, while everyone has called me incredibly creative or artistic, i barely heard them as i figured i had brain damage or something, utter confusion, to the point where my world is very on/off back wards and forwards a series of many inexplicable opposites, since it’s all an array of seemingly random pictures, i’ve looked to this website many times but only now after being diagnosed as all sorts of “learning disabilities” and audio processing errors, dyslexia dysgrafia bipolar schizo tendencies does this “feel”/make sense and can be understood, my minds blown, thank you for this webste a life saver

  4. Carol,

    The new discoveries of right brained children reveal their importance in the 21st century when creativity is going to play a primary role.


  5. I am so awed by this. How could we have come so far as a society, and have gotten veritably nowhere with this phenomenon?

    As I mentioned so many times before, this article is awesome, Sid.

  6. I home educate three boys. My oldest is a right-brain learner. We just had a consultation with Dianne Craft in CO where we were able to discern and develop strategies for overcoming his learning glitches. Then she helped me to learn how to teach to him. Not only that but I was able to gain nutritional strategies designed to help improve his focus as well as further strengthen and develop his corpus callossum by using fish and other oils. After going through a torturous, two-year journey of searching for answers, I hope some day to be able to educate other parents about right-brain learners and how amazing and intelligent they are. My son doesn’t need to change a thing. I have to learn how to teach to HIS strengths. THAT’S what teachers DO.

  7. Hi Mindy,

    Thanks for your comment…regrettably I am not an expert in this field and feel unable to give expert advice on your child’s right brain education…these children often have dyslexia and/or ADD…specialists in this field may be the best source of information.


  8. How do I find a teacher who can teach my right brained child? Is this idea/discovery so new that it has hit so few schools and teachers? Any thoughts would be helpful.

  9. Carol,

    A new theory which may throw more light on the nature of dyslexia is a finding that their corpus callosum (the muscle between right brain and left)is smaller than normal so messages do not as easily travel through the pathway between both sides of the brain…and consequently the right brain may compensate for this limitation.

    Also it was found that children who learned to play a musical instrument before the age of 7 had a larger than normal corpus callosum suggesting it may be increased in size by early childhood exercises…the future of this pioneering field gives new hope for those with a dyslexia problem.


  10. What a wonderful recognition. Pink Floyd said it their song “Another Brick in the Wall,” didn’t they? The Wassermans, a husband/wife research team, discovered through a brain scan that there is an area on the left side of the brain that doesn’t emit any waves. So dyslexics are working around the use of that area.

    Teachers don’t want to hear about it, it seems. They are overloaded already. It’s a shame, because a lot of creative thinkers go unnoticed and their talent untapped.

  11. Hi Lisa,

    I do understand your discomfort and frustration in not meeting the expectations necessary to survive in higher education.

    I really didn’t learn to read and write adequately till I became fascinated with the field of psychology when in my second year of college…it created the desire to read whatever stimulated my interest and in doing so I self taught myself to read which then help me develop the skills of writing.

    What I felt essential came from a passion to conquer a subject which overcame my handicap by sheer energy…if you can identify what you really want in your life the rest falls into place…and when this happens the problems seem to disappear.

    Best Wishes,

  12. Thank you for this great essay!
    It boosted my confidence…
    I know almost for sure that I’m a right brained thinker..
    I have ADD, but ever since I was little everybody commented ( and they still do) on how intelligent I am. In every day life, I feel way older and I understand so many things faster and better but in school, I just can’t keep my concentration. When I read a book, I tend to skip whole paragraphs or read it from back till the front.
    This year I’m doing a degree at the university but i can’t manage to attend the lectures.
    i don’t know what to do…
    I already quit.
    I feel as though I have talent to choose a study with physics or chemistry but somehow, I can’t learn the traditional way it’s such a shame.
    Can you give me some advise- which study I should choose next year??
    With lots of right brained hugs,

  13. I love your book and have encouraged several other parents to purchase it to help our right-brained loved, special children! I wish all schools would incorporate it into their teaching styles! THANK YOU

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