Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ADHD or a dancer?

This is an interesting story of a mom trying to find help for her fidgeting daughter who was doing poorly in school. It was told by Sir Ken Robinson during a TED talk in February 2006:

“And the third thing about intelligence is that it's distinct. I'm doing a new book at the moment called Epiphany, which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent and actually about how people got to be there. It was really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who most people have never heard of; she’s called Gillian Lynne. … She's a choreographer, and everybody knows her work. She did Cats and Phantom of the Opera. …

Gillian and I had lunch one day, and I said, "How did you get to be a dancer?" She said it was interesting. When she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school in the 30’s wrote to her parents and said, "We think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn’t concentrate; she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn’t you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point. It wasn't an available condition. People weren't aware they could have that.

Anyway, she went to see this specialist … She sat on her hands for twenty minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. … In the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, "Gillian, I've listened to all these things that your mother's told me. I need now to speak to her privately. Wait here; we'll be back. We won't be very long." And they went and left her.

As they went out of the room, he turned on the radio sitting on his desk. When they got out of the room, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." The minute they left the room, she said she was on her feet, moving to the music. They watched for a few minutes, and he turned to her mother and said, "You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school."

I said "What happened?" and she said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked into this room, and it was full of people like me: people who couldn’t sit still, people who had to move to think." … She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School; she became a soloist; she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School and found her own company, the Gillian Lynne Dance Company and met Andrew Lloyd Webber. She's been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history; she's given pleasure to millions, and she's a multimillionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.

You can view his entire twenty minute talk, “Do schools kill creativity?” (this story starts about 15 minutes into the talk).
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