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The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child Hardcover – August 25, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“Thom Hartmann is truly a visionary pathfinder in our sometimes confusing, labyrinthine world.”
(Stephen Larsen, Ph.D., coauthor of Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind)

“Thom Hartmann demonstrates that ADHD can be associated with creativity, high achievement, and a most successful adaptive style.”
(Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Driven to Distraction)

 "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."
(John J. Ratey, M.D., author of A User's Guide to the Brain)

"Offers concrete strategies for helping Edison-gene children to reach their full potential."
(Spirit of Change, May/June 2004)

"The Edison Gene is an impressively well-written and well-researched book."
(Kathy Heckler, New Age Retailer, May.June 2004, Vol. 18 No. 3)

"Not only challenges majority opinion and does so effectively, but backs up each observation with real, authentic evidence."
(P.H.M Atwater, L.H.D, author of The New Children and Near-Death Experiences and We Live Forever: The real Truth About Death)

"Shows that, rather than being problems, such children are an important and vital gift to our society and the world."
(AZ Net News, Aug/Sept 2004)

"Hartmann shows the positive sides of ADHD and how as a society we have turned these same traits into negatives."
(Kerri Connor, Circle of Stones, Fall 2004, Vol.1 Issue 6)

"Hartmann gives us a deeper explanation of ADHD, explaining its origins and characteristics and offering strategies to help."
(Jenny Richter, Magical Blend, October 2004)

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

Manuel Mota-Castillo, M.D., Psychiatric Services, April 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Park Street Press; First Edition edition (August 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892811285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892811281
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Thom Hartmann is the four-time Project Censored Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of 23 books currently in print in over a dozen languages on five continents.
Hartmann is also an internationally known speaker on culture and communications, an author, and an innovator in the fields of psychiatry, ecology, and economics.
The co-founder (with his wife, Louise) and former Executive Director of The New England Salem Children's Village (1978) and The Hunter School (1997), he has led national innovations in the areas of residential treatment for abused children and private/public education for learning-disabled children.
He has helped set up hospitals, famine relief programs, schools, and refugee centers in India, Uganda, Australia, Colombia, Russia, and the United States through the German-based Salem International program. Formerly rostered with the State of Vermont as a psychotherapist, founder of The Michigan Healing Arts Center, and licensed as an NLP Trainer by Richard Bandler (who wrote the foreword to one of Thom's books), he was the originator of the revolutionary "Hunter/Farmer Hypothesis" to understand the psychiatric condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).
A guest faculty member at Goddard College in Vermont, he also synthesized the "Younger/Older Culture model" for describing the underpinnings - and possible solutions - to the world's ecological and socio-political crises, suggesting that many of our problems are grounded in cultural "stories" which go back thousands of years.
Leonardo DiCaprio was inspired by Thom's book "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" to make the movie "The 11th Hour" (in which Thom appears), and Warner Brothers is making a movie starring DiCaprio and Robert De Niro from the book Thom co-authored with Lamar Waldron, "Legacy of Secrecy."
Talkers Magazine named Thom Hartmann as the 8th most important talk show host in America in 2011, 2012, and 2013 (10th the two previous years), and for three of the past five years the #1 most important progressive host, in their "Heavy Hundred" ranking. His radio show is syndicated on for-profit radio stations nationwide by Dial-Global, on non-profit and community stations nationwide by Pacifica, across the entire North American continent on SiriusXM Satellite radio, on cable systems nationwide by Cable Radio Network (CRN), on its own YouTube channel, via Livestream on its own Livestream channel, via subscription podcasts, worldwide through the US Armed Forces Network, and through the Thom Hartmann App in the App Store. The radio show is also simulcast as TV in realtime into nearly 60 million US and Canadian homes by the Free Speech TV Network on Dish Network, DirectTV, and cable TV systems nationwide.
His evening TV program, The Big Picture, is wholly owned by his own production company, produced in the RT studios, and licensed to and carried by Free Speech TV in the US, and into over 600 million homes in 104 countries via broadcast and cable by the RT TV network, and distributed worldwide on the web on Hulu.
As an entrepreneur, he's founded several successful businesses which still are operating, and lived and worked with his wife, Louise, and their three (now adult) children on several continents.
He was born and grew up in Michigan, and retains strong ties to the Midwest, although he and Louise have lived in New Hampshire, Vermont, Georgia, Germany, and Oregon...and now live on a boat in Washington D.C. with their attack-cat, Higgins.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Edison was ADD. SO were many of the people who contributed to making the world the good place it is. This book portrays a very different picture of people with ADD, going so far as to suggest that the gene that is associated with ADD was also the gene that led to the creation of civilization. Tell that to a kid whose recently been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD who is feeling bad about having a defective brain, as some misled people conceive. This book gives a perspective on ADD/ADHD that will boost an ADDer's self esteem rather than harm it. It shoud be required reading for all teachers.
Thom Hartmann's books are extraordinarily inspiring and uplifting. If you haven't read Prophet's Way, Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, Unequal Protection, and World's Greatest Secret, all books not related to ADD, then you're missing something. Also check out his talk show at thomhartmanndotcom.
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Format: Hardcover
In this book, Thom logically progressed up what the former California Senator S.I. Hayakawa called the abstraction ladder. Thom moves from brain cells to parts, to the individual child and their genes. He then 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 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. For some, the building of the case may be tedious at first, (Publisher's Weekly), but I disagree. It is a necessary step to overcome the bias fostered by the media and the billions spent by vested interests in labeling these beautiful children "disordered. You may disagree with the conclusions, but there is enough proof provided here to convince even the most ardent skeptic of Thom's premise and serious proponent of the view that ADHD is a disorder that their view needs re-examination. 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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Format: Hardcover
Thom Hartmann is one of our society's most articulate expositors of progressive and non-conformist social and spiritual ideas. It is no coincidence that he has written extensively on the topic of "ADHD," a label that by definition is given to people (especially children) who don't conform to the rules and demands of their environments.

This book starts with Hartmann's previously proposed idea that ADHD traits are consistent with a human genetic factor that was adaptive for "hunters" in the course of human evolution. He points out how many non-conformists in history became great inventors, leaders, and innovators, precisely because they were not forced to conform to prevailing dogmas and customs.

Rightly, Hartmann sees the current desire to force conformity as a dangerous threat to individuality and progress.

Hartmann recognizes that those labeled ADHD are often more sensitive and reactive than the norm, and need supportive conditions to help them flourish. The "negative" side of ADHD traits is most likely to appear when children are abused or over-stressed rather than nurtured. I would have liked to have seen this book go into more depth and provide more of the existing documentation about the various holistic approaches to helping those labeled ADHD thrive rather than be drugged and treated as disordered. The flaws and dangers of orthodox ways of responding to ADHD traits/behaviors could have also been explored further, although there are other books that cover that ground well and which lack the broad scope and perspective provided by Hartmann.

Overall, this book provides a lot of great insights.
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Comment 49 of 52 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
One of the best things that came out of reading this book was that it made me realize I don't need to force my child to conform to the norm. The most important thing I can do is foster my son's interests and support him in his endeavors. I found the way the author described the origins of the Edison Gene through examples of evolution and climate changes was fascinating. I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with a bright child having problems in school (especially those that have been diagnosed as ADHD) and also adults investigating their own diagnosis of ADHD. (...)
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Format: Paperback
Now in paperwork is an outstanding coverage of ADHD and self esteem written by one who himself was expelled from school for ADHD behavior, but supported by a mother who rescued his self-esteem. Thom Hartmann surveys new genetic evidence that kids with ADHD have gifts and unique abilities. Their brains are wired to make them innovators, inventors, and more - the same qualities which often cause school problems reflect an underlying genius.
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Format: Hardcover
As always, Hartmann has written a book that gives encouragement and hope for those of us who are ADD/ADHD. When my daughter and I were first diagnosed, Thom Hartmann's "Different Perception" was the first book I read. From the first book to this newest one, Hartmann makes those of us who are ADD feel as though we aren't sick or disordered. Both the "hunter theory" and the "Edison Gene" assist ADDers in finding their place in today's society... or just make their own spot. :-D
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