Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

“[Academic Ability] is deep in the gene pool of public education. There are really two types of people: Academic and Non Academic, Smart People and Non Smart People. The consequence of that is that many brilliant people think they’re not because they’ve been judged against this particular view of the mind.”
-“Changing Education Paradigms,” a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award.

When I discuss Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), inevitably the name “Howard Gardner” and his theory of “multiple intelligences” cross my lips. As the daughter of two New York based therapists, I was raised to appreciate the nuances of the human psyche. Although, I may not have been able to recite Gardner’s list of seven intelligences, I understood that each individual experiences Life in a unique way.

For our reference, here’s a list of Gardner’s of seven intelligences (*the eighth was added later).

  1. Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those that Howard Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence consists of the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. In Howard Gardner's words, it entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.
  3. Musical intelligence involves skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. According to Howard Gardner musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.
  4. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails the potential of using one's whole body or parts of the body to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. Howard Gardner sees mental and physical activity as related.
  5. Spatial intelligence involves the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas.
  6. Interpersonal intelligence is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counselors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one's feelings, fears and motivations. In Howard Gardner's view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives.
  8. *Naturalist intelligence enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment. It ‘combines a description of the core ability with a characterization of the role that many cultures value’

The first two intelligences (Linguistic / Logical-Mathematical) are traditionally valued in schools. The next three (Musical / Bodily-kinesthetic / Spatial) are associated with the arts. Finally, the last two (Interpersonal / Intrapersonal) are considered personal intelligences.

From what I’ve experienced and observed, we ADHD’rs often struggle with the two intelligences associated with “Academic Ability.” To our detriment, these intelligences are prized most by traditional education systems. Chastised under their methodology, some children with ADHD receive blows to their self-esteem before they even enter elementary school.

I was thrilled when my friend David passed along the “Changing Education Paradigms,” a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson. As Robinson states, our modern era offers so many technologies to be distracted by that children are progressively overmedicated for ADHD. While I do believe that medication helps many individuals with diagnosed ADHD, it's also helpful to understand your mind and body’s unique strengths and weaknesses.

For many ADHD’rs, we excel at the arts. Robinson describes this as the “aesthetic experience [when] your senses are operating at their peak, when you’re present in the current moment, when you’re resonating in the current moment with this thing that you’re currently experiencing. You are fully alive.” Perhaps this is why the ADHD mind enables me and others like me to hyper-focus on projects that pertain to the literary, visual, and performance arts.

Robinson makes another great point with “divergent thinking.” If you've been reading along with this blog, you're probably familiar with the Buddhist principle of “monkey mind.” On any given day, we ADHD'rs can be found daydreaming or inventing wild ideas or stories. At present, human’s capacity for such divergent thinking narrows with age and education, as we’re indoctrinated into a system that values academic intelligences.

We’re fortunate to have such lauded individuals as Robinson promoting the appreciation and development of different intelligences. While there are many hurdles to scale until the seven intelligences are valued equally, getting the word out is the first step.

Here’s an animate adaptation of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, where I found the quote at the start of this post (Thanks for sharing, David Cavaliero!). What an excellent demonstration of combined visual and audio teaching:

For more on Sir Ken Robinson's work visit: http://www.sirkenrobinson.com