Personal Story of ADHD
“I failed math; Einstein passed it. But he couldn’t paint and sculpt like me. So we all have these specialties, these strengths.” –Robert Toth
The Early Years: A Mother’s Influence
Robert Toth repeated fourth grade three times, couldn’t read until he was 12 years old, recalls his early school years as very sad, and often felt awkward, as though he just didn’t fit in. He was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia during these difficult years.
Luckily, Robert’s mother was a loving, positive and powerful influence in his life. She nurtured his strengths and believed in him, helping him to develop these qualities and feel good about his gifts.
Robert is an amazingly talented sculptor and painter. His art is displayed in private and public collections throughout the world. His work has been purchased by the Smithsonian Institute National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Vatican Museum in Rome, Italy, and the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland, to name a few. He has been commissioned by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, MGM Studios in Hollywood, 20th Century Fox, Miramax, Showtime, NBC TV, and the list goes on.
Needless to say, Robert is a truly gifted artist. Yet, as a child life was a struggle. He could have easily succumbed to the negative, to his frustrations and failures in school, to the feelings that he was different, but he did not.
Finding Strengths Through the Struggles
At age fourteen, Robert was still struggling in school, but he was also winning praise for his artistic achievements. “I found I didn’t have an attention disorder when I could focus my attention on what I liked most, and with that came the enthusiasm to hyperfocus.” Robert began to see that his strength in learning came from visual, hands-on activities. He credits his mother’s positive energy for helping him to find his way and remembers two science teachers whose approach to teaching was hands-on with wonderful visual demonstrations.
“Parents need to know there is hope,” explains Robert. “My mom was the making of me. She gave me clay at age five and said, ‘you can make many toys with clay and when you get tired of one, squish it around and make another.’ That was the beginning of divergent thinking for me which continues to this day.”
Embracing Differences in Learning
Robert urges parents and school systems to adjust the way they look at learning by embracing the differences in learning. “The whole point is, in the educational system, we have to look at kids in a new way and say, hey, they have different learning styles. They’re visual people, maybe, or they have scientific brains. Some of them excel in sports, some of them in art, like me, some in math.”
To celebrate these differences, Robert has created a collection of portrait busts of famous individuals who have been an inspiration to him throughout his life. “The Masters” include Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo DaVinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, Isaac Newton, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and many more.
“I want to spread the words and images of these great people of genius, and that many were thought to have learning disabilities that did not deter them from their mission in life that so many have benefited from,” explains Robert.
Robert particularly likes the following quotes from two of the “masters.”
“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” –Thomas Edison
“In the middle of a problem lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein
Robert has a wonderful quote of his own; “ADD-How I turned it around.”
“I’ve noticed that all of these people have done that. They’ve turned it around,” says Robert. “If people look at their own lives, when there is disruption, and you stay with that disruption for a little while, you’ll find something of value there. That’s why a pile of junk can be an inspiration and how creative imagination can see opportunity.”
And Robert Toth is a creative inspiration, as well!
To learn more about Robert and his work go to RobertToth.com.
Broatch, Linda. “Successful Artist with LD and AD/HD Seeks to Inspire Others.” Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. 03 June 2004.
Toth, Robert. “ADD/Dyslexia: My Story.” Emails to Keath Low. 26 Dec. 2007, 27 Dec. 2007, and 28 Dec. 2007.