Book Notes (Part 1): Dreamers, Discoverers and Dynamos

Book Notes (Part 1): Dreamers, Discoverers and Dynamos

Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School (Formerly Titled ‘The Edison Trait’) by Lucy Jo Palladino PhD

This title would not normally have grabbed me.  It doesn’t at all seem to describe my situation. I don’t have school-aged kids and plan to homeschool; but Karen Edmisten recommended it highly in the comments to my “Lost in the Shuffle” post so I checked it out. And I’m so glad I did.

In that post I talked about how I think Bella might be ADD. This based on my experience with my mother, brother, and sister who have all been diagnosed. In the discussion it came up that many people were either skeptical about or wary of such a diagnosis. I like this book’s take on the whole ADD question, which really is what I meant by my post though stated in slightly different terms. The problem with “ADD” as an explanation of the kinds of behaviors and thought patterns I was trying to identify is that ADD identifies a “disorder” and a “deficit”. What I like about Dr Palladino is that she identifies the same traits when they occur without being at all disordered and without causing any real impairment in daily functioning. As an alternate to ADD diagnosis, Palladino offers what she calls “The Edison trait”, focusing more on the positive aspects of the trait such as creativity rather than the negatives such as lack of attention. (Note: she also discusses ADD which she does think is a valid diagnosis for some individuals with an extreme version of the Edison trait.)

Edison trait individuals fall into one of three groups: dreamers, discoverers, or dynamos. Bella would definitely be a dreamer. I skimmed over the discoverer and dynamo sections as they seemed much less applicable to me. What is common to all three sub-types is that they are divergent-dominant thinkers in an educational system that is designed to support and nurture convergent-dominant thinkers.

Much of this book addressed questions and problems that are very specific to children in school. Much of it just doesn’t apply to our situation and probably won’t ever apply so long as we’re homeschooling. If Bella is indeed an Edison trait thinker, then it seems homeschooling may indeed be the best choice for her as traditional schools are very poorly equipped to really nurture divergent-dominant thinkers while homeschooling can be much more readily tailored to play to their strengths and find ways to manage their differences.

What I really found helpful in this book were the “Eight Steps to Help Your Edison Trait Child” I think I’ll go through them one by one and note the suggestions that seem particularly helpful now and in the foreseeable near future.

Step One: Believe in Your Child

  • Remember your child is dependent on you and needs you. If he disregards you it is not because you are unimportant but because what you say lacks personal meaning for him. Don’t take it personally when he ignores you or disregards what you say.
  • Be careful not to ascribe ulterior motives. He’s not out to hurt you. It is unlikely that his actions were premeditated. He’ll push to get what he can because he’s focused on what he wants, it’s not to aggravate you.
  • Expect success. Be realistic but positive. Keep your mind on future possibilities not past defeats.
  • Stay centered on child’s strengths. See him as capable, not as a villain or a victim.
  • ***Find causes that lead to change not blame:***

    Psychologists have demonstrated that the way you explain the cause of an event affects the odds of its recurrence. This is called attribution theory. A singe theory has many contributing causes. We choose the causes we want to acknowledge, usually out of habit.

    So if a child spills a glass of milk you can blame it on their lack of attention, saying things about how they do it every time, never learn. Or you can explain it as a result of something the child did—such as trying to lift a too-full container—rather than a weakness or flaw in his character. A response that does not create blame or pessimism helps a child learn from his mistakes and makes it less probable it will happen again.

    When you correct your child, isolate the mistake to “this time only”. Don’t bring up past mistakes and burdensomely discourage your child. You want to make it easier, not harder, for your child to prevent it from happening again.

Step Two: Watch What You Say

  • Choose healthy words. Name child’s behavior in a positive way.
  • Think in healthy words. How you think and perceive the behavior affects how you act.
  • Practice the 80/20 rule. Let positive statements make up 80% of what you say to your child. “Every time you find it necessary to point out something unsatisfactory, you must already have observed, or now need to observe, four satisfactory things.”


    I like the way you…
    Thank you for…
    I understand what you were trying to do. You were trying to…
    You gave that a good effort. I saw you…
    I noticed how you…

    Don’t undo an acknowledgment. Don’t begin the next sentence with “but…

  • Tell stories of past successes. Edison trait children thrive on storytelling and imagery. Telling stories of their own successes in the past builds confidence and renews hope and belief in the present.

Step Three: Build a Parent-Child Team

  • Don’t be an enemy to your child or let your child be the enemy. You are on the same team fighting fear, stress, intolerance, misunderstanding, discouragement, exhaustion, disappointment.
  • Be on the same side.
    • Understand, don’t blame.
    • Cooperate, don’t intimidate.
    • Act, don’t react.


  • It is optimal to have 10 minutes of “time in” every night. Devote 10 minutes to just being together, talking, doing something. Give the child your full, undivided attention. Not time for reading or homework or accomplishing a task. Just being together. Listening, asking questions. Let the child guide how the time is used.

  • Five ways to tell your child “I value you”

    • Respect your child’s anger. Listen, don’t try to fix it, to talk him out of it, to help him see another side.
    • Enjoy his jokes
    • Resist correcting minor infractions. (I have a hard time with this one. So hard to just let things go)
    • Speak respectfully.
    • Expect excellence.

These notes are getting long, so I think I’ll continue in another post.

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  • Wow, that’s wonderful. I can totally understand what an achievement this is for both of you! I’m very very inspired, so thank-you. And I’m looking forward to more book notes too… That’s a really important point about re-telling their success stories, I hadn’t thought about it like that. I also love what you do with getting Bella to put her leftovers in a container. What a good idea. 

  • This sounds SO much like Philomena, just a little older. Good for Bella! Today we tried some Montessori techniques with Philomena and there was a definite improvement in her focus. If something strikes her fancy, she’ll stick with it for up to 45 minutes, but generally, she can’t settle. So, there was a huge improvement, but I realize that those who don’t know her too well would still say she’s bouncing off the walls and unable to stay still. Sigh. I have to start doing some research. Does Bella have any problem with maintaining eye contact? Mena does, and it’s so frustrating. Any thoughts?

  • Idoya,
    I’m glad you like the book notes. It will probably be a bit before I can get the rest of them up. Though the book is already overdue and I think I owe about $4. I don’t want to take it back till I finish. I should probably just go ahead and buy it.

    The leftovers thing really does work so well. When I remember to do it. It puts the choice into her hands to decide whether she’s really done. So much better than nagging her.

    I’m fascinated with Montessori technique but I’m so bad at consistency myself that I know it’s really only of limited use for me as a tool. I also know more theory and am not always sure how to implement the ideas.

    I’m so bad at making eye contact myself I don’t usually notice. I’ll have to try to pay attention.

    Please do share what you find if you research further.

  • I can’t find the other part— I would love to know what the other steps are…can you help me find it? I know it’s been a few years since the post

    • Hi Helen,

      Sadly, I think I was overly ambitious and precipitous when I titled this blog post. I don’t think I ever did write part 2. Life happened, the book went back to the library, I never checked it out again. So sorry to disappoint.