The Art of Focus

Photo/Story posted December 10, 2014 in News by Meghan Snyder


Alex Owen is a seemingly normal Penn state student on the surface, but she suffers from attention deficit disorder. According to the national library of medicine, attention deficit disorder or ADD is a component of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This disorder affects a person’s cognitive ability to focus, sit still, and maintain control over his or her behavior.

ADD and ADHD are generally diagnosed during childhood, but there are cases of the disorder onset in adulthood. While there are medical treatments to combat the symptoms of ADD, many of these medications carry weighty side effects, such as low appetite, stomach pain, or sleeping problems. Some, like Alex, choose not to use these prescription methods. Some turn to therapies, and Alex finds solace in her art.

Alex found her passion for art in the 1st grade. After a childhood birthday party, Alex broke her leg. During the examinations and treatment, doctors discovered Alex had a bone cyst in her left femur. Doctors removed the cyst and part of the bone replacing it with a portion of a cadaver femur. This extensive surgery left seven-year-old Alex unable to do physical activity for the majority of her first and second grade years. Because of this Alex was not allowed to go out for recess and this is when she found her love for art. What started as a diversion to pass the time when missing recess quickly turned into a passion that doubles as a coping mechanism for her ADD.

Alex describes her time painting as the time when her head is the clearest, with uninterrupted concentration, which is a stark difference from the rest of Alex’s life. Alex refers to the time when she is not painting as a “wonky jumbled mess,” often leaving her confused frustrated and it effects the relationships she has with friends and loved ones. Art and oil painting in particular are Alex’s “happy place;” they provide a relief from the stress the ADD has put on her life. Although Alex is looking into other methods of therapy with the help of Penn state university’s office of disability services, she is confident that her passion for art will stick with her for the rest of her life, with or without ADD.