Lately I’ve been re-reading the classic Canadian novel, Anne of Green Gables and its sequels. One reason is because I haven’t in so long… I believe I was 11 years old the last time. Another is they were on sale. A 6-novel Kindle set for only 99 cents on Boxing Day is just too good to pass up!

I enjoy re-reading books and watching old movies at different times in my life. Stories have a way of changing once you have some life experience behind you. It’s funny how you can go from relating to the child in a story, to relating to their parents or teachers, for example. Well, this re-read was no exception. After years of being immersed in the world of special needs, I saw something in Anne of Green Gables that is so clearly obvious that I laughed over how I could have missed it before:

Anne Shirley is neurodivergent!

Specifically, I believe she would be diagnosed with ADHD if she were alive today (and, you know, not fictional). Sit back and smile with me as I give you some examples.

15 Reasons Why Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables is Neurodivergent:

  1. She Lives in Her Own Head
    I don’t think I need a specific example here… the entire novel is dedicated to Anne’s rich inner world created by her imagination. Individuals with ADHD are notably imaginative and creative, while girls with ADHD tend to be characterized as “daydreamers.”
  2. She Makes Careless Mistakes
    A side effect of being a daydreamer is that you often miss things right in front of you in the real world. One time, Anne flavors a cake with liniment instead of vanilla, and another time she dyes her nose red because there was a bottle of dye on the same shelf as her freckle cream.
  3. She Misses Steps in Tasks
    Remember that time Anne bakes a cake without flour? Yeah, innocently missing steps in multi-stepped instructions is an indicator of neurodivergence. Usually the person doesn’t even notice they have missed something, and genuinely believes they have completed the task.
  4. She Forgets Instructions
    Remember the famous incident where a mouse drowns in cake sauce because Anne forgot to put the cover on the bowl? Forgetting instructions, particularly forgetting instructions so quickly it’s like you never heard them in the first place is another sign of ADHD. This is often because the brain is so busy processing so many other things all at once, that some information gets lost or dropped. Uninteresting information, or information that is not immediately important (such as an directions that you need to know later, but not immediately) are the ADHD mind’s biggest victims.
  5. She Loses Track of Time
    Poor Anne. She was late coming back to class from lunch and was forced to sit with the boys as punishment! Poor time management is common to most forms of neurodivergence. This is due to differences in executive functioning ability. ADHD-ers/other neurodivergents are often notorious for running late!
  6. She is Impulsive
    Remember that time she sold a cow that turned out not to be hers? Impulsivity is another sign.
  7. She Talks Too Much
    Also no example needed. Anne is a talker. Full stop. Excessive talking and interrupting when others are speaking is a major sign of ADHD.
  8. She is Impatient
    Anne, like most people with neurodivergence, describes waiting as “torture.”
  9. She is Excitable
    “For Anne to take things calmly would have been to change her nature.”
    Anne of Green Gables page 188
    Yes another sign. People with neurodivergence easily become focused entirely on whatever has caught their attention, and get really excited about it! Autistic brains tend to hang on to special interests for a very long time, while ADHD brains love new and novel things and will focus on the latest and greatest.
  10. She Displays Giant Emotions
    From great moments of elation, to falling into “the depths of despair,” Anne has no problem showing her feelings. It is as if she is experiencing things more intensely than everyone else around her at all times. Because she is. Neurodivergents show a much greater sensitivity to their surroundings in a sensory way and in an emotional way.
  11. She is Fiercely Loyal & Stubbornly Holds Grudges
    On the heels of experiencing intense emotion, people with neurodivergence tend to love and hate in the extreme as well. Anne is fiercely devoted to her adoptive father, Matthew and her best friend, Diana. Meanwhile, it took a whole CBC miniseries for Anne to get over that one time Gilbert calls her “carrots!” (A reference to her red hear that she is very sensitive about.) This is related to the big emotions, above, and to RSD, below.
  12. She Cannot Handle Criticism
    Remember that time that Rachel Lynd criticizes Anne and she screams bloody murder at her? Or the time she breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head? This is most likely due to another symptom of ADHD called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Some ADHD-ers with this specific comorbidity take teasing, slights, and hurt feelings very seriously. They react in the extreme when they experience rejection, or when they even perceive they have been rejected, whether they truly have or not. People with RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) live in a heighted sense of fear that they will be unliked and unloved. They tend not only to react when others reject them, but also when they do something that might cause others to reject them, such as getting a poor grade or failing to excel at a sport or game. People experiencing RSD often avoid team sports, or other opportunities for them to let other people down. They are also quick to quit new hobbies or activities that they don’t immediately excel at. The risk is too high for them, because they feel failure and rejection so acutely.
  13. She is Very Gifted
    Anne enters school with little to no formal education, yet she catches up quickly and goes on to receive the top grade in her graduating class, and ties for first in her college entrance exam. ADHD brains are capable of great focus when properly motivated. This is commonly called “hyperfocus,” or “beast mode,” on forums and social media. In Anne’s case, she is highly motivated by a rivalry between herself and her academic arch-nemesis. This drives her to study hard and achieve more than anyone would have thought.
  14. She is Good in a Crisis
    Unlike autistic individuals who typically thrive on order and routine, ADHD-ers thrive on the new and unique. While others may shut down mentally in a crisis, this neurotype seems to thrive in the chaos of an emergency. It is humorously reported by those with ADHD online that they “train” for crisis every day because their minds are already so frequently busy and buzzing with new information that they are used to it. They certainly seem to have a magical ability to remain calm when others panic. A turning point in Anne’s story is when she saves the life of her neighbor’s baby when others don’t know what to do. She is able to keep calm and direct others until the doctor arrives.
  15. She Just Wants to Be Accepted
    Today, more and more adults are getting themselves tested and discovering that they are neurodivergent. Whether the diagnosis comes back as dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, autism, OCD, DCD, ADHD, or others, the common reaction that I see online is relief. Many people seeking a diagnosis as an adult have felt lonely for many years. They report feeling “different,” but never knew why. They report feeling “like an outsider” even among friends. They even report feeling like “an actor pretending to be a human.” Connecting with a community of others with neurodivergence, helps them feel “at home” for the very first time. In both the books and the movie & TV adaptations, Anne of Green Gables is always on the lookout for “Kindred Spirits:” people who get her, understand her, and think and dream the way she does. After being told all her life that she is strange, and made to feel all her life that she is deficient, she blossoms and thrives when she finally finds her people and can be comfortable, safe, and loved just the way she is.

There you have it! 15 reasons why I think Anne is neurodivergent/ADHD. I wrote this post because I kept laughing out loud each time I noticed a sign, and just wanted to share my revelation with any Anne fans out there. (There are more than 15 signs, by the way. Give it a read with fresh eyes!)

I’d also like to wrap this up with a thought. In the story, Anne is truly loved by so many people. Yes, there are those who think she is too strange and keep their distance, but anyone who gets close enough to get to know her is won over and forever changed by the wonderous way she views life. Her inner world is so rich that it benefits everyone her life touches. Today, Anne is a beloved character known around the world. She delights audiences now just as much as she did when the book was released in 1908, with many of her fans saying the same thing, “Anne is a Kindred Spirit.”

…So would it really be so bad if you or your child or your grandchild was just like Anne? Would it really be so bad if you or someone you love is “different?” Different isn’t a dirty word. Different people make the world a better place.

© 2023 Ashley Lilley – First time commenting? Please read my Comment Policy.

5 thoughts on “15 Reasons Why Anne of Green Gables is Neurodivergent

  1. Maybe this is a reason I should try reading Anne of Green Gables. I always thought the book was boring and girlish, but with this new information, maybe I would be able to relate to Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

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