The Gifted ADHD Child

The child who exhibits excessive amounts of energy and has a short attention span may not be a teacher's worst nightmare. In fact, this student may be a dream come true. The gifted student usually learns from an exploratory level and resists just being a listener. He wants to develop his own knowledge and participate in the facilitation of his learning. Giftedness and ADHD in some instances go hand in hand, and in other instances they can cause one another to go unnoticed. They share many characteristics including the importance of being academically challenged. I taught a young man who I believe to have had this combination, the experience was unique indeed. Maureen Neihart writes on Giftedness in Children with ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavioral disorder of childhood, and is marked by a constellation of symptoms including immature levels of impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). The National Institutes of Health declared ADHD a "severe public health problem" in its consensus conference on ADHD in 1998. In the ongoing dialogue about ADHD in gifted children, three questions often arise. Are gifted children over-diagnosed with the disorder? In what ways are gifted ADHD children different from gifted children without the disorder and from other ADHD children? Does the emerging research suggest any differences in intervention or support?

There are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive type, and combined type. The combined type is most common and best researched. The DSM-IV states that to meet criteria for a diagnosis of Combined Type ADHD, a child must meet at least six of the nine criteria from both lists and exhibit significant impairment in functioning. Symptoms must occur in more than one setting, have been present for at least six months, and have been present before the age of seven. It is important to note that a child who meets the criteria but doesn't exhibit significant impairment is not diagnosed with the disorder. The subjective determination of what constitutes significant impairment is one of several factors that contribute to the controversy regarding diagnosis and treatment, especially in gifted children.

Assessing ADHD in Gifted Children
It is difficult to differentiate true attention deficits from the range of temperament and behavior common to gifted children. There is concern in the literature that clinicians err on the side of pathologizing normal gifted behavior (Baum, Olenchak, & Owen, 1998; Baum, Owen & Dixon, 1991; Cramond, 1995; Leroux & Levitt-Perlman, 2000; Webb, 2001). Common characteristics of gifted children can be misconstrued as indicators of pathology when the observer is unfamiliar with the differences in the development of gifted children. This difficulty can be exacerbated when the gifted child in question spends considerable time in a classroom where appropriate educational services are not provided. The intensity, drive, perfectionism, curiosity, and impatience commonly seen in gifted children may, in some instances, be mistaken for indicators of ADHD (Baum, Olenchak, & Owen, 1998; Webb, 2001). The creatively gifted child may appear to be oppositional, hyperactive, and argumentative (Cramond, 1995). Gifted children with some kinds of undiagnosed learning disabilities will be very disorganized, messy, and have difficult social relations (Baum & Owen, & Dixon, 1991; Olenchak & Reis, 2002).

Ideally, a diagnosis of ADHD in gifted children should be made by a multidisciplinary team that includes at least one clinician trained in differentiating childhood psychopathologies and one professional who understands the normal range of developmental characteristics of gifted children. Since as many as two thirds of children with ADHD have coexisting conditions such as learning disabilities or depression, assessment must include an evaluation for these disorders as well (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000). School personnel rarely have the training needed to differentially diagnose ADHD, and few clinicians are aware of the unique developmental characteristics of gifted children. Accurate assessment must be a team effort.

One of the reasons parents may be hesitant to comply with treatment recommendations for their children is because they aren't convinced their child has the disorder. Parents want a thorough evaluation, and parents of gifted children want assurance that their child's giftedness has been taken into consideration when evaluations are conducted. When parents see that their child has been properly evaluated, they may be more willing to participate in a treatment plan.
for full article visit - http://www.addresources.org/article_adhd_giftedness_neihart.php

Footnotes: Neihart, M. (December 26, 2007). Giftedness in ADHD Children. In Attention Deficit Disorder Resources. Retrieved July 25, 2007, from http://www.addresources.org/article_adhd_giftedness_neihart.php.

Contributed by: Shakima Bates