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ADhD, Giftedness

Gifted or ADD?

exerpt from Gifted or ADD?.


Gifted or ADD?

Parents, if your child seems bright then please, please, PLEASE have a qualified psychologist evaluate him or her for giftedness BEFORE you accept a diagnosis of ADD and medication.

Gifted children and adults are at high risk for being identified as ADD.  Most people, including most medical professionals, do not realize giftedness is often associated with the following behaviors:

  • underachieving
  • anger and frustration 
  • high energy, intensity, fidgeting, impulsivity
  • individualistic, nonconforming, stubborn
  • disorganization, sloppy, poor handwriting
  • forgetful, absentminded, daydreams
  • emotional, moody
  • low interest in details

Moreover, sometimes adults do not realize a child is gifted because they don’t really know what “gifted” means.  Or they may believe a child is both ADD and gifted. As a result, many gifted children these days are being medicated for a brain defect they probably don’t have. 

Most people have an incorrect view of gifted children and adults.  The “gifted” are supposed to be model students, teaching themselves how to spell and perfect their grammar, win spelling bees, have perfect social skills and become neurosurgeons.  This is true of SOME gifted children and adults.   Many others, however, act out and space out in boring school settings, and their increasing anger and frustration may lead to oppositional behavior and underachievement.   They may have sloppy handwriting because of fast thought processes, miss details, and be unorganized and forgetful. Gifted adults are not always easy to spot, either.   They are housewives, teachers, and carpenters, and they may not even realize they are gifted.  Some even believe they are stupid.

There is some evidence that as many as half of all kids with IQs above 130 get below average grades, and in one study 13% of high school drop outs were gifted. In another study, a full 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD tested so high in creativity tests they qualified for state scholarships.  I recently spoke with a consultant for the gifted who said about half of the gifted boys referred to her had been told they were probably ADD.  Complicating matters is the uneven types of intelligence many people have.  People labeled ADD often have a “visual/spatial” type of intelligence that confuses many teachers and parents.   They might have trouble reading or spelling but have outstanding abstract reasoning abilities and become bored very quickly in traditional schools.

Proponents of the gifted assert that it is usually problems with the school environment that are to blame for behavior problems and underachievement, not any problem with the child.  You will not hear this from school officials or most psychiatrists, however.  They believe it must be a brain defect.

Parents, if your child seems bright then please, please, PLEASE have a qualified person evaluate him or her for giftedness BEFORE you accept a diagnosis of ADD and medication.

Gifted children MUST have an education that fits their needs.  If they don’t, they should be expected to act out or space out, and it is NOT their fault!  Placing them on medication so that they can tolerate a more boring school is absurd.  There are much better options available, such as home schooling, alternative schools and grade skipping. 

How is “Gifted” Defined? There is no consensus as to how “gifted” should be defined, except everyone seems to agree that people with an IQ of 130 or greater are definitely gifted.  But people with lower overall IQs can also be gifted by other avenues:

  • Creative-Gifted: Demonstrated creativity or high score on the Torrence Creativity test (above an IQ of 120 there is no correlation between IQ and creativity scores);
  • Demonstration of exceptional skills in a domain, like math or art;
  • Visual-Spatial thinkers are often gifted but may score below their actual level of intelligence on IQ tests (very high abstract reasoning, visual-spatial skills);
  • Sometimes “gifted” is defined as the smartest two percent, which correlates to an IQ of 125.

The fuzzy nature of the term “gifted” is apparent when one considers an idiot savant who cannot handle simple math but is a gifted pianist. 

The IQ cutoff of 130 is completely arbitrary. It’s not like one child with an IQ of 130 is gifted rather than ADD and the next child with an IQ of 125 is “disordered” simply because he does not meet the threshold for giftedness.   A child with an IQ of 120 may be considered “bright” or “superior” rather than gifted, but is just as likely to be bored by a school ciriculum designed for kids with an IQ of 85.

Of special interest here is the concept of the visual/spatial thinker.  These people are at high risk for an ADD diagnosis and are also likely to be gifted.  They are often brighter than their IQ scores. Visual/spatial thinkers often have outstanding abilities in abstract reasoning, visual/spatial skills, and problem solving.  However, they have relative weaknesses in processing auditory information and sequencing, and are often poor at spelling and phonics.  Such people are also called “right-brained.”  Visual/spatial children are at high risk for school problems because they become bored very quickly and dislike repetition and drills.  They are likely to act out or space out in school. Such children often need to be accelerated or homeschooled. The Gifted Development Center has done quite a bit of research on visual-spatial learners and has some excellent information at www.gifteddevelopment.com/VSL_List.htm.

Why do Gifted people act the way they do?   One reason is that gifted people become bored easily in settings that average people find tolerable (like school or work).  Boredom leads to restlessness, and restlessness leads to all sorts of problems.  Fast thought processes can lead not only to boredom but to poor handwriting, errors in simple work, disorganization and sloppiness.

In addition, brighter people tend to exhibit more “overexcitabilities” than average people. This has been well demonstrated in studies.  The five overexcitabilities that have been identified are:

Overexcitibilities Negative Perspective
Physical hyperactive, fidgety, restless, impulsive
Emotional moody, temperamental, prone to depression and anxiety
Intellectual head in the clouds, inattentive to surroundings
Sensual picky eater, over-reacts to physical discomforts
Imaginational daydreams, inattentive

For more information about the concept of overexcitabilities see Overexcitabilities Used to Predict Giftedness.



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