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ADHD and Giftedness: Your Hyperactive Child May Be Gifted

Most kids with ADHD receive this diagnosis after a doctor takes a quick look at their symptoms, but it's very possible that there's nothing wrong with your child. Many children with the symptoms of ADHD may actually just be gifted children – children with a greater intellectual capacity and creative ability than their peers.  It's easy to mistake ADHD for giftedness; gifted children tend to behave differently from their classmates and may be more precocious or hyperactive than the average child.  Since the public school system is not trained to handle children like these, many teachers or guidance counselors view gifted behavior as a medical condition that needs to be "cured."  Most children with ADHD are given stimulant drugs like Ritalin to control their behavior, but it's possible that these medications can inhibit the intellectual curiosity and creativity in gifted children.

Children need a thorough evaluation of their symptoms and circumstances before any diagnosis and treatment is given.  Fortunately, the National Foundation for Gifted Creative Children has established some guidelines to help teachers differentiate ADHD from giftedness.

  1. Kids with ADHD have poor attention spans in almost every situation. Gifted children are easily bored, have poor attention spans, and daydream only in specific situations.
  2. Kids with ADHD easily give up on most tasks. Gifted children get bored by tasks they think are irrelevant.
  3. Kids with ADHD make impulsive decisions and display poor delay of gratification. The judgment of gifted children often lags behind the development of their intellect.
  4. Kids with ADHD are shy or inhibited in social situations. Gifted children tend to be intense, and engage in power struggles with those in authority.
  5. Kids with ADHD are more restless and active than average. Gifted children have high activity levels only in certain situations.
  6. Kids with ADHD have a hard time following rules. Gifted children question rules, customs, and tradition.

Of course, these are only guidelines, not a thorough medical assessment.  Misdiagnosing children with ADHD could lead to inappropriate treatment that could impair their creativity, when in fact they may only need changes like a more challenging, interactive academic curriculum. On the other hand, ignoring the possibility of ADHD treatment and assuming that a hyperactive or inattentive child is gifted could make the symptoms worse. The bottom line is that your child needs rigorous testing and evaluation from a trained practitioner if you think something is wrong with his or her behavior. Only then can our children maximize their abilities, overcome their weaknesses, and reach their fullest potential later in life.