Posted September 5, 2013 by Jim Barteck in Gifted

Gifted, ADHD, or Something Else?

Is it Giftedness or Something Else?
Is it Giftedness or Something Else?

SENG is out with a new brochure directed at pediatricians which addresses a serious problem in the gifted community: misdiagnosis of children. All too often, giftedness is misdiagnosed as ADHD, autism spectrum, a processing disorder, or even food allergies.

With the diagnosis rate of ADHD growing, there is a likelihood that a significant number of them are, in fact, gifted rather than ADHD. (We’ll talk about the epidemic of ADHD overdiagnosis in another post.) In fact, SENG’s brochure points out at least four diferent possible gifted traits that could easily be mistaken for ADHD: high activity levels; low impulse control, impatient, interrupts others; distractible, fails to complete tasks, refuses to do schoolwork; and atypical sleep patterns.

Likewise, there are an ever-growing number of autism spectrum diagnoses as well. SENG identifies at least three possible gifted traits that can be mistaken for autism spectrum: difficulty relating to classmates, atypical humor; stubborn, averse to transitions; and speech delays.

And none of these cover other conditions like mood disorders (3 gifted traits), auditory-processing disorders (2 traits), learning disabilities (2 traits), and so on.

The sad fact is that we simply don’t have any kind of idea just how badly we are missing the boat with gifted children, at least in part due to the pathetic state of gifted advocacy across the country.

Gifted, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Child?

Does he have the right diagnosis?

The problem is that, all too often, parents and/or teachers identify a potential problem, get a diagnosis – ANY diagnosis – and then the child is permanently labeled without any chance to have that diagnosis revisited. Many times it’s due to a lack of resources (read: money) from parents, many times it’s because newly prescribed medications are masking or suppressing those “undesirable” traits so the lack of further symptoms is mistaken for an accurate diagnosis, and tragically sometimes it’s because the child’s parents, teachers, and/or doctors simply lack enough education or information to recognize giftedness even when it’s staring them in the face.

With all the hue and outcry over falling behind other nations and over the failures of students to “keep up,” the fact that we are systematically failing to accurately identify our brightest and most creative thinkers should perhaps be moved to the top of the list as to one of the reasons why. It’s long past time to do better for these kids, and ourselves.

Jim Barteck