Home > School and Learning > Learning Differences > ADHD > Signs and Symptoms of ADHD > Correlation Between ADHD and Gifted Children?
|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Correlation Between ADHD and Gifted Children?

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: What is your theory on the correlation between ADHD and gifted children? Also, in your opinion, when does the excitability and the impulsivity begin to slow down? My son is ten and is still very impulsive and daredevilish.

A: This is a very good question, since some of the traits noted in children with ADHD are also seen in children who are gifted or talented. This can result in over-identification of students with ADHD, the under-identification of gifted students, and the mis-education of both. There are also some children who are gifted and talented who also have ADHD, and that presents a special challenge to teachers and parents.

ADHD is a condition, which is presumed to be of neurological origin. The person with ADHD finds it difficult to inhibit (control) impulses, so he or she pays attention to everything in the environment. People who are gifted and talented also have the ability (in fact, the need) to pay attention to lots of things. That's what makes school so boring for so many kids who are very bright. What makes the two people different is the efficiency of the scanning or how well the person understands and organizes what he sees, hears, or touches. The person without ADHD takes in information, analyzes it, categorizes it, discards irrelevant data and integrates the new data with stored information in an instant. This is done in a very efficient (and by the way, satisfying) manner. Whether a person is a professional basketball player or an artist, he goes through this process over and over again in order to be successful. On the other hand, the person who is impulse-driven flits from stimulus to stimulus. He or she is much like a steel ball in a pinball machine -- sometimes reacting to a stimulus, sometimes performing an action on purpose, but most often acting in a random, unplanned fashion. And, the whole time going downhill, so to speak. Some parents of children with ADHD who are really physically fit fret over their child's frustrating lack of success in soccer -- because she runs the wrong way down the playing field!

You might notice that when some people with ADHD are motivated by something, they can be intensely focused (a video game, for example). In a gifted person, we might call this "sticktuitiveness." In the person with ADHD, this is often really what is called perseveration, or the inability to not pay attention or to shift easily from one thing to another. There's also a psychological component operating here, too. Why give up playing one game that you love to do something (like homework-ugh!) that you despise? On the on the other hand, artists and athletes (and other gifted people) stick with something for the purpose of mastery. They get things a little more right with each repetition. In children with ADHD, getting something right feels more a matter of chance. While practice and drill do result in gains, their learning curve is not smooth and upward like the basketball player practicing foul shots; it's more up and down -- and more frustrating. This is not to say that children and adults with ADHD cannot master things. The key to building a good self concept in children with ADHD is finding those things that he or she does well and using these rewarding feelings that come from these activities to balance the frustrations from other parts of their life.

So what about the person who is gifted and who has ADHD? The successes and the frustrations are both very intense, but may be erratic. The combination of being bright and impulsive means that you may act without thinking but you will probably be right more often than the other guy who is just impulsive. Unless a child understands his or her intellectual strengths and understands the potentially negative impacts of the ADHD, they may be confused by their inability to sustain success. Self-understanding (often aided by counseling) goes a long way in helping a person with this unique combination of traits and talents attain his or her fullest potential.

More on: Expert Advice

Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting and Fight For Your Write! Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity. Visit BICFightForYourWrite.com to sign our petition to save handwriting!

7 Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies & Toddlers
The AAP advises reading aloud to babies and toddlers because it boosts brain power and has many other benefits. Get some tips for making the most of story time with your tot!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

How to Survive Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters and tips for surviving until September.

12 Birthday Party Favors that Won't Get Thrown Away
The next time you're planning a birthday, forgo the penny candy and cheap toys. Send your guests home with one of these fun and creative party favor ideas!