Unlocking the Potential of Gifted Kids with ADHD

ADHD and intelligence are uncorrelated. Yet so many of our kids score off the charts on IQ tests and are clearly smarter than their grades and conduct reports might suggest. Teaching and parenting these twice-exceptional (and easily bored) students takes persistence and creativity, but the hard work is more than worthwhile when their gifts are unlocked.

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Gifted and ADHD Hemera/Thinkstock

Many parents and teachers don’t realize that a child can be gifted and have learning disabilities , a combination called “twice exceptional,” or 2e. Debra Hori, an education therapist, didn’t. Her son, Ben, was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) at age eight, but it took three years to learn that his verbal skills and IQ were well above average. “He was tested, and he scored in the gifted range,” says Hori. “I decided to enroll him in a different school that accommodated all of his needs,” she explains. “It made a world of difference.”

Intellectually gifted children with special needs often have a rough time in school. Their gifts mask their special needs, and their special needs hide their academic ability. As a result, they are usually labeled “lazy,” “unmotivated,” or “slackers.”

Several factors contribute to the delayed diagnosis of gifted students. Inattention and other ADD/ADHD symptoms may result in lower scores on tests used to determine eligibility for gifted programs. Also, teachers are less likely to notice ADD/ADHD symptoms in students who are not disruptive. Parents are likely to be skeptical of an ADD/ADHD diagnosis when they know their child is bright. Remember, though, that a high IQ alone is not enough to be successful in school. Working memory, say experts, is a better predictor than any test result.

Next: How to Meet the Learning Needs of Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities

Five Tips for Parents of Gifted ADD/ADHD Children


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