ADHD and Giftedness

Helping your child realize their true potential

Eileen Bailey

The standard definitions of “Giftedness” have changed over the years. Traditionally, the measurement relied on IQ, with a score of over 128 or 130 being considered gifted.  Today, however, more and more people are realizing that a child can be gifted in just one area rather than all areas.  Children gifted in language and reading may not be considered gifted in mathematics.  Some people can be gifted in art or music, but IQ alone does not always reflect Giftedness. 


For children that are gifted with ADHD, unique problems can develop. There may be difficulty in diagnosis; either the high intellect can cause ADHD to go undiagnosed or the symptoms of ADHD may cause giftedness to go undetected.


When a parent requests testing and evaluation for ADHD, the main symptoms usually include: poor school performance, fidgeting, inattention and hyperactivity.  These symptoms can also be a sign of Giftedness.  Children can be fidgety and/or not pay attention if they are bored with the work being taught.  Children can perform under their abilities if they understand the work quickly and then daydream while the teacher continues to teach the rest of the class. 


There are a number of shared characteristics for both Giftedness and ADHD:

  • Restlessness, fidgeting
  • High energy level
  • Problems sleeping
  • Underachievement
  • Frustration
  • Disorganization
  • Forgetfulness, absent minded
  • Emotional, moody, may have tendency toward depression
  • Inattention to detail
  • Tendency to question authority

One student in the same school district as my son had also been diagnosed with ADHD.  He was a bright boy but could not seem to pass a math class, even a class below his 11th grade level.  Finally, the school district evaluated his arithmetic skills.  The testing showed that he understood mathematical concepts on a 16th grade level but his practical applications were still at an 8th grade level.  (His reading level also was above a 16th grade level.) During class, he quickly learned and understood the concepts being taught.  After that, he tuned out the lessons. His ADHD caused him to lose his homework on a regular basis, even though he completed it each evening.  His inability to complete the practical aspects caused him to fail tests.  Although very intelligent, this young man felt inadequate and stupid, even though his understanding of the concepts being taught was well above most of his classmates.  The school district set up a plan to have him complete his math class in the resource room, by himself, with an aide and computerized curriculum.  Working one on one, his practical math skills improved by several grade levels in one semester. 

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