How to Understand Gifted and Talented Children with ADHD

Gifted and talented children with ADHD usually thrive on complexity. They tend to seek it out, and to seek out peers who have similar interests. Thus it is a good strategy in pre-planning lessons to think of topics or ideas that will challenge the child and give him extra things to think about and problems to tease out. This will help to keep him on task and maintain his motivation.

In the reverse situation, where a gifted and talented child with ADHD is underachieving, it can be a mistake to place him in a lower set. This can exacerbate his demotivation, self-esteem and boredom and start a downward spiral. If this happens then recognition of the child’s giftedness is critical, and appropriate classroom support and set placement must be very carefully thought out.

With gifted and talented children especially, the ability to hyper-focus on interesting tasks can often make it appear that the concentration is within the child’s own volition. Many of these children have a very strong sense of right and wrong and are clever at practising avoidance strategies. It may not be immediately apparent that they have weak concentration as it may show more as oppositional behaviour or procrastination. Your ability to think laterally and look at things from a different perspective is important here.

If a child has had an educational psychology evaluation done, recognize that even though the test scores are high, in children with associated ADHD they may still be underachieving relative to their innate ability. Some of the tests used are not particularly effective in children with very high IQ, and also the ADHD pupil’s problems with poor time management and executive function issues predispose them to underachieve. From the teacher’s perspective, therefore, the child may be even brighter than the IQ testing has shown.

Gifted and talented children with ADHD often have very high cognitive ability and advanced needs for complex friendships, wanting to share interests, often related to computers and strategy games. They may have a more sophisticated understanding of the rules and the sort of things they want to do than other children of a similar age. However, their misreading of social cues, their verbal impulsiveness, dogmatism, and difficulty in relating in groups, can often mean that you need to handle them as you would a much younger child.

Because these pupils often seem to be particularly sensitive to minor criticism and appear to be innately aware of their true potential, they often have very poor self-esteem and in the very early years of school can become increasingly demoralized. It’s important to nurture their self-esteem, but you will need to find a balance between increasing the level of appropriate academic support and giving support for the social and emotional difficulties.

Be sensitive in reprimanding these children, and aware of their very low boredom threshold and the fact that they frequently see the end result without being bothered with all the boring things in the middle. Such children often have extremely advanced moral reasoning ability and are very concerned about right and wrong and fairness.

Teach specific study and organizational skills. It’s often useful to provide a mentor – preferably a slightly older child who has similar interests and can help support them socially and emotionally. These children often know a great deal about a specific subject, but have great difficulty in putting it down on paper in a sequenced and organized way. Here, study skills support, outlining a framework for an essay and praising their positive attributes are essential. Computer work can also be useful, as it enables them to explore topics in more detail. Care, of course, has to be taken regarding excessive internet use to avoid an obsession about computers developing.

It is easy to underestimate the severity of the difficulty ADHD causes in a gifted child because of the masking effect of their intelligence. It is also important not to focus on the disruptive behaviour, but to see the child’s underlying high levels of ability.

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Personality


About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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