From The New York Times:
_New York Times_, "Education Life", p. 10
July 31, 2005
How to ... Identify a Gifted Child
By ABIGAIL SULLIVAN MOORE
DISCERNING gifted children, long an imperfect science, is even tougher in today's label-prone culture. James T. Webb, a clinical psychologist and author of "Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults," explains what can go wrong.
Q. Parents throw the word "gifted" around. What does it mean, really?
A. Gifted comes in different forms and degrees. Gifted children excel in such areas as general intellectual ability, specific aptitudes like math, creative thinking, visual or performing arts. Most have I.Q. scores between 130 and 155. Above that range are the profoundly gifted - a tiny fraction of the group. Over all, the gifted represent about 3 percent of our population.
Q. Why would gifted children be tagged as having psychological disorders?
A. Behaviors of many gifted children can resemble those of, say, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Most teachers, pediatricians and psychologists aren't trained to distinguish between the two. Most gifted kids are very intense, pursuing interests excessively. This often leads to power struggles, perfectionism, impatience, fierce emotions and trouble with peers. Many gifted kids have varied interests, skipping from one to the other - a trait often misinterpreted as A.D.H.D.
Q. You write that these misdiagnoses are common.
A. About a quarter of gifted children have their giftedness misinterpreted as a disorder and aren't recognized as gifted. Even when flagged as gifted, another 20 percent are misdiagnosed. Among children referred to me with a bipolar diagnosis, almost 100 percent have been misdiagnosed, as are 70 percent of those with obsessive-compulsive diagnoses and 55 percent of those with A.D.H.D.
Q. What's a parent to do?
A. Parents should educate themselves about the characteristics of gifted children: intense curiosity, unusually good memory, a remarkable sense of humor, exquisite sensitivity to others and extensive vocabularies. And identify them early. Children's attitudes toward learning get set before age 10. Preschool and the early grades generally turn off gifted kids: they are told to stop asking so many questions and wait their turn. They need an appropriate learning environment. If not, seeds for underachievement are sown.
While I agree that gifted kids share characteristics with ADHD kids, it is possible to be both gifted and have ADD. The giftedness will mask the attention problems to such an extent that some people insist there's no such thing as ADD--All kids with attention problems are "only" gifted. I'm here to tell you, it just ain't true. I've seen how much easier life is for Klaus since he's been medicated. He's not a "zombie" and hasn't been "drugged into compliance." If anything he's been drugged out of compliance. He used to do whatever it took to get along and stay under the teacher's radar. Since he's been able to concentrate, he's become much more independent and ambitious. I think that's because he trusts himself now. He knows he can make a decision, set a goal and follow through.
I read somewhere that low self-esteem is a result of not keeping your promises..to yourself. You set a goal (promise), can't follow through, and start telling yourself that you're worthless. If the goal affected someone else, their reaction doesn't make you feel any better. It's not until you can make promises to yourself, follow through, and learn to trust yourself that your self esteem begins to rise. It's an interesting way to look at the phenomenon.