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Understanding a Gifted Child with ADHD

Posted by Categories: Advocacy, Gifted Students

Understanding a Gifted Child with ADHD | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)On November 30, 2016, NSGT delivered a webinar entitled Family Relationships and the Gifted Child, Techniques for Staying Sane. As positive family relationships are so critical to the nurturance of gifted behaviors, the interest is this topic was widespread.

Most of the questions asked during the webinar were addressed, however there were several that we couldn’t get to due to time constraints that we hope to address in subsequent blogs. Today’s blog will address a question about ADHD (a subtype of Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, which includes hyperactivity).  A parent asked whether a large public school or a small private school would be a better option for her son who has ADHD. Of course, the answer depends on the student, the programs and supports available in the chosen schools, and the characteristics of the child. Let’s start by looking at ADD.

ADD is a syndrome which is usually characterized by serious and persistent difficulties with attention span and impulse control, and in some cases, hyperactivity. ADD is a treatable complex disorder, affecting approximately 3-6% of the population.

Here are some common symptoms of ADD:

  • Excessively fidgets or squirms
  • Difficulty remaining seated
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty awaiting turn in games
  • Blurts out answers to questions
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Difficulty sustaining attention
  • Shifts from one activity to another
  • Difficulty playing quietly
  • Often talks excessively
  • Often interrupts
  • Often doesn’t listen to what is said
  • Often loses things
  • Often engages in dangerous activities

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between AD(H)D and giftedness, as their characteristics appear to be so similar. Both sets of behaviors may manifest as boredom and inattention. Both sets of behaviors may demonstrate a difficulty with rules and regulations, and both may engage in a high activity level.

A parent should be aware of the following tips on classroom management for ADD and then seek a school setting where these strategies and options are employed and/or available:

  1. Ask the child what will help, as they are often intuitive.
  2. Provide structure (lists, reminders, previews, repetition, direction, limits, boundaries).
  3. Post rules in full view.
  4. Make frequent and direct eye contact.
  5. Use the student’s name first to elicit attention
  6. Provide a seat in close proximity to staff.
  7. Be consistent; don’t get diverted by lengthy fairness discussions.
  8. Make the schedule as predictable as possible as transitions are very disconcerting.  Announce what is going to happen and repeat warnings as the time approaches.
  9. Monitor progress often and give frequent feedback; use a secret signal if desired.
  10. Break down large tasks into small tasks; assist with organization and time management skills.
  11. Introduce novelty; be playful, unconventional and flamboyant.
  12. At the same time, watch out for overstimulation, which can lead to chaos; eliminate as many distractions as possible (noise, excessive visual stimuli).
  13. Be positive and point out success as immediately and as often as possible.
  14. Use behavior modification if needed for inappropriate behavior.
  15. Provide opportunities for movement (ADHD).
  16. Teach memory tricks such as cues, rhymes, codes and mnemonics.
  17. Teach how to outline and underline.
  18. Write what you are going to say as well as say it.
  19. Simplify instructions, choices, scheduling etc.
  20. Ask questions that promote self-observation; give responsibility when possible back to the student.
  21. Facilitate social interactions in class.
  22. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

These students can be far more talented and gifted than they often seem. They are full of creativity, play, spontaneity, and cheerfulness. They tend to be resilient, generous of spirit, and glad to help. They usually have a “special something” that enhances whatever setting they are in. Look for these positive characteristics and find an educational setting that uses the above techniques to provide the needed structures for bringing out the best in your child.

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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