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When Being Gifted is a Problem

Children, adolescents, and adults with gifted potential often appear as though they have ADHD. Shifting from one task to another before it is completed, getting bored easily when things are not challenging, performing well below potential, and being oppositional are just a few of the traits you may see. Even more problematic is the high failure rate of gifted students. A commonly accepted statistic is that in excess of 30% of gifted high school and college students drop out of school before finishing. Being gifted is very much like having a learning disability or ADHD. School can be very difficult for different reasons. Here are some ideas and solutions that may help.

1. Gifted behaviour is not just having a high IQ. Task commitment and creativity are also required. Just doing IQ testing and choosing an arbitrary cut off number to “designate” giftedness is no longer accepted.

2. Gifted behaviour is very specific. As an example, you may be average in everything else, but excel in music. You would be considered gifted in that area.

3. You may be gifted, but also have ADHD, or a learning disability. This condition that I term complex ADHD, is one that requires accurate assessment and programming to meet these complex needs.

4. Gifted behaviour in one area may make it look like there is a “deficiency” in another. Average social skills may look deficient when compared to reading levels 4 grades above age expected norms for a young child.

5. Schools often don’t have programs to help. There is no required programming that matters in most schools. Putting everyone on the bus to go to a theatre a few times a year isn’t very helpful. Educators mean well; they just don’t often get it.

6. The Project Model, something I’ve discussed before in this blog, is the accepted method to assist gifted children and teens. Young children are given mentoring to complete a project of their choosing in their area of interest and exceptionality. Older children may do projects that are weeks or even months in duration. The project is what they do when they have completed their regular classroom work. They produce artwork, a song, story, science experiment, and so on that is reviewed and critiqued by their mentor. Then they start another one.

7. Visual-art gifted students will require programs and services not often available in traditional education. Music and athletic gifted students also may require extra out of school programming.

8. Gifted students with disabilities or ADHD must start each learning experience remembering and focusing on their gifts. Eventually, if this is not the case, they quickly forget that they are exceptional at their skill, and develop a self-esteem which is consistent with their deficiency. Gifted behaviours should lead any program for children or teens with complex ADHD.

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