Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
The authors of Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults bring a wealth of professional experience to this exceptionally thoughtful and thorough text. This book addresses the development, and implications, of misunderstanding gifted young people and adults. Misunderstanding characteristics frequently associated with giftedness often leads professionals and parents to mislabel, and therefore mistreat, gifted individuals. The authors of this comprehensive text emphasize the need for greater awareness of how giftedness in the context of environmental factors impacts the diagnostic process, as well as appropriate interventions, with the goal of improving the quality of life for gifted individuals and those who interact with them.
The text is arranged in a clear and concise fashion that efficiently assists the reader in understanding a large amount of complex information. The first chapter addresses key characteristics of gifted children and adults, and is not to be missed. This chapter sets the stage for addressing common concerns that may result in misdiagnosis or dual diagnosis upon presentation to a mental health professional. There is also an excellent orientation to the limitations of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), which is widely used to assign diagnoses. In addition, this initial chapter notes the developmental trajectory from childhood to adulthood, recognizing that characteristics of giftedness have broad implications throughout the lifespan. Specific areas of interest addressed in this chapter include, but are not limited to, asynchronous development, thinking and learning styles, interest patterns, over excitabilities and problems that stem from educational misplacement and/or lack of understanding within the family.
Subsequent chapters focus on particular disorders and their relationship to the interactions between the behaviors and environments of gifted individuals. The authors begin this sequence of Chapters 2 through 9 by addressing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as this is one of the most common reasons for which young people are referred to mental health professionals. Other areas that are thoroughly addressed in individual chapters include, in order: anger diagnoses; ideational and anxiety disorders; mood disorders; learning disabilities; sleep disorders; allergies, asthma, and reactivity hypoglycemia; and relationship issues for gifted children and adults. Within each of these areas, the reader has the opportunity to consider how characteristics of giftedness may relate to particular disorders in terms of masking, increasing the intensity of, or co-existing with them. The relevant diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV-TR) for each disorder are presented, followed by sections that focus on additional behavioral and environmental factors to consider, similarities and differences between the diagnostic criteria and characteristics of giftedness, and incompatible or contradictory features to consider prior to confirming a formal diagnosis. Again, these considerations are largely overlooked in training programs. Therefore, professionals often rely on partial information that is not adequately evaluated in the broader context of giftedness.
The final chapters of the text summarize the diagnostic process and important notes for guiding the selection of professionals to assess and/or work with gifted individuals. The inclusion of this information adds to the overall positive impact of this unique text, as it not only describes the interrelationship of various characteristics and diagnoses, but also provides constructive suggestions for readers to implement as they search for information and answers specific to their own experiences. Another unique feature of this text is the inclusion of detailed examples and vignettes that draw the reader into the experiences of those who have been impacted by crucial misunderstandings that have resulted in lost time, awareness and development of effective interventions for gifted individuals and those who are a part of their lives. These examples and vignettes are generously dispersed throughout the text, and add, rather than distract from, the flow of the individual chapters.
Dr. Webb and his colleagues have made a significant contribution to the literature that supports the optimal development of gifted individuals. Ideally, Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults will be considered an invaluable reference for professionals in practice and in training, such that the ongoing mislabeling and mistreatment of gifted individuals will decrease dramatically. In addition, given the compassionate and comprehensive nature of the text, it is highly recommended that parents utilize to the benefit of their children, as well as for the purpose of better understanding themselves.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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