Skip to main content

Before Referring a Gifted Child for ADD/ADHD Evaluation

Gifted Education and Support
This article by Sharon Lind explains that highly gifted children are easily misdiagnosed as having attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD). Lind provides a valuable checklist of behaviors and characteristics for educators to use before referring a student for testing. The checklist is designed to differentiate between confusing factors.

Author: Lind, S.
Publications: The Communicator
Publisher: California Association for the Gifted
Volume: Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 20
Year: Fall 2000

Parents and gifted educators are asked with increased frequency to instruct gifted children to conform to a set of societal standards of acceptable behavior and achievement-to smooth the edges of the square peg in order to fit into a “normal” hole. Spontaneity, inquisitiveness, imagination, boundless enthusiasm, and emotionality are being discouraged to create calmer, quieter, more controlled environments in school. An extension of this trend is reflected in an increase in referrals for medical evaluation of gifted children as ADD/ ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). There is no doubt that gifted children can be ADD/ ADHD. However, there are also gifted children whose “inappropriate behavior” may be a result of being highly gifted and/or intense.

This intensity coupled with classroom environments and curriculum, which do not meet needs of gifted, divergent, creative, or random learners, may lead to the mislabeling of many children as ADHD. To avoid mislabeling gifted children, parents and educators may want to complete the following check list to help them decide to refer for medical or psychological evaluation.

If, after addressing these questions, parents and teachers believe that it is not an unsuitable, inflexible, or unreceptive educational environment which is causing the child to “misbehave” or “tune out,” or if the child feels out of control, then it is most certainly appropriate to refer a gifted child for ADD/ADHD diagnosis. Premature referral bypasses the educational system and takes control away from students, parents and educators. By referring before trying to adjust the educational environment and curriculum, educators appear to be denouncing the positive attributes of giftedness and/or to be blaming the victim of an inappropriate educational system.

When deciding to refer, parents should search for a competent diagnostician who has experience with both giftedness and attention deficit disorders. It is never appropriate for teachers, parents or pediatricians to label a child as ADD or ADHD without comprehensive clinical evaluation that can distinguish ADD/ ADHD from look-alikes with other causes.

GIFTED? Need More Information ADD/ADHD?
 Contact with intellectual peers diminishes inappropriate behavior  Contact with intellectual peers has no positive effect on behavior
 Appropriate academic placement diminishes inappropriate behavior  Appropriate academic placement has no positive effect on behavior
 Curricular modifications diminish inappropriate behaviors  Curricular modifications have no effect on behavior
 The child has logical (to the child) explanations for inappropriate behavior  Child cannot explain inappropriate behavior
 When active, child enjoys the movement and does not feel out of control  Child feels out of control
 Learning appropriate social skills had decreased “impulsive” or inappropriate behavior  Learning appropriate social skill has not decreased “impulsive” or inappropriate behavior
 Child has logical (to the child) explanations why tasks, activities are not completed  Child is unable to explain why tasks, activities are not completed
 Child displays fewer inappropriate behaviors when interested in subject matter or project  Child’s behaviors not influenced by his/her interest in the activity
 Child displays fewer inappropriate behaviors when subjuect matter or project seems relevant or meaningful to the child  Child’s behaviors do not diminish when subject matter or project seems relevant or meaningful to the child
 Child attributes excessive talking or interruptions or need to share information, need to show that he/she knows the answer, or need to solve a problem immediately  Child cannot attribute excessive talking or interruptions to a need to learn or share information
 Child who seems inattentive can repeat instructions  Child who seems inattecitve is unable to repeat instructions
 Child thrives on working on multiple tasks– gets more done, enjoys learning more  Child moves from task to task for no apparent reason
 Inappropriate behaviors are not persistent– seem to be a function of subject matter  Inappropriate behaviors persist regardless of subject matter
 Inappropriate behaviors are not persistent– seem to be a function of teacher or instructional style  Inappropriate behaviors persist regardless of teacher or instructional style
 Child acts out to get teacher attention  Child acts out regardless of attention


Permission Statement

Add a comment

Suggest an update

Related Articles

Highlights from Expert Series

Creating and Presenting Research Posters

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and…

Gifted Education and Support

Special Education Process: IEP vs. 504 Plan

This article provides information on both the IEP and 504 plans, as well as who qualifies for each of them.…

Gifted Education and Support

For Educators: Gifted Ed. Degree Programs

Organizations: National Institute for the Development of Gifted Education (Denver, CO) As part of the Morgridge College of Education at…

Gifted Education and Support

Interview with Christine Fonseca about Introverted Gifted Students

The following Q&A about introverted, gifted students was written by Christine Fonseca, an award-winning author, parenting and life coach, speaker,…