Melissa Simpson by wuyunqing


									                                                                                    The Difference 1

       Melissa Simpson

       Deslie Thomas

                      ADHD or Giftedness: How Do You Know the Difference?

       Diane Latimer, M.A, School of Professional Psychology, Wright State University,

Dayton, Ohio, and James T. Webb, Ph.D, Professor and Associate Dean, gave a story that

illustrates the difficulty of knowing the difference between ADHD and giftedness, “Howard's

teachers say he just isn't working up to his ability. He doesn't finish his assignments, or just puts

down answers without showing his work; his handwriting and spelling are poor. He sits and

fidgets in class, talks to others, and often disrupts class by interrupting others. He used to shout

out the answers to the teachers' questions (they were usually right), but now he day-dreams a lot

and seems distracted. Does Howard have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is

he gifted, or both?” (Latimer)

       Many people do not understand that when a child is diagnosed with ADHD, he or she

may also have abilities to succeed in a talented and gifted program. As long as a child is gifted,

the talented and gifted program can influence the ADHD child’s life positively. To fully

comprehend what needs to be done to help, parents and teachers need to know the characteristics

of ADHD and gifted students, as well as support, assist, and find curriculum that will meet the

child’s needs.

       Determining whether a child may have ADHD or giftedness is difficult but very

important. Parents and teachers need to know what learning needs a child may have. Although

the characteristics are similar for both ADHD and giftedness, there are differences. An incorrect
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assessment of the child’s need can be devastating to the student, parent, and teacher. Finding the

student’s learning needs is the first step to helping a child.

Definitions of giftedness and ADHD

        First, parents and teachers need to understand what ADHD and giftedness are. Dawn

Beckley, from the University of Connecticut, describes giftedness as, “high intellectual abilities

or potential, rather than specific accomplishments. Most commonly depicted as having

exceptional abilities or potential for learning and problem solving.”

        Continuing on, Beckley says a learning difficulty is best defined as “problems in learning

due to a cognitive-processing difficulty in which the dysfunction affects one or more cognitive

processes instead of obstructing overall intellectual ability.” The best way to identify these

characteristics in a student is by the “inconsistency between their measured potential and their

actual performance on academic tasks (Beckley).” Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in

the Webster Dictionary is defined as “a condition (mostly in boys) characterized by behavioral

and learning disorders. A disorder in which hyperactivity is present.”

        Beckley describes a twice-exceptional student as those that generally meet the “eligibility

criteria for both giftedness and learning disabilities.” When dealing with twice-exceptional

students, the student may work in a special educational program where the disorder may be

addressed, while excelling in another subject and being placed in a gifted program. Major

factors to consider in diagnosing children are the personality and behavioral problems. A child’s

actions can be a greater determining factor than how well he or she performs academically

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Characteristics to determine professional evaluation

       Latimer and Webb list 14 characteristics of ADHD from the Diagnostic and Statistical

Manual of Mental Disorders. If a student appears to have 8 or more of the 14, they can be

classified as ADHD. Referral to a professional would still be necessary. To be considered for a

referral, these characteristics should be apparent for at least six months, and appear before age 7.

The 14 diagnostic characteristics are as follows:

   1. often fidgets with hands or feet and squirms in seat

   2. has difficulty remaining seated when required

   3. is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

   4. has difficulty awaiting turns in games or group situations

   5. often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed

   6. has difficulty following through on instructions from others

   7. has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities

   8. often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another

   9. has difficulty playing quiet

   10. often talks excessively

   11. often interrupts or intrudes on others

   12. often does not seem to listen to what is being said to him or her

   13. often loses things necessary for tasks or activities at school or at home

   14. often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering possible


   Although these behaviors sound like they could definitely be pointed towards ADHD, many

people do not know that a lot of these behaviors can be found in talented and gifted students as
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well. Therefore, a professional evaluation is necessary; the characteristics are so similar it can be

very hard to tell, and it can lead the person astray. The need of a professional evaluation will be

looked at more intently later.

   Rebecca Mann, in a presentation on “Twice-Exceptional Gifted and Learning Disability,”

says that there are several questions parents should ask themselves in order to help them in their

search of whether the child has ADHD or giftedness. Does the child show these behaviors at

home, or does the child exhibit these behaviors at certain times of the day, or in different

environments? Have any curricular modifications been made in an attempt to change these

behaviors? Is the child unable to concentrate even when interested in the subject? Has the child

been interviewed about their feelings on the behavior? (Mann) Answering these questions via

observation will help determine if further evaluation is needed.

Characteristics of gifted ADHD children vs. normal ADHD children

   Deidre V. Lovecky, PH.D, at the CHADD International Conference, says that gifted students

with ADHD have an odd way of taking graded tests. Difficult questions don’t seem to be a

problem, while the easier questions are commonly missed. Also, they learn fast. Although gifted

ADHD students can learn fast, they tend to forget how to use strategies effectively to problem

solve. They know strategies such as mnemonic devices and category grouping, but they tend to

forget to use these strategies to solve problems. Gifted ADHD students do better in one

particular area rather then in many areas. Often times that particular area has harder concepts.

For example, Lovecky says, “Abstract reasoning in particular is often well developed and in

advance of other more basic skill levels.” Interestingly basic skills come unnaturally for these

gifted children with ADHD since their advanced skills are so refined.
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    Beckley says that ADHD, gifted students are shy, mostly because they get discouraged

easily. Their intelligent, creative minds come to a halt as they begin to experience continuous

failure at school, while at the same time not understanding the success they are achieving in

other areas. Often times, the misunderstanding will lead the ADHD, gifted student into isolation

because they do not feel that they fit in. For a child with ADHD, the automatic skills that are

difficult for them to grasp can become the core of more problems. Because of the lack of these

basic skills, “these students are often referred to as street smart with school problems” (Beckley).

    Lovecky states several more examples that set ADHD, gifted students apart from normal

ADHD students: They are more emotional, more sensitive, heavy worriers. Behavior is either

more mature or less mature than an average ADHD student. They seek complexity (including the

way they socialize). One interesting difference is their persistence on fairness: “A gifted, ADHD

student insists on fairness in game rules, until he or she starts to lose. Then fairness becomes less

salient than winning” (Lovecky).

ADHD compared to giftedness characteristics

    The behaviors associated with ADHD are similar to behaviors associated with giftedness.

Latimer has come up with a chart to identify these behaviors. Refer to the chart below to see

similar characteristics.
                                                                                   The Difference 6

(BARKLEY, 1990)                                     GIFTEDNESS (WEBB, 1993)
1. poorly sustained attention in almost all         1. poor attention, boredom, daydreaming in
situations                                          specific situations
2. diminished persistence on tasks not              2. low tolerance for persistence on tasks that
having immediate consequences                       seem irrelevant
                                                    3. judgment lags behind development of
3. impulsivity, poor delay of gratification

4. impaired adherence to commands to                4. intensity may lead to power struggles with
regulate or inhibit behavior in social contexts     authorities

5. more active, restless than normal children       5. high activity level; may need less sleep

6. difficulty adhering to rules and regulations     6. questions rules, customs and traditions


       As you can tell from the chart above, it is very hard to distinguish between ADHD and

giftedness; the chart helps clarify why often times a thorough evaluation is needed. It is

important to note the setting in which a child experiences these problems. ADHD children will

exhibit problems in all environment situations (sometimes more heavily in certain environments

then others) while a gifted student will not be consistent with these behaviors in every

environment setting they are placed in (Latimer).

       Lovecky says that some of the main strategies that gifted, ADHD students struggle with

include the ability to think sequentially, putting everything together in a situation, and picking

out main features in a given set of data. Therefore, because they struggle with some basic

strategies, they complete less work or rush through it, take more time on simple assignments, and

are indecisive about project topics. Simple things such as working in groups becomes a

challenge, and often times ADHD, gifted students don’t find that their work is all that rewarding

to them (Lovecky).

       Latimer states that gifted students, on the other hand, will spend one-fourth to one-half of

their time in a regular classroom waiting for other students to catch up, especially in group
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settings. With free time on their hands, what would the response be? They tend to be disruptive

and loud for amusement during free time. Thus, many people mistake this misbehavior for

ADHD (Latimer).

       Below you will find a more complete list of characteristics that set apart ADHD, gifted

students from normal gifted students, as composed by Mann.

           SIGNS OF GIFTEDNESS                            SIGNS OF LEARNING DISABILITIES

      excellent long-term memory                        poor short-term memory
      extensive vocabulary                              speaking vocabulary more sophisticated than
      excels in reading comprehension                    written
      excels in mathematical reasoning                  struggles with decoding words
      advanced verbal skills in discussions             does poorly at computation
      excels in computers                               refuses to do written work
      grasps abstract concepts                          handwriting is illegible
      performs better with challenging work             has difficulty with spelling and phonics
      thrives on complexity                             struggles with easy, sequential material
      highly creative, imaginative                      difficulty with rote memorization
      reasons well                                      often inattentive in class
      is a keen observer                                emotions can overpower reasoning
      may have acute hearing                            poor auditory memory
      has very interesting ideas, extremely             poor listening skills
       curious                                           weak in language mechanics
      had high degree of energy                         may be unable to learn unless interested
      perceptive                                        performs poorly on timed tests
      insightful (seems “wise”)                         hopelessly disorganized
      excellent sense of humor                          finds clever ways to avoid weak areas
      may excel at art, science, geometry,              may fail at foreign languages and subject
       mechanics, technology, or music                    emphasizing audition, sequencing, memory


       Latimer says that one thing that both ADHD, gifted students and average gifted students

have in common is their hyper-focus, or hyperactivity. Almost one-fourth of these students

probably don’t need as much sleep. Although the activity levels are high for both, a normal

gifted student’s activity is generally directed and focused, while an ADHD gifted students is not

(Latimer). Lovecky says that when a normal gifted student becomes involved with a self-chosen

activity, they can stay on the task for hours at a time, getting excited and being very independent
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from outside enforcement. Therefore, they spend more time doing what interests them by

themselves (Lovecky). In comparison to their activities, Latimer says that “the activities of

children with ADHD tend to be both continual and random; the gifted child’s activity usually is

episodic and directed to specific goals” (Latimer).

What teachers and parents can do to help

       When the diagnosis is finally determined, the teacher then needs to work with that

student in a way that will help the child succeed in his or her own manner. Researchers have

found a few theories that will help a teacher work with a gifted student, both normal gifted and

ADHD, gifted.

       Gifted students benefit from learning together and should be placed with similar students

in their areas of strength. It has been extremely difficult for regular education teachers to

differentiate curriculum to meet the needs of gifted students in mixed ability classrooms. Many

gifted students think and learn differently from their chronological age mates who are not gifted.

They tend to better understand, accept, and use their learning differences as assets when they are

grouped together. When they are provided with consistent appropriate academic challenge, they

tend to be more comfortable with themselves, and others. When cooperative learning has been

overdone in the regular education classroom, gifted students often become tutors and learn less

academic content. The other students may depend on them to do most of the work, or do the

work that is difficult, and therefore the regular education students also learn less academic

content. Gifted students frequently already know many of the concepts introduced in the regular

education class thus waste time. They often develop bad habits, such as daydreaming. Gifted

students are more likely to socialize “normally” when they are with students who share their
                                                                                    The Difference 9

interests and learning style. This most likely occurs with intellectual age mates, regardless of

chronological age (GT-Placement FAQ).

       A gifted student deserves the same amount of time and help from the teacher. Although

the learning level is higher, the student will still need help. All students deserve the right to be

challenged at their own level. Teachers need to give these gifted students that opportunity

(“Cluster Grouping” 1).

       Teachers and parents have a huge influence on how the students can succeed in the

schools and classrooms. The teachers and parents need to be willing to take the responsibility to

help the students whenever and wherever possible. It should be the focus for teachers and

parents to help the child no matter the need. Teachers need to have training to help the children

who perform at a higher level. Because gifted and ADHD students have learning needs that

differ from other students, teachers need to take the time and effort to assist these students

(“Cluster Grouping” 2). Below are ways a teacher can be a support to their students:

       1. recognize and nurture behaviors usually demonstrated by gifted students

       2. create a learning environment in which all students will be stretched to learn

       3. allow students to demonstrate and get credit for previous mastery of concepts

       4. provide opportunities for faster pacing of new material

       5. incorporate students’ passionate interests into their independent studies

       6. facilitate sophisticated research investigations

       7. provide flexible grouping opportunities for the entire class

Although these responsibilities are tougher and will take more time, teachers need to be able to

help the students (“Cluster Grouping” 2).
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        A strategy to help assist teachers in dealing with gifted and ADHD students is by

organizing cluster groups of students who perform at similar levels. Beckley says, “Gifted

students feel more comfortable when there are other students just like them in the class.” By

placing these students together, they can work with one another and help each other succeed

rather than working alone and feeling they are the only one with these differences.

Curricular needs

        The most important factors when determining the needs of a gifted or ADHD student is

their strengths and interests. The student needs something that will challenge and develop

strengths and interests in a way that will work for him or her. Beckley says the curricular

programs need to focus on “preventing the disability from becoming a barrier in the development

and expression of the child’s talent.” A student recognizes that there is a difference with himself

or herself and the rest of the class. So teachers must give the student guidance while helping him

or her to understand the nature of his or her learning needs. Beckley goes on to say, “While

making students aware of the way in which their disability interferes with their learning, their

gifts need to be cultivated. Teachers need to help students shape a healthy, realistic self-concept

in which students accept their personal strengths and weaknesses.”

        Many times a parent becomes more obsessed with the fact that their child has a disorder

or problem, rather than trying to work with it. Yes, the child may learn differently, but that

doesn’t mean he or she can’t learn. The child needs help from the parent and teacher in

developing and nurturing his or her learning abilities.

        The curriculum plays an appropriate part of helping a gifted student. The curriculum

needs to relate to the “specific intellectual giftedness and to their specific learning disability.
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Students need assistance in areas of weakness, but they also require time to recognize and

develop their gifts. Like all students, they especially need enriching and stimulating cognitive

experiences where they can use problem-solving abilities and independent research skills.”

When looking into curriculum, most important is the fact that the student needs a challenging

program, but “provides structure and strategies to accommodate weaknesses (Beckley).”


       Relating back to the story of Howard, he needs a professional evaluation to determine

whether he has giftedness and/or ADHD. The first step in helping a child like Howard is

observing his learning characteristics for a period of time and which settings he or she displays

those characteristics. Teachers and parents need to cooperate with one another and set curricular

standards that the student will benefit from. The child cannot be left alone and needs support

from parents and teachers. It is difficult growing up, but having a difference, can make it even

harder for a child. Most importantly, teachers and parents need to be there for the child and

support him or her in the stage of development.
                                                                           The Difference 12

                                          Work Cited

“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” Webster Dictionary.

Beckley, Dawn. “Gifted and Learning Disabled: Twice Exceptional Students.” Spring 1998.

       University of Connecticut. 6 February 2005. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and

       Gifted Education. <>.

“Cluster Grouping of Gifted Students: How to Provide Full-Time Services on a Part-Time

       Budget.” The Council for Exceptional Children. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities

       and Gifted Education (ERIC ED). 1 February 2005.


“GT-Placement.” The Council for Exceptional Children. The ERIC Clearinghouse on

       Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC). August 1998. 31 January 2005.


Latimer, Diane, and Webb, James T. “ADHD and Children who are Gifted.” 1993. ERIC Digest

       #522. 6 February 2005. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.


Lovecky, Deidre V. “Gifted Children with AD/HD.” 8 October 1999. Gifted Resource Center of

       New England. 6 February 2005. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted

       Education. <>.

Mann, Rebecca L. “Twice-Exceptional Gifted and Learning Disabled.” New Hampshire

       Association for Gifted Education. 6 February 2005.

       <,1,Twice Exceptional - Gifted

       and Learning Disabled>.
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Parke, Beverly N. “Challenging Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom.” December 1992.

       The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. The Council for

       Exceptional Children. 31 January 2005. <>.

Pehkonen, Laura B. Tag Students: What Do They Need To Succeed? TAG Program Consultant

       Oregon Department of Education. Handout from Susan Grover, Rexburg, Idaho.

Plucker, Jonathon. “Is Gifted Education Still Viable?” Education Week. 11 March 1998.

       Editorial Projects in Education, Inc. 27 January 2005. Education Week keyword: Gifted

       Students. <>.

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