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The Highly Distracted Gifted Child

gtchat 09202018 Distracted

Understanding the nature of giftedness when complicated by distractibility is a complex issue and the discussions between participants at this week’s #gtchat were no exception. We were fortunate to have several psychologists well-versed in working with gifted individuals as well as education professionals to sort it out.

How do you know if distractibility is  just a characteristic of giftedness or ADD/ADHD? You may not know! ADD/ADHD must be diagnosed by a professional. If you are concerned about a child’s behavior, seek professional help. Both giftedness and ADD/ADHD share characteristics, but it’s important to avoid misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis. Gifted students may have ADD/ADHD but be able to compensate for it.

According to Dr. Gail Post, “ADHD causes more global problem with distraction and concentration, not just related to boredom, intensities, overexcitabilities. ADHD kids have little control over their distraction/poor concentration – not situation specific. They really suffer from it.” Dr. Scott Roseman explained, “Formal assessment of giftedness and ADHD differ in significant ways.  While assessment of giftedness focuses mainly on determination of higher level reasoning abilities, assessment of ADHD examines issues related to distractibility, impulsivity, and processing skills. While the gifted child may exhibit some of these qualities, as a function of their giftedness, it’s often when those qualities get in the way of learning & growth that further assessment should be considered to assess a dual diagnosis of Giftedness and ADHD.”

In response to a child’s distractibility, the response of  ‘over’ organizing by a concerned adult may prove to make matters worse. Over organization … such as separate folders for each subject … may overwhelm the distracted child causing even more issues or anxiety. Parents (and teachers) should try to find the ‘middle ground’ when attempting to organize a distracted child. Folders can be used but for more generalized subjects; such as, a completed homework folder, to do folder, and parent/teacher communications.

“The main disadvantage of “over” organization I see is when it is put in place by the parent and not the child. The child or adolescent has no “ownership” in the process and may grow too reliant on parental intervention and not develop effective organizational tools on their own.” ~ Scott Roseman, Ph.D.

Executive Functioning can play as intricate role in the life of a distracted yet gifted child. The lack of recognition by responsible adults that a GT child can have executive function deficits often exacerbates the situation. These are smart kids who struggle with behavior regulation and exercising cognitive flexibility. Although identified as GT, they may have trouble beginning tasks, maintaining attention, completing assignments, and unable to assess the feedback on their own behavior. Frustration levels can go through the roof. As the child progresses through school, academic requirements increase at the same time as social interactions take on greater significance. EF difficulties may not resolve themselves until the child reaches their mid-twenties.

What strategies can a teacher use to get a gifted student back on track? Teachers should consider authentic assessments to chart progress/regression through an ongoing process which takes into account the student’s abilities as well as challenges. Developing positive relationships is a good 1st step. They must ensure that the student is being sufficiently stimulated intellectually either within the classroom with differentiated instruction or through accelerative measures outlined in resources such as A Nation Empowered.

“I think you have to do lots of trial and error with strategies…visual prompts to get back on task or having a reward after a significant start to an assignment or discussing what the feedback means.” ~ Heather Vaughn, EdS, 

Once it is determined that the student is off track, any plan to bring them back on course must involve student input. Dr. Roseman suggested, “I suggest that the teacher start by asking the gifted student, in grade 3 and above to come up with their own plan to stay on task and then work together with them, examining the parts of the plan that work and the parts that don’t seem to work for them and revise. I believe that it helps the child to gain a better understanding of their  own dynamics and figure out strategies that work for them and those that don’t. The teacher can certainly suggest some strategies, but it is critical for the student to have input.”

“With my kids, what has worked is a combination of doing it for them if was really necessary until they could do it; letting them fail a little when stakes are low, and coaching them about the things not being organized has negative impact on.” ~ Kate Arms

Parents can help their highly distracted child get organized at home, too. They can make sure that the home environment limits distractions when their child is doing school work. This includes having a quiet workspace free from access to video games or television. If possible, provide study/work space solely for each child; not in a highly active part of the home such as the dining room table or shared spaces with siblings.  Parents need to model behavior which provides examples of how to stay organized in daily life.

“Pick your battles… But get them involved in devising a plan and incentives, prioritize, small goals to start with, make it fun!” ~ Gail Post, Ph.D.

Organization is a must-need skill and one that parents focus on much to the dismay of their distracted child. Involve the child in the organizing process. Be flexible; not all organizing tools or tips work for every child. Parents and teachers working together to implement strategies that take place at home and at school can be highly beneficial to the student in an effort to reduce distractions and get the student back on track. For more tips about organizing the highly distracted gifted child, check out the transcript of this week’s chat at Wakelet.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at Noon NZST/10 AM AEST/1 AM UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the authorLisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

Resources:

The Highly Distracted Gifted Child: You Can Help

Gifted Students & Disorganization (Reg. required)

This Child is a Classic ‘Absent-Minded Professor’

How to Raise a Gifted Child without Losing Your Ever-Loving Mind

Organization Skills

Executive Functioning in Gifted Students (pdf)

Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential (bn ebook)

4 Smartphone Solutions to Keep Your Teen Organized

7 Ways to Teach Your Grade-Schooler Organization Skills

Exercise Is Surprisingly Effective At Boosting Executive Function

On Rainbows and Mantis Shrimp: A Layperson’s Perspective on ADHD & the Misdiagnosis of Gifted Brains

How to Help the Impulsive Disorganized Child

The Impulsive, Disorganized Child: Solutions for Parenting Kids with Executive Functioning Difficulties

Organizing the Gifted Learner

Organizing Einstein: Enhancing the Abilities of the Gifted Learner Part 1

Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview (pdf)

Cybraryman’s Study Skills/Organization Page

Cybraryman’s ADHD/ADD Page

Sprite’s Site: Delta Dog

Sprite’s Site: Sprite on the Subject of Homework

Interruptions at Work Are Killing Your Productivity

ADDitude Magazine

Tips for Parents: Executive Functioning at Home and School

Are you ADD — or just gifted?

Image courtesy of Pixabay  CC0 Creative Commons

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad

How Has Neuroscience Changed the Way We View Giftedness?

Neuroscience giftedness

It was evident even before this discussion began that the topic of neuroscience and giftedness could not be covered in a single hour chat. However, it proved to be interesting to at least scratch the surface.

The role of IQ testing in the identification process used by many schools to determine entrance into gifted programs was seen as just a small part of what should be a comprehensive assessment. The nature of IQ test results enhances the need for appropriate challenge in the classroom at the earliest years.

Researchers believe a more nuanced approach to giftedness must go beyond reliance on domain-specific abilities. Mary Cay Ricci, an educational consultant from Maryland, reminded us that it is “important to remember that cognitive assessment only measures developed ability.” However, Margo Flower, an elementary teacher from British Columbia, also pointed out, “IQ testing provides a mindful approach to our interventions [and] without it, potential may not be recognized; [but] squashed, squandered.” According to Corin Goodwin, “IQ testing is problematic because [it’s] so badly misused and results misunderstood.”

When the question concerning how environment influences the development of giftedness was raised, it was quickly noted by many that giftedness and ability were not the same thing;  many participants voiced the belief that giftedness was based on neurology. Also, to simply assert that giftedness is not fixed at birth or any other developmental stage, does not imply that all children are gifted. Environment was seen as an important aspect of nurturing a gifted child across their lifespan beginning in early childhood.

Learning styles were also discussed and comments may be found in the transcript. Educators who felt pressured to try to accommodate many different learning styles, but found it nearly impossible in a diverse ability classroom. What was found effective in supporting learning was presenting information in multiple sensory modes. Also, Corin Goodwin related a concern, “Often, learning styles are confused with mild learning disabilities. For example, I’m not an auditory learner because I’m hearing impaired. [Then] learning disabilities are overlooked.”

Neuroscience has refined our approach to ADHD in individuals with high IQs. ADHD in gifted children should not be written off as boredom. When executive function issues exist, we must deal with them. Neuroscientists reject an ADHD diagnosis based solely on observable behaviors and believe there is a need for further research to track brain functions. Misdiagnosis of ADHD in highly gifted children can be mitigated when the clinical focus is on impairment rather than overexcitability.

Finally, the issue of what educators and policymakers can learn from neuroscience about giftedness was discussed. There is a glaring disconnect between the two fields due in large part to lack of access to scientific research and misinterpretation of the research when it is available. Widespread dissemination of neuromyths at the undergraduate level in education programs exacerbates the problem.

What has been learned and recently understood is that:

  • More intelligent children exhibit earlier acceleration & prolonged time for rapid learning in early adolescence (Shaw 2006, Nature);
  • Motivation and inspiration can propel a person to achieve at higher levels than predicted by standardized tests;
  • Neuroscience of creativity – right/left brain distinction is not the full picture of how creativity is implemented in the brain (Kaufman); and
  • Creatively gifted children and polymaths need to be given freedom to learn their own way – they think differently (Andreasen).

To see more on what was said at this chat, a full transcript may be found on our Storify Page.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

Links:

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (Kaufman)

Neuroscience and Education: Myths and Messages

Secrets of the Creative Brain (Andreasen)

Grounding Creative Giftedness in the Body

Finding Creative Potential on Intelligence Tests

Intelligence is Differentially Related to Neural Effort in Task-positive/Task-negative Brain Network

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity

Does Early Academic Prowess Predict Later Success?

Models of Working Memory Mechanisms of Active Maintenance & Executive Control

New Directions in Intelligence Research: Avoiding the Mistakes of the Past

Brain Research for Teachers & Other Curious Souls, 2013 update (Sheard)

Intelligent Testing (Kaufman 2009)

Brain-Based Learning, Myth versus Reality: Testing Learning Styles and Dual Coding

4 Common Dyslexia Myths Debunked Using Neuroscience

The Myths of Learning Styles

Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ Are Not ‘Learning Styles’

Cybraryman’s The Brain and Brain Games Page

Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence

Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and Predictors of Misconceptions Among Teachers

Deconstructing the Myth of Learning Styles

Think Your Child is a Visual or Auditory Learner? Think Again. From Duke TIP

Joys and Challenges of Twice-Exceptional Kids

JoysandChallengesTwiceExceptional

It is estimated that there are 300,000 twice exceptional children in the U.S. alone. (GCQ, Vol 55, #1, Winter 2011) Twice-exceptionality is the co-existence of both giftedness and a learning disability. It has been called a paradoxical syndrome. This week at #gtchat, we tackled the subject of 2ekids. It was soon realized that these kids are complex and have the ability to frustrate both their parents and teachers; but at the same time bring incredible joy into the lives of those around them.

Twice-exceptional children often face many social-emotional issues. Many struggle with self-awareness; knowing and understanding their own challenges. “They are often misunderstood and have expectations on them they can’t live up to.”(Mona Chicks) “The BIGGEST social-emotional challenge is finding true peers. Asynchrony makes it difficult to impossible. Worse in small towns. They have compassion like an adult, tantrums like a toddler, and wit like a snarky teenager. ” (Jen Merrill) “Two gifts, blessed with two gifts both of which need recognition & addressing in parallel, overlapping and together.” (Elaine Hook) “2ekids don’t ‘fit the mold’ for gifted, they challenge stereotypes and remind us that gifted doesn’t mean perfect.” (Andi McNair)

Labeling of children in an attempt to explain behaviors does little to address their need for specific accommodations. The gifted ‘label’ is too often misrepresented as meaning high-achiever; adult disappointment can emotionally harm twice-exceptional children. They can compensate for or mask their disability and do not get the help they need.

An exceptional resource was shared during the chat by Jo Freitag of Gifted Resources in Australia. Jo’s blog, Sprite’s Site, relates the experiences of Sprite, a fictional character, who happens to be twice-exceptional. Sprite’s disability is visually expressed by an ever present cast on one foot. Jo’s ability to make twice-exceptionality easy is to understand makes this a go to site for anyone wanting to know more about how these children feel and how to help them. She also writes a monthly newsletter which can be found here.

If you are interested in learning more about twice-exceptional children, please check out the full transcript of our chat and then the links provided below.

 

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

 

Links from the chat:

“What is 2E?” from Twice-Exceptional Newsletter

“Twice-exceptional Students: Who Are They & What Do They Need?”

“Don’t Get Caught in the Lazy Trap”

“Twice-Exceptional Me” from the National Center for Learning Disabilities

Myths & Misconceptions About ADHD: Science over Cynicism

Giftedness & Learning Disabilities

Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism (Amazon)

Cybraryman’s Twice-Exceptional Children Page

The Misdiagnosis of Gifted Children (YouTube)

 

Additional Links:

Double Inequity, Redoubled Critique: Twice-Exceptional (Gifted + Learning Disabled) Students

Gifted and Learning Disabled A Handbook (pdf)

The Paradox of Twice-Exceptionality Packet of Information for Professionals (pdf)

The Twice-Exceptional Dilemma (pdf)

Supporting the Identification and  Achievement of the Twice-Exceptional Student (pdf)

Gifted Children with Learning Disabilities by Linda Silverman  in N. Colangelo, & G. A. Davis (Eds.) The Handbook of Gifted Education, Third Edition (pp. 533-543). Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2003 (pdf)

Twice-Exceptional Students Gifted Students with Disabilities Level 1: An Introductory Resource Book (pdf)

Special Populations: Giftedness and ADHD from Duke TIP

Identifying Twice-Exceptional Children and Three Gifted Styles in the Japanese Primary Science Classroom (pdf)

The Paradox of Giftedness and Autism (pdf)

The Paradox of Twice-Exceptional Children: Perceptions of Disabilities, Giftedness and Underachievement 

Creating a Toolkit for Identifying Twice-Exceptional Students (pdf)

Inclusion for Students with Twice Exceptionality Paradox and Possibility (pdf)

A Unique Challenge: Sorting Out the Differences Between Giftedness and Asperger’s Disorder (pdf)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The Misdiagnosis Initiative: An Interview with Dr. James Webb

Dr. Webb, thank you for taking the time to talk to us at Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented on Twitter about this important issue to the gifted community. Parents and educators of gifted and twice-exceptional children have long struggled with the consequences of misdiagnosis and how to approach their health care professionals about the matter.

Webb James SENG

Moderator:   What is The Misdiagnosis Initiative and why did SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) decide to promote it at this time?

Dr. Webb:   The Misdiagnosis Initiative is SENG’s latest effort to make parents and professionals aware of the possibility that gifted children and adults may be misdiagnosed as having ADHD, Asperger’s, OCD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Bipolar, or other behavioral disorders, and that many of them may be placed inappropriately on medication. Additionally, SENG is raising awareness concerning twice-exceptional gifted children—i.e., those who are gifted yet do, in fact, have a disorder. In these cases, it is usually the person’s disability that is emphasized, and the gifted aspects are too often overlooked.

In addition to informing parents, SENG is making concerted efforts to reach healthcare professions, such as pediatricians, family practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, etc., because extremely few of these professionals have received any training about the characteristics of gifted children and adults and how these characteristics can result in behaviors that are mistaken for disorders or that have implications for disorders.

SENG’s Misdiagnosis Initiative, which really has been going on for several years, has several components:

  • Producing a brochure titled “Decreasing Medical Misdiagnosis in Gifted Children,” available from SENG both in English and in Spanish to give to health-care professionals. This brochure is available in print or as a free Internet download from SENG here, and nearly 10,000 copies have been distributed.
  • Producing bookmarks for parents of gifted children, available free from SENG, that list Internet and book resources. To date, over 30,000 have been distributed.
  • Featuring a brief video (see above, also) now on YouTube, developed a few years ago by SENG, on misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses of gifted children that has been viewed over 28,000 times.
  • Highlighting a video  of a Grand Rounds lecture on misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses that I did at the University of Wisconsin Medical School that has been watched over 7,800 times.
  • Drawing attention to the book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults, which has sold over 35,000 copies.
  • Conducting Continuing Education classes on this topic for psychologists and other counseling and health care professionals.
  • Establishing communication with the American Academy of Pediatrics to encourage them to incorporate characteristics of gifted children into their diagnostic guidelines for disorders such as ADHD.
  • Writing, and encouraging others to write, articles in general media as well as for professional publications in order to bring attention to this neglected area.
  • Conducting a nationwide survey of parents of gifted children to ascertain their experiences with physicians who see their gifted children.

Although these activities may seem like a lot, they do not come close to accomplishing the task and are really just the beginning. We continue to hear horror stories of gifted children who are overlooked, neglected, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and inappropriately treated. Because of this, SENG is actively seeking funding from various foundations to continue and expand the Misdiagnosis Initiative.

Moderator:   Last year, SENG sent a letter to the American Academy of Pediatrics questioning why their diagnostic guidelines fail to mention the possibility that a child’s intellectual giftedness may contribute to symptoms similar to ADHD. What was their response?

Dr. Webb:   When the American Academy of Pediatrics lowered the recommended age for diagnosing ADD/ADHD from age 6 to age 4, it caught our attention, particularly since there was no mention of the need to consider gifted child behaviors. In November 2011, we wrote a letter to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and follow up contact was made primarily by Marianne Kuzujanakis, M.D., MPH, who is not only a Harvard trained pediatrician, but also a SENG Board member and parent of a highly gifted child. (See Dr. Kuzujanakis’ most recent article for Huffington Post here. )At the time, I frankly thought that despite her credentials the American Academy of Pediatrics would brush us aside. I am happy to say that they did not. What is emerging is a continuing dialogue with AAP about how SENG might help to inform pediatricians about issues regarding gifted children. This dialogue has also resulted in several publications on the topic in pediatric journals, and we are optimistic that this increased attention will continue.

We are also hoping to have similar dialogues with the American Psychiatric Association. However, we have delayed this partly because we are such a small group attempting a very large task, and also because we are awaiting the arrival of DSM-5 to see what changes have been made and the implications those changes will have for the issues of misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses of gifted children and adults.

Moderator:   Mental disorders are generally diagnosed solely on the basis of observable behaviors reported by parents, teachers, school counselors, etc. Are pediatricians the best personnel to diagnose ADHD/ADD and other disorders often confused with gifted behavior; especially in young children? Who would be a better alternative for parents of gifted children to seek out for a diagnosis?

Dr. Webb:   Psychologists, in my experience, are generally the best at making an accurate diagnosis of ADD/ADHD—particularly if they are neuropsychologists who are also knowledgeable about gifted children. Regrettably, there are not a lot of these professionals around the country. The next best will be pediatricians, if for no other reason than that they often have a very longstanding relationship with the child and the child’s family. It is important, however, for parents to appreciate how difficult it can be for a pediatrician to make such a diagnosis; the typical office visit is often only 15 to 20 minutes, and the physician must rely on short child observation and rating scale information provided by teachers or parents. Parents must recognize, too, that these brief rating scales were not developed for gifted children.

Whether you seek help from a physician or a psychologist, it is particularly important to find someone who will not see gifted behaviors as necessarily representing behavioral disorders. Parents should openly ask the psychologist or physician about prior knowledge and experience with gifted children or adults, and perhaps about SENG’s Misdiagnosis Initiative. Giving the professional a copy of SENG’s brochure can help, too, or perhaps even a copy of the book, Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults. If you and your child have a good relationship with the treating professional, and if the professional is open to considering gifted behaviors and treats the child with intellectual respect, then you probably are in a good situation.

Misdiagnosis book image

Moderator:   How do gifted characteristics put children at risk for misdiagnosis?

Dr. Webb:   Perhaps the biggest risk comes from the gifted child’s high level of intensity and sensitivity.  However, these characteristics, often referred to as “overexcitabilities,” are not necessarily problems. Most often, the problems come because such a child is inappropriately placed in an educational system (e.g., spending large amounts of time waiting for others to catch up), or is criticized by his family members who do not understand that the behaviors are characteristics of gifted children (e.g., “Do you have to question everything?” or “You are just stubborn and strong willed!”), or the child has substantial difficulty relating to her age peers (“Why do you have to be so bossy” or “Why don’t you want to play with the other children?”). When a bright, intense, and sensitive gifted child is put in such an ill-fitting and unsupportive situation, the result often are problematic behaviors. However, these behaviors are not indicators of emotional problems.

Some years ago, the educator May Seagoe composed a list of characteristics of gifted children. On the left side, she wrote the strength that derived from that characteristic. On the right side, she wrote potential problems that could arise from that very same characteristic. For example, a strength might be that the child acquires information quickly; a related problem area might be that the child is impatient with others who do not learn as rapidly. Or perhaps the child has high energy (a strength), but also his frustration with inactivity may lead him to interrupt others (a problem). I would be pleased to provide a chart of these if people would email me at jwebb@greatpotentialpress.com, or you can find them here.

Because of the high energy level of gifted children, ADHD is perhaps the most common misdiagnosis, and parents might find it helpful to look at how behaviors of gifted children can be similar to those of ADHD. For this, I often recommend that they look at a brief article titled “ADHD and Children Who Are Gifted”.

Moderator:   What practical strategies can you offer to parents who suspect their children may have been misdiagnosed?

Dr. Webb:   Here are some general guidelines that may help parents in their initial thinking as to whether the behaviors are gifted or behavior disorder.

  • Does the developmental history indicate early developmental milestones or precocious development?
  • Are the behavior patterns typical ones for gifted children or adults?
  • Are the problem behaviors only found in certain situations or contexts, rather than across situations?
  • Are the problematic behaviors reduced when the person is with other gifted persons or in intellectually supportive settings?
  • Are the problematic behaviors most easily explained as stemming from a gifted/creative person being in an inappropriate situation?
  • Are the behaviors ones that truly cause an impairment in personal or social functioning, or are they simply quirks or idiosyncrasies that cause little discomfort or impairment?

If you answered yes to any of these six questions, you should mention this to the diagnosing professional. You may also want to get more specific and detailed information from  a free SENG article or from the book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults. I would also encourage parents to consider getting a second opinion. Second opinions have been a valued tradition in medicine for many decades, and they are equally valid with regard to behavior problems as well.

Moderator:   What resources are available to parents of gifted children to assist them in talking to their healthcare providers?

Dr. Webb:   I encourage parents to use all of the resources that I have listed in the SENG Misdiagnosis Initiative above. Additionally, parents may wish to look at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page which provides not only highly relevant and informative articles, but also there is a list of psychologists who have been recommended by other parents.

Moderator:   In closing, Dr. Webb, you have dedicated your professional career to help gifted children and their parents recognize misdiagnosis. What initially influenced you to pursue this path?

Dr. Webb:   We founded SENG in 1981 at the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology, after the suicide of a highly gifted teenager who had not received mental health help sufficient to alleviate his misery and depression. After his death, his parents contacted us and asked us to begin a program, and in addition to establishing parent discussion support groups, we also provided testing and counseling to families of gifted children. Soon, we began to notice a significant number of gifted children who had been diagnosed as having ADHD. As we studied them, we determined that many of these children did not have ADHD. Instead, they were bright, intense, sensitive children, most of whom were educationally misplaced and understimulated, who often were not able to relate to their age peers, and who were in power struggles with adults because they were so strong willed.

I reflected on how much training I had received in my own doctoral graduate training program in psychology. I realized that I had received only about 60 minutes worth of lecture on the subject, with the professor focusing on the Lewis Terman studies as an example of longitudinal research. I also remembered one of my professors saying to me that “In testing, once a child scores above 130, you can stop testing because it really doesn’t make much difference after that” and “Bright children are far less likely to have social, emotional, and behavioral problems.” Since I was now involved in the training of clinical psychologists, I began asking other psychologists, as well as other healthcare professionals, how much training they received about gifted children and adults. I discovered that they had either received none at all, or they had received about the same as I had.

Clearly, in my mind, there was a need to educate other professionals. So, I began to give class lectures to my doctoral students, and I began writing professionally about the topic. Through SENG, I began conducting classes in continuing education for psychologists, and gradually other professionals have begun to pick up on this area.

Moderator: We at Global #gtchat believe strongly that awareness and dissemination of information is critical to combat the misdiagnosis of gifted children and adults. There will be a special Twitter chat at #gtchat on Friday, May 10th at 7PM EDT concerning the Misdiagnosis Initiative from SENG.

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