Jason is an energetic third grader who is bright, .funny, creative, and talented. Jason crawled at four months, spoke at ten months, and read at four years. Academically, he has always been at least two years ahead of his peers, yet emotionally, he seems very immature. Jason(s teachers have not recognized the possibility that he may be gifted. The child that they see on a daily basis does not present himself as particularly gifted or talented. He is defiant, angry, restless, impulsive, aggressive, and often rude. Jason, at age eight, is a gifted child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological condition which exhibits developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, and/or hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). The characteristics of these symptoms, and the intensity of them, present themselves in individualized random patterns which manifest uniquely in each child. Academic performance and social/emotional functioning are affected to varying degrees (Zentall, 1993). The multi-modal approach to treatment of ADHD usually involves behavioral and educational intervention, counseling and often medication (C.H.A.D.D., 1993). The diagnosis of ADHD does not include any intellectual boundaries (Garber, Garber, & Freedman Spizman, 1990), and the characteristics of it are remarkably similar to those of creativity (Cramond, 1994). It is therefore reasonable to assume that there exist ADHD children who also have high ability levels, gifts, and talents. Within the pages of current literature, these children rarely appear. It is time to recognize the gifted/ADHD child for study.
Literature reviewed showed a heavy concentration on the deficits, negative behaviors, and educational implications of ADHD, yet high ability levels, leaderships skills, creativity, artistic and musical talents in these children were not addressed. In addition, it is important to note that these children are not necessarily learning disabled (LD). While there is a likeliness of LD and other disorders (oppositional, conduct, depression) in ADHD children, they often do not meet the criteria required to be classified as learning disabled, though learning may certainly be impaired by inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity (Parker, 1992).
In discussing the coexistence of giftedness and ADHD, there are many issues to address. First, the traits and characteristics of each must be reviewed. How these traits may appear in combination is the next consideration. Next, it is imperative to determine whether or not current diagnostic procedures provide ample opportunity for correct identification. Finally, implications for identification, education, social/emotional support, parental roles, and future research are explored.
Characteristics and Traits
To begin examining the characteristics of the gifted child with ADHD, it is necessary to note the many similarities in characteristics associated with both giftedness and ADHD, and how easily misdiagnosis can occur.
It is commonly stated that hyperactivity occurs in both gifted and ADHD children (Clark, 1992; Barkley, 1990). A definition of the term is essential. Hyperactivity in the gifted child is known as high energy levels which are focused, directed, and intense (Clark, 1992). In the ADHD child, hyperactivity is known as a whirlwind of constant motion, diffuse and random energy, which can manifest differently as the child matures, from running and touching to squirming restlessness. Often excessive loudness, noises, and continuous talking are additional traits of hyperactivity in the ADHD child (Parker, 1992). It is curious to look at how hyperactivity is evident in the gifted/ADHD child:
When Jason is stimulated by a subject, he can focus endless amounts of energy toward it; however, he has trouble …