Misdiagnosis in gifted kids?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Misdiagnosis in gifted kids?
15
Thu, 10-18-2012 - 1:28pm

This is something that's been coming up among my IRL circle lately.  It seems like the intensity, focus, asynchrony and quirkiness common in gifted kids can be difficult to distinguish from situations where there is really a problem.  You get kids who compensate so well that ADHD or spectrum issues are missed, or others who are pushed to a diagnosis that isn't really there.  Has anybody run into this?  I'd particularly be interested in hearing from folks in public school, since I hear so much about stampedes to label/medicate kids who are difficult or require more attention.

Gwen 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-01-1999
Thu, 10-18-2012 - 4:10pm

No such issues with us. Both mine could be very intense but also had strong focus and impulse control. My youngest has some mild dyslexia/dysgraphia issues and was able to compensate with giftedness but every elementary teacher recognized on their own that what they saw on paper was not representative of his abilities. They did a good deal verbally and with handwriting accomodation in the earlier years, it wasn't an issue. In kindergarten and 1st, his teachers described him as "squirrely" but quickly added that it was to be expected at 4 and 5. They dealt with it by giving him various jobs that had him up and moving. After 1st, didn't come up again (though he continues to be the kid with a job even in middle school.)

I saw the opposite happen with my nephew. Also highly gifted but DID have ADHD. His mother refused to treat it for years thinking it was a gifted thing alone and it was a disastor. She did try meds in middle school and he thrived academically and socially. However, she felt like he wasn't her son on the meds and so she took him off and refused to try other methods. He barely graduated high school and is pretty much homeless (crashes on friend's couches) and steadily unemployed now nearing his 30's.

Certainly, I feel that ADHD is over-diagnosed. I do feel that elementary classrooms are not often well suited for the typical male (gifted or not.) Personally though, with all the gifted kids we know, I think only one was recommended for ADHD screening. His parents homeschooled him until high school instead and he's doing really well (and dating my DD who seems to find his quirky hyperness rather charming lol.)

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 7:54am

My son thrived all thru elementary school and was even elected to student council in 5th grade, but when he got to middle school, everything went downhill because of his undiagnosed Asperger's (very mild, we just thought he was a little quirky). He was unable to read the social cues of  his peers and teachers and completely shut down.

 It took until 8th grade to get a diagnosis, and by then we knew we were taking him out of public school, so we never went through the process to get an IEP. Once we'd figured out what sort of environment he needed, we knew he'd be okay. He's now a sophomore in HS  and thriving because he is in a very small, caring school. He feels emotionally safe there, something he'd been missing for the three miserable years of middle school.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 12:47pm
Just a note to let y'all know that ivillage's upgrade has been a serious downgrade on my part...I did manage to get to my preferences and nothing seems awry there. I can only see the first post of any thread. It's been redirecting me to a generic menu when I try to post. I'm using Firefox (a standard browser) to make this post. Internet explorer (another standard browser) doesn't let me log in at all. If these problems persist and ivillage boards remain inaccessible, I will post my aol email for anyone who wants to stay in contact. Deborah
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2001
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 1:45pm

Having the same problem with Internet explorer, posting from chrome.  Hopefully, a short-term problem!  I was able to see posts on some threads with IE, but not on others (gave an error).  

As to the initial question, I think the problem goes beyond gifted kids to all kids.  Since so much of behavior is on a continuum, it can be very difficult to decide when a difference is a problem that needs to be fixed.  Is the distracted, messy kid normal or does he have ADD Inattentive?  Is the quirky introvert with few friends OK, or is she on the autism spectrum?  Even if a family decides the problem needs to be fixed, what is the remedy when the problem is minimal?  Put a kid on medication that can have very negative side effects?  Put a kid in a social skills group that may not help anyway?   Get accomodations at school that may feel like punishment?  One answer is to let the kid function at their level, but it can be very difficult to accept that an incredibly gifted kid appears to be a slacker or that your child is sitting home alone every weekend.  We all want our kids to be as successful as they can be.   

There is also the question as to whether a kid with a high score on an IQ test, but with performance that is better than average, but not as good as the IQ score would suggest, has an LD.  Alternatively, are other personality traits (that are within the range of normal) causing the less than stellar performance.  A kid may not be interested in getting all As or may simply decide that playing computer games is more enticing than doing homework.  Is the school responsible for giving a kid accomodations if they are not performing as well as they might or are they just not as good of a student as the kid that may have a lower IQ but work much, much harder?  Or course, the other question is whether the school is testing the right things in assessing kids understanding of material.  

The mis-match between intellectual age and actual age can be more pronounced in gifted kids, because their intellectual age can so far exceed their actual and emotional age.  As parents our job is to meet the needs of both, but it can be very difficult.  A child may need a multi-grade skip to be intellectually challenged, but the content of the material and the maturity of the other students may be too much to handle.  

There are often no easy answers.  I have tended to err on the side of not needing to fix things, but not always sure that is the best path.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 6:58pm

I've been having login and posting problems myself since the upgrade.  Sorry guys, it's taking a bit to get the kinks out.  If I am slow to respond to posts, it's due to technical difficulties.

Gwen

http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc248/gwennyc/b6yfcl.png<A href="http://s218.photobucket

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 6:58pm

I've been having login and posting problems myself since the upgrade.  Sorry guys, it's taking a bit to get the kinks out.  If I am slow to respond to posts, it's due to technical difficulties.

Gwen

http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc248/gwennyc/b6yfcl.png<A href="http://s218.photobucket

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 8:01pm

Agree, Singrorge. It's a complicated issue that involves behavior, intellect, temperament, and even the match of the school to the kid.  I've also erred on the side of not fixing things--apart from changing schools--but I'm also not sure it's always been the right approach.

Ashmama, I've also found that our greatest school experiences have been had at small, caring schools.  It's interesting that a school's academic level can be less important to the well being of a gifted child than the flexibility and support provided by the school. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 10:02pm
I still don't have access from my netbook, but did a remote login to my work computer (also running IE) and can see threads and post, although when I login I get a message that says I'm "not authorized" to post? I haven't tried Chrome on the netbook...figured if Firefox and IE wouldn't work at all, there was no reason to suppose that Chrome would! Maybe I'll try that if netbook access doesn't improve. Deborah
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Sat, 10-20-2012 - 10:52am

Deborah, I had that same message about not being authorized to post but it seems to have resolved.  I'm running firefox on an old mac.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-17-2004
Sun, 10-21-2012 - 8:11pm

This will be an interesting line to follow.  We, ourselves, are on the line.  DS was diagnosed mild to moderate high functioning autism - without question.  Even though we had been dealing with the sensory issues for years at that point, I was shocked as I thought he leaned more toward the highly gifted side of things.  More therapy and they think he's twice exceptional.  A few more years of various therapies and now, everyone is questioning the autism diagnosis.  Is it still applicable?  Did he recover?  Was he misdiagnosed?  Is he still on the spectrum and just able to hide his issues?  We don't know.  We had the IQ test come in to see if profoundly gifted could explain some of this.  Did not test high enough.  Actually, the test was done at a young age, so it was all in pictures - which is DS's weakest area.  Again, strange because spatial/picture stuff is supposed to be a strength of autism.  We're going to see what happens with the vision therapy stuff.  The current theory is maybe exceptionally gifted with visual learning disabilities and not autism at all.  We just don't know.  So it's all an experiment.

I am mixed about it.  I'd love to not be on the spectrum or one of those cases where early intervention made the difference between on and off (which I think it did, personally).  But if he comes off the spectrum, does that mean he is no longer eligible for the therapies which has helped him get to where he is today?  Will he need them again as he continues to develop?

I think when you are talking about the population that is iffy, then the line is a bit gray where the spectrum ends.  I think schools need the diagnosis to justify the costs.  But I've seen other schools who will do anything to not put a label on the kid - which leads to no support for the kid. 

I've also seen state regulations on testing and qualifying for services differ between the states.  When we first tested for state services (age 3), we had just received the official diagnosis for autism (we had been followed as a 'autism-like' since he was 11 months).  However, he could do well enough to be at the low end of acceptable (around 10%ile) in his weakest areas and he blew away the high areas (due to his cognitive abilities), that he 'averaged' ok.  When he was being tested for school/state services, they told me point blank he would not qualify.  They said the test and criteria were not perfect, he definitely needed help, and he was the kind of kid that fell through the cracks within the system.  Seek help privately.

Another issue is the doctors!  When I raised concerns about DS to the ped, she looked point blank at me and said she had a son on the autism spectrum.  DS was NOT autistic.  She resented all the talk on television that has parents scared and asking questions.  Then proceeded to chew me out for even suggesting such a topic to her.  I dropped her immediately as our ped.  The sad thing is I saw a similar response from our second ped (different office).  It took the third ped to find one that said she was happy I was having DS checked out and to let her know what we needed from her.

So yes, it is a gray area there.  People are much more comfortable with the idea their kid is quirky due to 'giftedness' instead of ADD/ADHD or autism.  So they wait and see what happens.  Society tells them wait and see, and the doctors say wait and see.  The problem with it is that waiting means you lose that window of opportunity. 

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