Misdiagnosis in gifted kids?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Misdiagnosis in gifted kids?
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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: 10-20-2012
Sun, 10-28-2012 - 10:46am

Both gifted kids and children with learning disabilities need different kinds of attention. Since both are different cases, certain therapy applies and unique approach to learning is needed. It is our responsibility as parents and educators to understand their situation and give them the needed support and understanding as much as we can.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Mon, 10-22-2012 - 11:16am

" 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. "

It is, indeed. I'm trying to graciously impart the lessons we've learned to a friend whose gifted daughter is miserable in her super-competitive public high school (the same one where my daughter was unhappy). She's a senior and wants to apply to some lower-key Christian and second-tier liberal arts colleges rather than the Ivies where her dad is insisting she apply. As my daughter puts it, "I'll be smart and successful wherever I am happy."

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2001
Mon, 10-22-2012 - 10:50am

While I agree that if you take the wait and see approach you can miss a critical time for therapy.  Which is why our youngest was probably the only kid in the school's history to go from "extra-help reading" to the highly gifted program (his older brother had some reading/writing issues so everyone was quick to help when this kid wasn't reading as early as expected).  OTOH, there can be harm in labeling a kid with autism or ADD or a learning difference that is simply part of their personality.   For some kids, the attempts to fix can be very difficult and can have somewhat negative outcomes.  Your son sounds like he is doing great and may not need further supports.  It can be very scary to take those away, but he may well soar.

For schools, the difficulty is cost and also not always seeing the benefit.  Does every quirky, introverted, socially awkward kid need the intervention of an autism specialist?  Will every kid even marginally on the specturm require ABA?  If the money is used for "borderline" cases, how does the rest of the school population suffer from reduced funding and resources?  While as parents we want to err on the side of getting services and in some situations (including some with my IRL friends) services are improperly denied, school districts have to keep an eye on the bottom line.

I hope your son continues to do great. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-17-2004
Sun, 10-21-2012 - 9:43pm

Oh, thank you.  DS is 5 (6 next month).  The ped office we finally ended up with has a dev. ped on staff although we have never seen him specifically.  I am not sure what else he could add.  We have an autism center as our central point, one of the top ped neuro who does  a whole body perspective, speech therapist, OT, social therapist who also does ABA, and now developmental vision optometrist. 

We think that DS is responding really well to all the therapy he's had to date.  But to be honest, we tackle the biggest issue and then see what's next on the plate.  I am terrified of this big brain development that is supposed to happen around 7-8!  Any ideas on anything we don't have covered?

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999
Sun, 10-21-2012 - 9:00pm

Mom ladybug, have you seen a pediatrician who specializes in behavior and development?   It's a fairly new specialty that's evolved over the last 15 years or so with its own board and certification.  I'm pretty familiar with it because I have a family member who has been at the forefront of the specialty and is a leader in it.    Regular pediatrics, until very, very recently had almost no training at all in behavior and development and parents have gotten some pretty appalling advice.  I don't know how old your DS is but seeing a developmental pediatrician is something to consider.

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. 

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: 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
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: 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

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