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Gifted with Learning Disability

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter is 14 years old and has been diagnosed with a specific learning disability since the age of 6 years and 5 months. For the last seven years she has been in a special Ed class at a private school and has flourished. She struggles mostly with math and loves to read (her reading is way above grade level). This year she has started high school and we have enrolled her in a school that specializes in Learning Disability (LD) kids. She hates it there and she is constantly bored.

We are doing our best to get her out of the school and suspect that she is gifted. Recently we had done WISC-IV testing and her scores ranged from 5% to 90+ %. She has been diagnosed with a visual-spatial learning disability, severe anxiety and depression and possible OCD (which decreased her scores). In your opinion is she gifted? We live in Canada.

A:It is totally possible for your daughter to have a learning disability and yet be gifted, though there is not sufficient information here to make a judgement. You may want to refer to some previous advice on this topic in past newsletters.

Since her reading is above average, she should be placed with the advanced reading group, if there is one in her school. At 14, she will be able to explain why she dislikes the high school she is attending. It may also just be an adjustment problem a lot of children face during the transition form primary to high school. She may have more trouble due to her disability and gifts. Talk to her and find out more on options which is best for her. Unfortunately, the school system is pretty much “one size fits all” so there it may be quite unlikely that your daughter would be given the best educational intervention that she needs, unless she gets privately treated for her condition which can be very costly.

It is not surprising that her scores on the WISC vary drastically; she may not have scored well in areas that she her LD and other health problems pose more of a threat. It is difficult to tell if she is gifted from your description and it would be best for you to see an educational psychologist to assess her condition and get advice on treatment necessary.

You also mentioned that she suffers from severe anxiety and depression and possible OCD. This is a combination of many mental health problems that may gear her towards more serious problems later on. You must really see a psychologist to help her cope as she may be struggling already and not able to understand why. She needs to learn coping strategies to deal with her condition as early as possible. This should be your priority now. She needs a lot more help than another child with LD and I hope you see a professional as soon as you can. My very best wishes to you and your daughter.

Some helpful web sites on gifted children in Canada and Learning Disability are: (here they have links to LD and Gifted)

Featured Resource


Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses Of Gifted Children And Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression, And Other Disorders
James T. Webb Ph.D, Edward R. Amend Psy.D, Nadia E. Webb Psy.D

Our brightest, most creative children and adults are often being misdiagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders such as ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, Bipolar, OCD, or Asperger's. Many receive unneeded medication and inappropriate counseling as a result.

  • Written for parents and professionals

  • Characteristics of gifted children and adults

  • Diagnoses most commonly given to gifted children and adults

  • Traits of diagnoses incorrectly given to gifted children and adults

  • Guidelines to avoid mislabeling gifted children

  • Parent-child relationship problems

  • Issues for gifted adults

  • Advice for selecting a counselor or health care professional

Featured Resource


Gifted Children

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