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Advanced Program for the ADHD Gifted

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My 9 year old girl is the poster child for ADHD in most things, especially academics. She is inattentive, impulsive, forgetful and very disorganized. She is always starting things and never finishing them (or rushing through them with no thought). She makes serious mistakes because she was never listen to directions.

But, somehow when it comes to a subject she loves, such as art, she is completely opposite! She is calm, completely detailed, and perfectly focused. She has an amazing sense for well organized thoughtful composition and emotional expression.

Not long ago, a university professor saw some of her artwork and felt very strongly that she is a natural prodigy of art and that I should seriously be getting her into programs for the gifted aside from her regular schooling. I am SO confused!

My question: Are extracurricular "advanced" programs really such a good idea at her age? I'm worry that her already weak academic areas will never get a chance to improve if she is allowed to devote that much more time on artwork. Shouldn't she be pushed to improve skills in more academic areas first?

A:I most definitely feel that you should be concentrating on her strengths rather than giving too much attention to her weaknesses. She is already 9 and I believe you should have already placed her in an advanced program much earlier. However, it is not too late and I hope she will be enrolled in a good art program to develop that natural talent she has.

You may need to give her extra coaching in her weak areas but at the same time, her motivation may increase if she is enjoying learning, even if it is not in academia. When a child is happy, s/he is able to learn better. If you are concerned about time taken for the extra program, you may need to come up with a balanced timetable.

I suggest you have a heart to heart talk with your girl and explain that you are concerned about her academic weakness. Make a deal with her and compromise on allowing her to take up the extra lessons provided she makes enough time for her school work and shows some progress. If there is no improvement, cut down some of her art time to help understand that to be able to indulge in something she enjoys, she needs to work on her other weak areas as well.

Pushing her to improve in academia without any "rewards" may only leave her frustrated and less motivated. You need to work this together with her and come up with a plan that will help her progress better in her academic work as well as nurture that hidden potential to the fullest. 


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