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Highly Active - Gifted or ADHD?

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My 7 year old daughter's school recently completed the Slossan Intelligence Test on her and were surprised that and she scored positively:
Overall Percentile Rank is 96
Total Standard Score (TSS) is 128, where she showed particular strength in Comprehension (Social Intelligence) and Auditory Memory.

She is performing above average in her class but her teacher has regularly complained about her high energy, lack of attention and organisation skills in the classroom.

I'm also puzzled by my daughter's increasingly distractibility and sensitivity so I'm wondering whether this is part of her giftedness and/or ADD. She has shown signs of being advanced from an infant and I thought that school would be a place for her to accelerate but she is starting to show inconsistent school results. I'm also concerned as my daughter is showing signs of being frustrated with herself for not ‘getting things' that she has done before or she feels she can do easily.

Can you please explain her test results and what impact ADD might have on this or any future test? Finally, should I be seeking an educational physiologist or educational paediatrician for further assessment and support. Many thanks.

A: Based on the test scores, your daughter is in the Superior range but may not qualify for a gifted programme. Usually a cut-off of 130 is required. Both gifted and ADHD children have high energies and a few other similar characteristics and it can be quite confusing. Teachers are quick to note if a child has very high energy and is distracted in the classroom often and can often be judgemental. Find out the instances she becomes highly active or gets distracted/poor attention. It could be a sign of ADHD or giftedness, or even both (twice-exceptional).

Most children with ADHD would show significant impairment in working memory and processing speed. Individuals with ADHD often perform at a lower level on intelligence tests than those without ADHD. This is not because they have lower intelligence but because these tests require sustained mental effort. Most tests do not allow the examiner to repeat instructions or modify administration rules to accommodate the special needs of individuals who may not have attended to the directions properly or who have a hard time sitting still for testing. Therefore it is very important to get these children tested by an experienced professional.

It is very important that you get her tested further. In an ideal situation, a diagnosis of ADHD of a child suspected to be gifted should consist of a multidisciplinary team for an accurate assessment. As many as two thirds of children with ADHD have coexisting conditions (e.g., learning disorders, depression), therefore assessment must include an evaluation for these disorders as well.

Speak to her teacher to find out more about her behaviour in the classroom. The teacher may refer you to the school counsellor who may be able to guide you further. I feel further evaluation is very necessary as soon as possible. All the best!


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