ADHD or Gifted?
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Q: I have adopted my 5 year old grandson 2 and half years ago after the death
of my daughter. He has been in foster care prior for 10 months. I am
concerned he may be ADHD but think he could be gifted. He can focus on work,
loves the computer and games. Plays for hours if you let him. He has high
energy level and does not follow direction when told. ie: do not run, sit
still in class. Has had severe temper tantrums where he bites, and hits only
toward females. Mostly me. I look like my daughter.
He is easily frustrated when he is unable to do something fast or if incorrect. His
vocabulary is excellent and he uses the words in the correct context. He acts like he
cannot remember his numbers yet when coaxed he smiles and repeats them
accurately. He likes to be with adults and tends to play by himself at
school. His eye hand coordination is unbelievable, at the age of 2 he could
parallel park the motor cars. He has excellent rhythm and is able to
remember songs and the melody. I have had others tell me he is ADHD, because
he is so active but he will calm down when given an activity.
What are your thoughts and advice to assist me in helping him to follow directions by his
teacher. I am considering home-schooling him because I feel his maturity
level is not there.
Sometime ago I had written about ADHD
and gifted child. You may want to read that to get a better
understanding about ADHD. From what you had described, I feel that he may not be
ADHD at all. I feel that he is highly able and is able to do much more that what
is expected of him. He is rather high in terms of energy levels, which may not be
unusual for a 5 year old boy. However, kids with ADHD have rather short attention
span and this does not seem to be the case for your grandson. I believe that his
behavior is partly due to high levels of energy, which causes boredom when not given
enough activities that is challenging to him and his inability to deal with it. I
also believe that this may be more linked to the fact that he has lost a parent and
has been in foster care for 10 months. At this tender age he may not be able to
express his feelings (I assume, missing his mother, lack of other male member in
the family, if any), hence resorts to acts of frustration that actually manifest
his inner feelings.
Your description clearly shows that he is above average and may need additional
help to reach his maximum intellectual development. Home-schooling may be an avenue
to avoid certain behaviors but at some point, he would need to deal with other
children. Furthermore, it would not give him an opportunity to mingle with other
children, which is essential for his socio-emotional development.
Firstly, you may want to get him tested to rule out or confirm ADHD. If ADHD is
ruled out, he may still need to see a child psychologist to assess his
behavior, which will determine whether he should be in school. If it is okay for
him to be in school, the psychologist would be able to give information to
guardians on how to teach the child. In his case, I somehow feel that the issue
is much deeper that what meets the eye and only a child psychologist who has
assessed him will be able to help with the necessary treatment. Based on the
advice given, you can then discuss with his teachers on how best to handle him.
Your grandson seems to be a very bright boy and I hope that you will be able to
seek some help in helping him manage his behavior and emotions. Good luck.