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Testing for Gifted Placement for an ADHD Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My oldest child turned 7 just 2 weeks ago. He is a first grader and recently diagnosed with ADHD. He has begun medication and doing much better in class, being able to focus on one thing at a time. He will be tested on the Naglieri test soon for advanced placement. I am worried because he is just getting absorbed into the classroom routine and his gifts have been missed due to his ADHD problems.

He has never fallen behind, but his teacher said he may if he couldn't stay on task next year. He has no problem with understanding what is going on in the class, he just goes above and beyond the lesson with more ideas. For example, he has science class and they talk about experiments, he will get excited about this and continue to think about this for the rest of the day. He will come home and write his own formulas for experiments of things he wants to make, last week he spent two days on this, writing and illustrating in detail. Other examples of his abilities include recently authoring and illustrating his own book, drawing 3 dimensional pictures at age 3, knowing his alphabet and numbers (in 3 languages) to 10 by age 2. Imaginary friends with very detailed story lines, deep empathy for his stuffed animals (all names with special characteristics) and a recent tendency to make tests and exercises for his class (such as making a follow the dot picture, teaching how to measure and actually writing the directions) make me realize that this is above average since his two younger siblings have not done anything like this.

Not to go on, but I am afraid this testing might not properly gauge his abilities. I was wondering about this test and what to expect, they 'refer' those at the 90th percentile and up for gifted services, though any parent can fill out the referral form and request their child to be considered. I plan on doing this because I am certain he will be much better off in a class like this, where he can expound on his original ideas. Could you give me a cutoff of sort where maybe I shouldn't do this, for example at the 75th percentile? Also, would waiting for retesting in 3rd grade be a terrible waste of time, not to mention his talents?

A: I can understand your concerns especially with his advanced abilities. From your brief description, he does appear to be advanced for his age. Testing a gifted child with ADHD can be quite a task as on one hand, the child may be able to use her/his skills to cover up the diagnosis and because of that, giftedness is masked and the child would hardly receive help or guidance. On the other hand, s/he may actually be twice exceptional, which is in fact a minority within a minority who may neither fit into accelerated programs or special education settings.

A diagnosis of ADHD alone is not enough to determine the best educational plan for a gifted child. The best diagnosis should be made by a multidisciplinary team that includes at least one clinician trained in differentiating childhood psychopathologies and one professional who understands the normal range of developmental characteristics of gifted children. This is important since about two thirds of children with ADHD appear to have coexisting conditions such as learning disabilities or depression, therefore, assessments should include an evaluation for these disorders as well. Therefore, for an accurate assessment, there must be a team effort.

In your son's case, his condition may affect his results. Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with the Naglieri testing. The WISC is able to screen out children with ADHD to a certain extent. Therefore, the results on one test alone may not portray your son's advance abilities or help him with an educational placement that meets his needs. This should be done by a team and perhaps you may want to discuss this with the school should they have any such referrals. Retesting on the same test usually requires a two year gap but you can do other tests if the need be. An educational psychologist well versed in gifted education may be able to advice on the best test to gauge his abilities. For now, see the school authorities and appeal to treat your son as a special case and not use the cut-off point used as a standard. He would need the best educational program to help him develop his potential. This may take a lot of effort on your part to help them understand as there are very few people in school settings who may understand giftedness and ADHD. In the meantime, you can help him at home to nurture his gifts.

Do check out these websites:

http://www.addvance.com/help/parents/gifted_child.html
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/adhd.htm

I wish you all the best.


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