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How to tell the difference between ADD and gifted?


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That might sound totally dumb to some but I have been noticing they share a majority of traits. How can someone who has no experiance with either decide if their child is either one?


My dd is very bright but very emotional, high strung, moody, ect. She learns at a rapid pace but most times it needs to be in about 5 min intervals. She is insatiable when it comes to learning. She has to move, her questions NEVER stop (bedtime is a nightmare as she unloads hundreds of questions), she recalls things from months ago, she is demanding and at times can be out of control, her enviroment needs to be very predictable, she cant handle change well, she is very social but timid at the same time, and obssesive.....I could go on but I think that sort of paints a decent picture. She is a wonderful and curious kid and I dont mean any of those in a negative way, just the best way to descride I suppose. I just dont know how to help her. I want to curb the freak outs, get her learning as much as she wants, calm her a bit and help her deal with life better. Any suggestions how? Point me to the right forum if she doesnt fit into this group please.

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Many kids have both traits at the same time -- it isn't an either/or situation. I know I've seen this addressed in web sites about gifted kids, but I don't seem to have anything bookmarked, and don't have time myself this morning to google.


My oldest sounds very much like your dd, and in fact when he was tested we were told he had that combination of giftedness and ADD, and likely Aspergers. The way I've handled it over the years is to set up his environment to fit him by having his materials very organized, setting a schedule, announcing changes to that schedule WAY in advance, using checklists, only doing focused work for short periods at a time. I always have allowed him to follow his interests (obsessions, really) as deeply as he wanted, tried to make his other subjects fit in with those interests as much as possible.


With maturity has come a degree of self awareness and self control over his moodiness, his highly strung nature. He recognizes it and is learning how to cope for himself. The puberty years were very tough on us all -- everything in his nature that was extreme to begin with somehow got magnified through those years. We survived by finding tutors and outside classes so we didn't strangle each other!


I loved the Spirited Child book, Mel Levine's Mind at a Time.


And of course you belong on this board! I like to think of this place as the forum for kids who are "outside the box"! Welcome :)

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It sounds like you have a "sizzler" at your house. Have you heard of Sizzle Bop? Sizzle Bop was a support community developed by Carol Barnier, author of How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and on to Learning, and If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, What Did I Do With the Baby?. She's hilarious, and she has a gifted, ADHD child (now a teenager). She sees the same traits in herself, so she has unique perspective. The website is full of supportive information. You can also sign up to receive e-mails from her and other moms of "sizzlers".


From the website:


Who is this site for?

This is the place to come to if you are the parent of a highly distractible child or the spouse of a highly distractible mate. This is also the place to come if YOU are the highly distractible person. This site celebrates the energy and the non-linear path of the distractible mind. We don’t believe these folks are defective. We believe they are blessed and even fortunate to have a gift of such energy and creativity. And we love them dearly. But we also know that there are unique challenges in:

-Raising a highly distractible child

-Sharing your life with a high energy, distractible mate or

-Being a distractible, non-linear thinker in a very linear world. (italics added)




Check out the site, and maybe buy one of her books. She's very funny, and very supportive. If nothing else, scroll down on the home page and read where the name "Sizzler" came from. :) Oh, and look for her at your homeschooling convention. She came to ours last year, and I was awed by the insight she had into my life with my own sizzler.

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Loving the sizzlebop site! Thanks for putting that in here! "...I found that if I included some form of motion in every learning activity, my son would not only absorb material just fine, but he’d do it quickly and permanently. "

We (have to) let our son stand, wriggle, squirm and swing from the table (or trapeze) while doing his schoolwork or listening to us read. My husband is GREAT at figuring out how to make physical learning games for our son to play and, well, I try... :) And it has really surprised me that he does actually absorb so much auditorially (is that a word?) while doing so much else physically. But I'm also highly distractable as that author is and only recently figured out that it's OK too. aaaahhh... <- sigh of relief. Just something to work with as it is.

As Jennifer said, being highly energetic is apparently often found in gifted/accelerated children. Maybe you would also fiind some good info at hoagie's? http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/gifted_101.htm

good luck... - Jill

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In my experience, high energy wanes with age but ADHD they don't grow out of. I have one of each. The older one still has tons of mental energy and can do the work of 3 adults when motivated, but is no longer the unfocused whirlwind she was when she was little. The younger one is almost 9 and still cannot complete a train of thought without bouncing up and down and running into things. The others are gifted, but normally active. I'll be interested to hear if others have had the same experience.



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and seems ADD-ish (mostly the inattentive type). She really does have trouble focusing. Her IQ is quite high, but she has trouble paying attention to a chapter book long enough to finish it (we have to read together, discussing the material along the way). She seems "ditzy," which is really cute, but it's kind of heartbreaking at the same time. This is a highly intelligent and talented child who won't reach her potential because she can't focus.

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(Disclaimer: this is mainly tongue in cheek to cheer you up, but I've got experience with both)


A funny, Gifted:


Me: "Do you have ADD?"

DD12 "What's that?"

Me: "Attention Deficit Disorder"

Her: "No, I get plenty of attention around here"


(an actual conversation between her and I and cue me LMAO and her getting mad at me for laughing)


Your DD does sound like she could be both as someone said. I'd be hesitant to label her ADD until you get a full workup on her, but it could also be the type of learner she is.. this same DD (mine) is very much a book learner and then she applies it. But my DD15 is very much a visual learner--give her books and she meltsdown, give her things to blow up and she suddenly recalls everything I've taught her.


Maybe change up the way you teach her? Instead of sitting down in books, go for walks and talk. Give her a clip board with "scavenger hunt" type stuff on it and see how she functions with that. I know even *I* have to have my hands busy doing something or else I can't focus either.

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Thank you for all the reccomendations and links. I dont really want to label her anything but at this point I really need a different way to interact with her as most of the time I am just reacting. In the end I give her more negative attention than good because I reach total frazzled in just minutes. I am not negative towards her work or her but I know that I sound that way most of the time. Does any of this make sense? I think most of the issue I am encountering has little to do with her and more to do with my over controlling obssesive ways. :)


Ahhhh anyway thanks for the suggestions, I will start reading and go pick up some books.

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You never specified how old your daughter is. Things may have changed since I had read up on ADD, but I recall that ADD conditions are most easily diagnosed in early years before 7 or 8 I think. I have a teenage son with a genius level IQ who was diagnosed, at age 5, with ADHD (with severe hyperactivity.) I think when people see an active child they start thinking about ADD. There are many books written about this condition so you can educate yourself about the difference between a spirited, bossy, curious child, and a child with a clinical problem. Sometimes kids are just so smart they know how to push our buttons without us even realizing it (my second child.)

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I want to say thanks for the recommendation of Mel Levine's book and the Raising Your spirited Child book...


Now I have a question. Both of those books deal 90% with a young child and getting school cooperation.


Are there any similiar books on dealing with a middle school aged child at home? Obviously since we hs, the school advice is moot. And obvious if he's 13, we've gotten past the screaming fits of a 3 yr old to get his socks on, kwim?


I had thought we'd made so much progress, but it appears puberty is setting in and wrecking everything?:confused: Anyone have any advice here?

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Here are a couple of websites that "might" be helpful.


Homeschooling The ADHD Christian Child


Teaching Highly Distractable ADD/ADHD Children


From my research and what my ds's Psyc. has told me I've found that children who display ADD/ADHD traits (at least 6 lasting for 6 months or more) are automatically diagnosed with ADHD inattentive or ADHD hyperactive. There is no longer a dx of ADD.


The dx is a dx of symptoms... akin to your dr. saying, "Oh yes, your child does have a fever so give him/her a fever reducer and it will go away". And isn't that so helpful. NOT. What if your child's fever is not helped by a fever reducer. In the case of those meds. there is no big loss if you try the reducer and it doesn't work. But if you try meds for ADHD well that's a different story. And so now over the last few years doctors are becoming more hesitant to suggest first trying meds.


There are quite a few "causes" of ADHD. Some are rather easy to fix. Others aren't. Here are just a few causes...


#1 (often what most people w/o an ADHD child automatically assume) Is Poor Parenting. Usually the case when no consequences are required of the child. That's a pretty easy one for the parent to decide... yes, this is why my child is displaying ADHD traits.


#2 An allergy. It could be an allergy to just one food or just one outside source. Many ADHD children benefit greatly by implementing the ADHD diet others have no change whatsoever.


#3 Sensory Processing Disorder. Sometimes also called Sensory Integration Dysfunction or the Highly Sensitive Person. Because the nervous system is not fully developed or is damaged in some way a child becomes over or under stimulated by his environment. The behavior that accompanies this improper ability to filter the world around them is then called ADHD.

*There are several other neurological problems that can cause ADHD symptoms as well.


#4 A Fatty Acid deficiency. And this is why many children can be given Fish Oil in "therapeutic doses" and suddenly become average.


#5 Giftedness. No matter what you do... diet, drugs, supplements, the child's behavior will not change because it is wired into their temperament. However add more challenging materials academically will help curb some of the ADHD tendencies. *A child who is gifted and has ADHD could also have one or more of the other causes going on as well.


#6 A dopamine deficiency can cause all the traits of ADHD and more. When these children are given Ritalin or other ADHD medications a big change happens. They begin to function better and seem to become more content in their own skin.


So I hope you can see by this that a child can both be gifted and ADHD or gifted and be mistaken as ADHD. A child could have ADHD for many reasons. Even the "experts" can't agree on what constitutes a true dx of ADHD. Most say 6 traits and your child has it... but those same experts are slow to offer rx without offering other options first.


The easiest things to check for are a fatty deficiency, giftedness, and poor parenting. For the fatty deficiency you would give your child a therapeutic dose of fish oil daily for a month and watch for changes in behavior (this is not the recommended dose and can very from child to child and from brands of oil). For giftedness you would have him/her tested. And for Parenting issues you would track your responses to your child's demands.


The others require a professional.

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