ADD/ADHD Understanding, Treatment, Strengths Part 3

Formal education often focuses on conformity and concentration; however, both gifted children and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) children require specialized care to assist in their success.  When evaluating the issues presented by a child, careful consideration must be given to identify the difference between giftedness and ADHD. 

In an issue of ERIC Digest, James T. Webb and Diane Latimer compared six characteristics associated with giftedness with a list from Russell Barkley’s book Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Below I have presented these characteristics in order to compare and contrast the two conditions. 


  • Poor attention, boredom, daydreaming.
  • Low tolerance for continuing in tasks that seem irrelevant.
  • Judgment lags behind intellect development.
  • Intensity may lead to power struggles with authority.
  • High activity level, may need less sleep.
  • Questions rules, customs and traditions.


  • Sustains attention poorly in most situations.
  • Less persistence on tasks not having immediate consequences.
  • Impulsive, poor delay of gratification.
  • Doesn’t respond well to commands, doesn’t regulate behavior well in social situations.
  • More active and restless than other children.
  • Difficulty adhering to rules and regulations.

Before we celebrate that your child is gifted rather than having ADHD, it is important to understand several things.  ADHD is truly a condition that may need assistance.  Many ADHD children are creative however.  They think different thoughts and see experiences from different perspectives than another child might.  Many ADD or ADHD children are “polyphasic” thinkers.  That is, they often hold many different thoughts in their minds at the same time.  Formal education as well as culture often focuses on conformity and producing the right answer, not differing thoughts.  Both ADHD and giftedness traits focus on uniqueness of the individual.  It is important for parents to help children see and accept their strengths while fitting into school and culture.

America is a culture of doers and thinkers. People who thought outside the box and were persistent risk takers brought about most inventions that exist today.  Most business in this country is small business, often started by people with many ideas for change and who saw a better way to do things than had been done before.  Many entrepreneurs possess qualities that mirror hyperactive characteristics.  They have learned to channel such qualities in positive directions.

It’s important that as parents we help children build on their strengths.  Help your ADD/ADHD child find creative outlets, help them learn to use their many thoughts to problem solve – look at situations as options and possibilities, evaluate strengths and weakness of choice, and experiment with following a choice to see where it takes them, then evaluate the outcome.  Help them selectively experiment with healthy risks – rock climbing, canoeing, skate boarding.  It’s not the activity; it is using the activity wisely, safely and finding outlets that are socially acceptable.  Help your ADHD child celebrate who they are and understand the strengths they have.  In approaching your child in this way, you may help them discover how truly gifted they really are.

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