How My Gifted Child Was Misdiagnosed with ADHD

Posted June 21, 2010 by

Who knew having a “GIFTED” child could be so challenging?

I knew my daughter had a gift…I mean she was really reading chapter books to me on her 4th birthday!  And that is just one of the things my husband and I noticed.  Her preschool teacher didn’t seem to notice her gift, but of course she noticed her immaturity and her outbursts.  It seems people enjoy finding the negative… but that’s a whole other story!  Thankfully, her kindergarten teacher was definitely more in tune with her and she got through just fine.   She kept my daughter participating with the class, but then during reading time she would allow her to read more challenging books.  It worked.

Then came first grade.  This teacher was ADHD herself and had evidently decided she had the authority to diagnose kids in her class each year.  So as the year progressed and I volunteered as the “good mom,”  this teacher would fill my head with stories of my daughter.  She would say that she wasn’t focusing, she would have outbursts, and she didn’t work well with others. The teacher would tell me that she would try to get her attention to move on to the next activity and she would be “hyper-focused” into a book.  My daughter regularly got into trouble and sent out into the hallway.  At the time I didn’t know this, but my daughter told me later that she memorized the fire escape plan that was posted on the wall because she was sent out there so frequently.   She was also sent to the office to sit in the “thinking chair.”  My daughter recalls one specific time that she was sent to “the chair.”  The administrative assistant asked my daughter if she wanted to go back to class, and she responded, “No, I’m still thinking.”  Little did I know what the real problem was at this point.

Now looking back, I think , “What is wrong with being hyper-focused?”  I only dream of having the ability to hyper-focus on anything.  In this day and age of computers, cell phones, and multi-tasking, being able to focus at all is a treasure!

Anyway, this first grade teacher had me convinced that my daughter needed help.  And what parent doesn’t want to HELP their child?  I had been dealing with her outbursts and excessive energy at home so I was unfortunately easily convinced.  My husband and I took her to our pediatrician who with just this teacher’s recommendation put her on the ADHD medicine, Adderall.  He convinced us that children like our daughter would end up being drug addicts if we didn’t medicate!  Looking back it seems completely ludicrous that he could say that to us without a proper diagnosis.

Well, after a few weeks of the dreadful medication, my daughter seemed worse.  She was having more outbursts at home and she lost two pounds.  So we took her back to the pediatrician and he switched us to a different medication.  The teacher said she notice improvement in my daughter’s behavior at school.  I continued to see more outbursts and crying at home.  My daughter didn’t want to take the medicine anymore.  I bought a book that I highly recommend, called “Ritalin Is Not The Answer: A Drug-Free, Practical Program for Children Diagnosed with ADD or ADHD” by David Stein.  At this point, I guess I still thought she had ADHD.  So I made an appointment to see a psychologist who tested her on and off of the medicine.  According to the results, there was not that significant of a difference between the results.  That was enough for me.  We took her off the medicine.  I really hated medicating my daughter for no reason and I felt so guilty.  My daughter and I talked about it openly and we flushed it down the toilet.  She hated the medicine and said it made her cry.  She wasn’t the only one who shed a lot of tears.

I still felt I needed to know what was “wrong” with my daughter.  After getting recommendations from other parents, I took my daughter to a “Behavioral Pediatrician.”  He did a thorough investigation of our daughter.  We had all of her teachers fill out forms…he checked her reflexes… he interviewed my husband and I… and he interviewed my daughter.  Then he gave her an IQ test…she REALLY enjoyed the challenge of the test!   She scored 144….and we found out what was “wrong” with her.  She is “gifted.”  I don’t really think that term really describes her the best, but that seems to be her category.  So looking back, I think of all of the complaints from that first grade teacher were due to boredom.  Kids act out when they are bored!  But, honestly having a gifted child has a whole slew of challenges.   This doctor said that my daughter would always be one step ahead of me.  Every week we are working on something else.  With a “gifted child” comes things that make parenting a daily challenge.  I try hard to keep us all learning and staying positive.  I know my daughter is going to do great things, and it is my job to love her, nurture her talents, and help her manage the idiosyncrasies.


Parent Blogger Amanda Lane is the mother of an 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. Amanda has been married for 16 years and works as a Clinical Systems Analyst in the hospital in her rural community. She hopes to give hope and confidence to others as she writes about her journey through parenthood.

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  1. Sarita Report

    I am also reading with interest, but am yet to come across a case of a child who is very well behaved at school but acts out and is difficult at home! He says he behaves well as he doesn’t want to be in trouble, but with us he takes no notice at all, we are having problems finding the best way to discipline him, any suggestions?! Does anyone know a child like this? We have only just starting investigating the thought that he is “gifted”, we have always know that he is a very bright child but had not filled in the questionnaire, he got 18 out of 25 yeses on the initial evaluation, let’s see what they tell us.

  2. jenny Report

    Thankyou for writing this article. We are going through something right now with my sons enrichment program he goes to 2 days a week. We homeschool the other days of the week. My son is ahead in all the subjects but tends to get into trouble at school mainly for interrupting and talking out. They think its ADHD. I think he is board and I think he very well be gifted instead of ADHD. Since he was a toddler people always commented on how smart he was. At 2 he could say and point out each letter of the ABC’s. He is extremely verbal. I am not sure the public school is the best fit for kids like this. The gifted and talented program is more of an “enrichment” interested of higher level of learning. If you cant afford a private school with more challenging work I think homeschool is a great way, you can tailor the schooling around your child. Just a thought. 🙂

  3. wooking Report

    thanks you for your quick response Sara.
    my wife is a practicing psychologist(not a child psychologist), and a very involved parent in the classroom (hence the comment about the control). we have tried to talk to the teacher. did i mention she is controlling? gave up on her went to the principle apparently he is in his own world. as for the school counselors and or psychologist? no one wants to create any waves. so its time to maybe experiment with medication and then just take him out of this particular school. the more we talk to the staff it just seems no one wants to do anything, cause its more work for them.
    i kept bringing up why has the class went from 3 grade math program back to 1st grade? and they just said its a gifted program doesnt mean accelerated, it means enriched. which to them it means just more of the 1st grade problems just more of them. hence my son’s boredom.
    oh well, i will have to move on to another school and pray that the next teacher is more open to suggestions and/or maybe my son needs to be medicated. so it will be easy for them. harrison bergeron(the short story not the horrible movie)comes to mind. sorry i am a geek myself.

  4. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To ‘wooking’: It sounds like you’re really struggling with this decision, and it’s easy to see why. Ultimately the decision about medicating your child is up to you. That said, keep in mind you are his best advocate and your job is to make sure his needs are being met. If you have concerns that your child is not being challenged enough, it’s important to communicate that to the school with facts to back it up, and in writing if possible. You might also ask for input from support staff at the school such as the counselor, social worker, or psychologist. And since you sound very skeptical of the ADHD diagnosis, remember that it’s within your rights to get a second opinion. Lastly, you might try to communicate with your son’s teacher about behavior management tools that have worked well with him in the past such as having him help his peers, for example, so that she might have the chance to apply these same techniques in her classroom if she would like. We know this is frustrating and we wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

  5. wooking Report

    my child has just been diagnosed with adhd and as gifted by our behavioral doctor.
    we had known since he was a toddler how special he was. so we went out our way to get him tested and into the new york city gifted and talented program.
    when he was in kindergarten his teacher realized how gifted he was and also how restless he was.
    so she redirected his energy by having him teaching other children with math or spelling or what have you. not to mention they were being challenged with “3-4” grade level material for math and reading material. again he was restless but wasnt a pariah.
    first grade came and we didnt think much of it. since the kindergarten teacher was so great with him.
    the first grade teacher from our interaction/observation we have noticed that she has a controlling personality. i mean like she had to have all the kids sit straight and looking forward all the time kinda thing. or if they were sitting in some circle on the floor that everyone had to have their legs crossed. little things like that she went out of her way to impose. it was tiring watch.
    oh for i dont know why the class curriculum has gone back to “appropriate” 1st grade level.
    which my son has done in pre-school. my wife and i were busy seeing what he could do while he was home. anyways.
    now his 1st grade teacher is having a difficult time controlling him and has written him off as adhd and needs medication. hence his new diagnoses. the doc is saying it might help and i asked what if he is just bored? how will medication help with his boredom? i mean i guess he can be seated and be bored?

    so is meds the only option? it seems like i am going to medicate my child because the school/teacher dont know what to do with him.
    what can i do?
    what should i do? the principle is also on the teacher side of getting him on meds bandwagon.
    oh did i mention this school got grade of C from board of eds own evaluation? from a grade of a not to long ago.

  6. Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    Dear Minerva41: Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we do not have a list of pediatricians or professionals that we refer people to. You might be able to find the help you need through 211, the United Way’s Information and Referral Service. To see if this service is available in your area, please visit 211 Call Center Search. Good luck in your search.

  7. minerva41 Report

    I am going through the same thing with my son.I am in South Carolina, does anyone know about a Behavior Pediatrician in South Carolina or in North Carolina? Thank You.

  8. Jusy Report

    Well, it is as if you are saying my story, however I’m still at the point that my child’s teacher is recommending help, and my psychatric is assuming a ADHD and a gifted child case. After reading your story I will not rush in medication. I will take one step at a time, and will reconsult about the accuracy of diagnosing my child’s case. Thank you for sharing your story with us

  9. Tasha Report

    My daughter was diagnosed with ADD 5 yers ago, she is now in sixth grade. Her school tested her IQ 2 years ago. They told me she tested high, but it was TOO hard to keep her on track, so they were not going to give her the GATE work. Well, we just switched schools and her old paperwork went with her. It seems she has an IQ of 160 and is a “genius” I am so angry with her old school, and her pediatrician who also told me she would be into drugs and sex at an early age if I did not medicate her. Luckily I held my ground and never medicated her. Two days in, and I am learning so much about the parallels between ADD and being gifted….

  10. MistySmith Report

    My oldest son was pegged adhd and i still have doubts…he is like i was in school. when the lesson was done move on. but its not like that now so he would get fidgety and distract the class.So they put him on meds I was told either he takes the meds or he is out. I was at a loss, because I remember my school days. I was always bored, but I knew not to disrupt class so I slept. Maybe it was my fault for not teaching him patience. Why does the system now want to punish the “smart kids” all because they are ready to learn something else?

  11. Kristen Report

    I came across a great book called, “the Gift of ADHD” by Lara Honos-Webb, PHD. It has some wonderful information and tips and wanted to share it with all of you that commented. ADHD is a ‘GIFT’ if it is treated as such! Even though my daughter was not diagnosed as ADHD, she still shows many of the typical traits and I am finding this book very informative. This line particularly hit me and I have to share, “I reframe spaciness as creativity, hyperactivity as exuberance, emotional outbursts as intense sensitivity, and social complications as interpersonal intuition.”

  12. Susan Engel Report

    Welcome to the EP Parent Blogger team, Kristen! My heart wrenched when I read how you and your daughter struggled with being mislabeled and misdiagnosed. Thank you for sharing your experience with us! As evidenced by the responses posted here, your situation resonated with a number of parents.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, strength, and hope withus. The insighte and support that I’ve found here in the EP circle are invaluable as I bumble my way along this path called “parenthood”!

    I look forward to reading more of your story! And keep up the great work, mom! 😉

  13. Kristen Report

    I will definitely post more about my daughter…and thanks for everyone for taking the time to write. I totally agree that we don’t need to FIX gifted kids. I thought for about 30 seconds that I did need to FIX her because she didn’t fit any mold made in the public school system. I seriously considered Montessori for her also. This year she was in 4th grade and had a better year because of the honors program.
    I also agree that all children are ‘gifted’ as well. It is good to know that there are other parents out there trying as hard as I am to do the best for our children! I’m learning every day.

  14. pam Report

    More info please! This article is great as is the feedback.

    My son is nearly 3.5 and has been labeled as gifted by his montessori. I am reading a lot and just learning what this means.

    Thanks for this bit of info!

  15. Lisa Saline Report

    Wow, it’s great to hear other parents and their experiences with how teachers view behavior challenges in the classroom. I believe all children are gifted but not all adults know how to work with their talents. That’s why in classrooms with multiple kids and one teacher can be a challenge. Thanks for the article and best wishes for your childs future.

  16. Rivkeleh Report

    What a magnificent article! I am absolutely convinced that this is what happened to my stepson, and without the involvement of a teacher in elementary school who has gone on to specialize in giftedness (Dr. Deborah Ruf) and if ADHD had been as in the cultural mainstream, that I could have gone down this path myself.

    Recognizing this, I have taken on the extra effort of placing my son (now 6) in a Montessori program, where the school environment supports children being developmentally ready and intellectually curious about what they are ready for and curious about, instead of dealing with the inability of children to all be ready to absorb the same information on the same day as a problem of the child’s. At the end of kindergarten in this environment, my son is far enough ahead of the public school curriculum that I am keeping him in Montessori until 4th grade, where the public schools in our area formally address and provide a system for gifted children.

    Children are perfectly good at being who they are and ready for what they are ready for, until we start making them wrong for it. I strongly believe that the best way to let a child reach his or her potential is to stay as much out of the way as possible while providing helpful suggestions of what they might try next, not try to FIX him or her, and provide as many resources as possible to let them explore and learn as they are ready to. Medicating for ADHD seems to me as often as not a treatment for a classroom management problem.

  17. Tanya Report

    I am so glad you found the ‘problem’. Good luck. She must use her talents and do not let anyone put her down

  18. Kristen Report

    blondie1954, Thanks so much for writing! I really can relate to the restlessness. It is so good to hear how great your children are doing as adults. I totally agree on channeling the energy! But wow is it exhausting!

  19. blondie1954 Report

    I went through some similar problems when my boys were young, but as a teacher, I didn’t get lead into the ADHD, I just knew they were gifted. But, that did NOT make it easier! Gifted children are often restless and in need of stimulation. I would watch with envy as the other moms put their children into strollers and walked calmly through the mall or park or whatever. Neither of my boys would sit still for a minute, not even in a carseat! People would say, take them for a drive, that will calm them and make them sleep, not so, they’d cry until I’d cry!
    Good news is that today they are grown, gifted and doing well. One is a professional musician and the other a straight A college student and intern at Lockheed Martin in the Missle Division.
    So, take heart mothers of gifted, restless children. Just channel the energy and intellect/gifts and all will be well!



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