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Gifted ADHD Children

Facing Reality

Hi I am a mom of a rambunctious 10 year old gifted child who is also ADHD. He has gone through schooling with some struggles with regular outburts. As parents, we tried medication but they only seemed to make him more emotional. He did well in behavior therapy because we are able to manage at home. However, school is a different monster and that’s because I am an educator and have tried to help his teachers. Please give me any advice you have on going through the 504 process and how to adjust the classroom environment to better meet his needs.


You may want to skip the 504, and go straight to an IEP.

But frankly, my own experience suggests that most educators are severely out of their depth our kids. My daughters’ teachers were good, well-trained, and devoted. But with 30 kids in class, they had to do triage.

Every year, they’d start out thrilled to work with her, and confident that, with her abilities, they’d be able to straighten out the bumps in no time.

About 6 weeks in, I’d hear the “I’d love to do more, but I have 29 other students in class, and I just can’t” speech. That’s code for “I can help 3 other kids in the time it would take to help her, and it still might not work. Besides she’s reading far above grade level, and the same with math, so what’s your problem?”

Eventually, I got her into a school that focuses exclusively on twice exceptional kids (gifted with learning differences). It rescued her, absolutely saved her!

AT the very least you need a school with lots of gifted kids, very small class sizes and a philosophy of individual attention and adaptations.

A bored ADHD kid is a problem. A challenged one is less likely to be so. Keeping a gifted kid challenged is hard on a teacher in a standard class setting. Very hard. Keeping a gifted kid challenged and then doing behavior mod as well? Just isn’t going to be possible in most systems.

But with the IEP process, you can use the FAPE laws to force the school system to give your child what he really needs. It’s a pain to do, and you may need to bring in an education attorney from outside your local area, but it can be done. I’ve done it.

Start with a full battery neuropsych exam—and that means knowing what tests to insist that the school system administer. They’re not going to do the right ones on their own. (I hired a private neuropsych in NYC, but the ones who actually know twice exceptional testing are pretty rare!)

Then get the IEP that gets as many resources as you can from the public system. That won’t come close to being enough, but you have to jump through the hoop.

Keep a written log of what you find out about what your child is doing, what the teachers can and cannot do for him, and so forth.

At the 6 months point, grab the testing results and the discipline reports, the grades, written reports from the teachers, and your own logs.

Call an IEP review meeting, and hold their feet to the fire, in the nicest, most constructive possible way.

Your kid is just as entitled to what he needs as the kid who is “slow,” but most administrators won’t see it that way—even most teachers have a problem seeing it as fair.

Best of luck!

Posted by Marion Gropen on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:52pm

Great advice Marion.  At 10 my gifted son was more wiggly and inattentive than rambunctious. But I had similar steps as Marion.  I noticed something was wrong.  But the school district would not test him as he could function in a normal class room.  I also had testing done outside school.  They found some learning disability as I suspected.  Most of his teachers and I figured out what he needed and that’s what I got in his 504.  I have found that most teachers don’t read the 504 or the IEP’s for that matter.  So you will have to include it in an email to the teachers at the beginning of the year. 

I would also ask your child what works for them and what doesn’t work at school.  Give them a voice, i.e. start that self advocacy early.  Don’t let them become an entitled annoyance.  In other words help the child know what he can expect at school, but help him understand there will be times he has to be flexable and work with his teacher.  Know that the teacher has high kids, low kids, behavior kids, language kids and maybe a few mental health kids all in the same classroom and all supposed to get what they need.  That’s a tall order.  I’m assuming your child is in a regular class room.  A gifted class would mitigate some of that, but not all.  Marion is right, a bored ADHD student is a problem.  They start entertaining themselves.  That can lead to all kinds of things.

I don’t have a lot of answers.  My son is now a junior in college.  As I look back, my advice would be keep trying to make the best decisions each day.  Keep advocating for your child.  You know them the best.  If something doesn’t feel right, keep trying to solve it.  Middle school was hard.  But by his junior year in high school he was mostly keeping track of his own schoolwork, doing it and turning most of it in.  Marching Band, high Math classes and Robotics really helped him get through high school.

Posted by whizinc on Dec 13, 2013 at 9:41am

Hi Marion,

You mentioned that you placed your child in a school for twice exceptional children. I live out on the east end of LI. Would you mind sharing the school you found for your daughter? My son, who is 10, is moving to middle school next year and needs a school that can challenge him but understands emotionally and socially what he needs.


Posted by advocate50 on Dec 31, 2013 at 3:49am

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