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Gifted ADHD Children

New DSM V Diagnosis of on the Sprectrum

Hi, I have a 9 year old highly gifted, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety, Tics with food sensitivies.  We just got back from a stressful 2 day Christmas trip to Disneyland.  Sometimes I think my son is okay.  Then after a trip like this I am wondering if he could be on the spectrum and get services.  I have heard they changed the diagnoses with the new DSM V.  We told him Christmas Eve we were taking him to Disneyland and he was upset wanted to go back to legoland.  We thought he would change his mind once there.  We started out on Main street with the Lincoln show and the sudden burst of firing cannons had him in tears and we had to leave immediately.  He was telling us we are the worst parents for making him go to Disneyland.  He was adking to go home after that.  We tried to joke it was in the Parent Handbook we had to take him there at least once while he was a child.  He had a horrible time waiting an hour in line.  Also the anxiety of not know what the ride would be like really freaked him out.  The scariest ride we did was Indiana Jones and he held on for dear life with his head down the entire time.  He did like a few things like the Jedi training academy, Astro blasters, Pirates of the Carribean, loved exploring on Toms Sawyers Island.  I so want him to fit in and sometimes he really does, but times like this I think he could fit in on the spectrum.  Does anyone know how to proceed with this diagnosis or how bad off your child has to be to receive services?  Also, his ticks are pretty bad where he is chewing holes through his shirts.  Prayers appreciated.  God Bless


Hi, hang in there.  You’re wonderful parents who provided a great opportunity for your child.  It sounds like surprises don’t work well for him though.  I once had a similar experience.  I surprised my son by picking him up early to go on a weekend trip to a ranch that we love.  I thought he would be so happy, instead he was freaked out.  I don’t have any spectrum concerns, but I do know that unexpected change is difficult for him. It seems even trying new things lately is difficult for him.  I hope you are able to find an experienced competent professional to help you sort through all this.  It’s certainly overwhelming and frustrating at times. 

I don’t know what services you may want to get, but seems you should be able to access occupational therapy services now with your current concerns.  They could provide a safe thing to chew on if needed, a fidget that wouldn’t be as obvious, and some sensory integration therapy.  A local hospital or private practice should be able to provide.  This could be harder to access in school.  He may benefit from previewing things that are coming up, like looking online about vacation spots for the summer or camps, a schedule board or keeping a calendar of appointments - his own way of knowing what’s coming and what to expect. 
I found being referred to a child psychiatrist at our local hospital was the best step I was able to take in terms of medication.  I have had a neuropsych, but having a bright child with ADHD can be a difficult sell to the school, and even when I was able to get services, I wasn’t happy with them. Sad - but true.
Best of luck.

Posted by dmvig on Dec 30, 2013 at 8:17pm

My son, who is 16 now, also highly gifted with sensory integration dysfunction and only recently diagnosed with ADHD because I kept him out of the mainstream system, was a lot like your son. It took me quite a while to figure it out because at times he seemed just like the other kids and I wanted to give him the childhood that I thought he should have. I had to erase those expectations. He got sensory overloaded in any stimulating environment. He reacted by getting really wild. I couldn’t take him to the grocery store or other people’s houses, certainly not to parties. Disney World would have been a disaster. He loved to be outside. Any non-structured environment like the beach or the woods or a big outdoor playground worked really well. I kept a very uncluttered house. If your son is really active also you might look up the book called Living with the Active Alert Child. It saved my sanity at the time. Now that my son is older Dabrowski’s theory of Positive Disintegration has been helpful. I am in a rural place and wish I had better support but I have done my best. My son is a great kid. He did not survive the public high school - way too overstimulating and academically unchallenging and he got in a lot of trouble, seriously lost motivation. He has been much more successful taking college classes. The environment is focused and calm. My greatest advise for you is to talk to your son and support him in the things he feels good about. Help him understand himself so he can make the best choices for himself as he gets older. Also I agree with the previous comment which is OT, my son did not do it, but I know it helps many. I am trying to think of ADHD as a gift by searching for all the ways it benefits my son. Best of luck. Keep a happy face for your kid, and help him be successful in CALM environments!

Posted by oursideofthestreet on Dec 30, 2013 at 11:16pm

I don’t have any insight, but wanted to say that you are not alone. My son is 11, was diagnosed with ADHD just after turning 6, but I am pursuing an Autism evaluation now. It seems that once we finally hit the mark with treatment (pretty recently), I see so many Autistic traits, like not being good with the unknown, having a very narrow field of interest, thoughts getting “stuck in his mind,” and serious social ineptitudes that have not gotten any better with time, maturity, and treatment.

If he has Autism, he is very high functioning. But, like you, I want to open the door wider for more services and, frankly, Autism is more accepted as a disability in the general public. Our kids sound a lot alike. My son would want to love Disney, but he would have all the same issues.

Hang in there and seek further evaluation—that can’t hurt.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Dec 31, 2013 at 2:13am

I am the Mom of a gifted 21 son who started out with an ADHD diagnosis.  When he got to college he had to get reevaluated for services because his evaluation was too old (from Middle School).  His diagnosis was changed to Aspergers.  I don’t know what it is under DSM V as the clinic has closed.  I’m sorry the Disneyland trip was so stressful. 

It does sound familiar though.  I work in a local high school in a program that was originally designed for autistic students.  Now it is open to any student with communication disorders.  We have 25 students in the program.  All are different, but have some similarities.  All get stuck in various ways and are unable to get unstuck.  That is one of the things we do—help them figure out what happened, why they had the reaction they did, and what to do differently next time.  It is quite common to have other diagnoses, the most common among our students are the sensory issues and anxiety.  dmvig’s idea of helping your child know what to expect is very helpful.  When I worked in a local middle school, we would sometimes draw out the situations when their language dropped so low they didn’t have words to describe the situation.  This usually happened when they got stuck and their emotions kicked in.  They would get frustrated and angry but would not be able to say why.  Then we drew.

I had my son tested for the gifted program in 5th grade.  He has said it is the best choice we ever made for him.  Being around other very intelligent kids really helped him.  He got an ADHD diagnosis just before that.  In middle school I wanted to have him tested for learning disabilities, but the school would not do that.  They said he could make it in a regular classroom, so that was unnecessary.  I knew that he would quickly become a bored behavior problem if we went that route.  I had him tested privately.  I am contemplating having my daughter tested by either a neuropsych doctor or a child psychiatrist, if I can find one that is very familiar with ADHD, Aspergers and gifted kids.  In our district a child has to have a medical condition that impedes his learning to get a 504 plan.  An Individualized Education Plan is usually for children who are at least two years behind.  I have seen them for behavior plans as well.  You may wish to talk to the head of Special Education in your district to see what is available to you and what hoops you have to jump through to get it.  You may also want to talk to the head of the gifted program in your district to see if your son would be able to fit into the structure.  We had to apply, then my son went through two sets of testing to get in.

Keep searching and trying.  Some things you find will work and some will not.  Try to keep yourself mentally health too.  =)

Posted by whizinc on Dec 31, 2013 at 3:50am

You can get a neuropsych eval to explore the spectrum - but what happened at Disney sounds like plain old full blown sensory integration/processing disorder. My non-ADHD kid w/ SPD overloaded on a very intense ride (I seriously underestimated the ride - I blew it - big time - really - forced her to go on it). Upon coming off the ride, my rules-conscious self-conscious-do-not-look-at-me-I-will -be-embarassed probably gifted (brother tested gifted/ADHD, sister not tested) 10 year old girl kicked and punched me and used the mother of all bad words starting with F while screaming and crying in the middle of Disney. We missed the signals of building overload that we had learned when she was getting OT and sent her over the edge with that ride. Once we went back to paying attention to the SPD we were able to recover the trip - found the most out of the way places to eat in solitude, found quiet places to recover and found safe places to let off the sensory input so she didn’t blow again. OT might be worth exploring for you.

My son got a neuropsych eval partially looking at the spectrum - turns out he doesn’t quite land on it - but we were told that the behaviors that looked like Aspergers to others were actually very typical of those with superior intellectual functioning w/ ADHD - very big gap between brain power & social development w/o ADHD - missing social cues and losing focus in “noisy” settings from ADHD makes it even more so.

You might not need an additional label if you have SPD, ADHD & giftedness - you might just need more appropriate treatment for all three. It’s hard look over your state laws very carefully - you may be denied inappropriately - we were for years - what we were told was not true and we found out 6 years after first trying to get somebody to pay attention.

Posted by Juggler on Dec 31, 2013 at 7:57am

We are seeing all of this with our 10 year old son.  When we started this ride 2 years ago we never dreamed of what decisions we would have to make.  He became angry after starting meds but was told by that psychiatrist that the meds just brought out other issues.  They then said mood disorder and in one year he gained 70 lbs.  Here we are now with a new psychiatrist who said he cannot take stimulants.  We have to stop the mood meds; however, how to deal with the other issues….  He will not go to movies unless Disney, hates 3D, no park shows that have action, no rides, does not like to be alone, in any situation that involves excitement he gets almost manic (this includes going to visit grandparents out of town).  He does not read friends and social interactions at all.  If throwing ball and it hits him, he says the other child did it on purpose etc.  Daycare is a nightmare.  Looking for home care.  Is this Aspergers or please help.

Posted by SteelerMom on Jan 06, 2014 at 11:39pm

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