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Teaching Gifted Students with ADHD

Instructor: Alexis Jones

Alexis has taught grades 1 through 6, and has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction.

In this lesson, we'll explore strategies for teaching gifted students with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). We'll also look at the similarities and differences between these two exceptionalities in education.

Definition of Giftedness and ADHD

Jack complains of being bored in class, and he can never find his supplies. He constantly calls out the right answers, which frustrates his peers. While it seems as though giftedness and ADHD cannot coexist, they can.

While gifted students with ADHD can exhibit problem behaviors, they can also be bright, creative, and enjoyable. With a few modifications to the educational setting, both you and your student can achieve success.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition that affects a person's focus, including his or her ability to sort out distracting information from other stimuli. Sometimes students with ADHD talk excessively, blurt out answers, or interrupt a speaker. They also have trouble planning ahead or following through on tasks.

Giftedness has multiple definitions, but in general, it is considered intellectual ability that is higher than average - some say at least two standard deviations above average on intelligence tests; others use a definition based on intelligence testing percentiles (98th percentile or above). Another conception of giftedness focuses on the combination of task commitment, above-average ability, and creativity.

Similarities

Gifted and ADHD students are both often easily bored and can have a tough time in school. You might have noticed that it takes quite a bit to catch and hold the interest of both gifted students and ADHD students.

Additionally, gifted students with ADHD can be considered unmotivated or underperforming. More specifically, while people might notice the gifts of gifted students with ADHD, they might also see that these students are not completing schoolwork or homework. For students like Jack, it is often hard to score up to their potential on standardized tests. So while they may be at the head of the class, so to speak, they can't adequately demonstrate all they're capable of.

Differences

Giftedness is considered by most to be a strength, while ADHD is considered a weakness or a classroom problem. Because of this, one way to approach gifted students with ADHD is to consider how to capitalize on their strengths while supporting their needs.

There are often special classrooms or pullout programs for students identified as gifted, while this does not exist for students with ADHD. ADHD students often have their needs met by classroom accommodations or modifications, such as filling out a planner at regular times of the day or checking in with a peer or an adult at the end of morning and afternoon lessons.

While you may observe that gifted students and ADHD children often do not follow the rules, you will at times notice the gifted child questioning the rules, as though the teacher is a peer, while the ADHD child will likely just find it hard to follow through on classroom expectations. The gifted child might also find it hard to follow through on tasks that don't seem relevant, while the ADHD might find it hard to persist when there isn't regular feedback.

Accommodations

Having read some of these characteristics, you can see why it can be challenging to be both the student with ADHD and giftedness as well as the teacher of these twice-exceptional children! However, there are some simple accommodations you can make in the classroom that will help you both.

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