Positive tools for thriving families.

Are gifted kids being misdiagnosed with ADHD and other disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and mood disorders? Unfortunately, the literature shows that the misdiagnoses of exceptionally bright children continues to occur. The most common misdiagnosis of gifted children tends to be attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as these children may present with ADHD like behaviors, such as restlessness, moving rapidly from task to task, not paying attention, excessive talking and interrupting frequently, blurting out answers, impulsivity, being the center of attention, and poor frustration tolerance/impatience in the classroom, on the playground, in sports, and other social situations. Based on these behaviors, the child may be referred for an assessment for ADHD at the school or privately. If we simply use a checklist and behavioral observations to make the diagnosis, we may come to the false conclusion that the child has ADHD, and might recommend an ADHD focused behavioral plan and medication.

In the above situation, the risk of a gifted child being misdiagnosed with ADHD is that we have not taken into consideration the typical characteristics/behaviors/personality traits of gifted children. As we learn more about gifted kids, we realize that their blurting out answers, moving rapidly from task to task, not paying attention, not following directions, excessive talking, etc. may be more a reflection of their superior intelligence, creativity, higher cognitive functioning, boredom, and intense need to obtain and share information than ADHD. It is imperative that teachers, parents, clinicians, and pediatricians assess the child’s intellectual functioning and personality traits as part of the assessment to better determine if the child is gifted or ADHD. Of course there are some children who will fall into both camps and will have dual issues and a dual diagnosis. But our job is to tease apart the differences and overlap of these complicated behavioral presentations by conducting a gold standard assessment that includes comprehensive testing, behavioral observations, adult and self reports, and assessment interventions that can help us tease apart giftedness from ADHD.

The latter point is critical and two excellent articles guide us on conducting a more accurate assessment of gifted children. The SENG organization (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) identifies and provides us with an excellent list of factors and interventions to consider before we make an ADHD referral to better clarify if the child may be gifted and/or has ADHD.  Dr. Hahn at Tufts Medical Center also provides us with excellent guidelines to better distinguish between giftedness and ADHD, and asks us to consider the possibility of giftedness in some children when diagnosing ADHD.

The recent research and literature highlights that it is also essential to pay attention to typical personality traits of gifted children, including exceptional creativity, high emotional intensity, emotional and physical sensitivities, insatiable curiosity, questioning, and challenges, and drive to understand and master when diagnosing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder in some children. This very helpful resource facilitates a better understanding of how certain strengths and characteristics of gifted children can be easily misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misdiagnosed in gifted kids as mood disorders and/or oppositional defiant disorder. A highly recommended and informative book can further guide parents, teachers, clinicians, and pediatricians on how to better respond, assess, and intervene with gifted children that minimizes the potential for misdiagnoses of gifted kids.


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  • Exceptional, impressive, thoroughly 'kid friendly' from beginning to end, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" should be a part of every community library Parenting Studies collections. For families with young children who are having to deal with divorce, "Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children" will prove to be an invaluable and instructive aid.

    Editor in Chief - Midwest Book Review

  • Those of us parenting, working with, or caring for children experiencing divorce will welcome Family Changes as a unique, positive, and creative resource for helping children understand and cope with this complicated transition. The comprehensive note to adults effectively explains how children work through painful questions and feelings. The touching story—with the endearing Zoey and her attempt to understand a very grown up topic—ends with extremely helpful follow up questions that will be highly valued by parents, child advocates, therapists, and others who wish to better serve children during this difficult time. I highly recommend this book to parents and professionals.

    Sacha Coupet, Ph.D., J.D. Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Family Law, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

  • Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children is an outstanding book that is gentle, positive, and validating for both children and adults. With an excellent and informative parent guide about the value of talking to children about their feelings, a highly sensitive and engaging story with exquisite illustrations, and an effective list of questions that children typically ask, this book is essential reading for divorcing families, and for therapists and advocates working with children of divorce.

    Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Michigan

  • Family Changes is an inspiring and exceptional book on divorce. It explains divorce in a developmentally appropriate and comforting language that validates children's complex feelings about divorce. Dr. Maker's expertise and years of experience working with children who are coping with the grief and confusion that often accompany divorce shine through in every page. I highly recommend this book to divorcing parents, schools, libraries, and professionals working with children of divorce.

    Martha Crowe, M.A. Child Development, Institute for Public Health, San Diego State University, CA

  • Dr. Maker has brought us this excellent child-centric educational book about how to navigate the changes of a family undergoing divorce. Dr. Maker takes us through this experience from the child's point of view and shares the gift of positive transformation that can occur during this life-changing time. The illustrations are sublime and the topic is handled so gently and ingeniously. Of course, it is written by a child psychologist with the gift of creativity. It's a book that every child therapist, library, school, and families going through a divorce should have on their shelves.

    Krista Royabal, M.D., Psychiatrist, Executive Medical Director, True Life Center for Wellbeing, CA

  • Based on the typical emotional turbulence a child feels from separation or divorce, Family Changes receives high recommendation as the first title that adults should turn to in the effort to explain, explore, and support a child's feelings in the matter, concluding with a list of 'process questions' which adults can use to further enhance the story line's overall approach.

    CA Bookwatch/Donovan’s Literary Services/Recommended Reading

  • The story touches on several key issues that children worry about - will their parents still love them, will they have two homes now, did they somehow cause the divorce, etc. The book also opens with a straightforward Note to Adults and ends with a list of questions that adults can discuss with children. Often books that do a good job of explaining divorce and separation are so focused on the child's point-of-view, that they don't offer any advice for the parents, caregivers, and teachers that are trying to help the child makes sense of it all. Family Changes avoids that problem and gives good guidelines for adults. I would recommend this book to parents and other family members, educators, and counselors.

    NetGalley Reviews/The Fairview Review - Librarian

  • This story is filled with little moments that reflect the nature of children perfectly. If you need to explain what it means to be divorced or separated to your child then this is one of the best ways to do that. The book is filled with relatable emotions and questions that a lot of children will have if their family is going through a separation. Dr. Maker’s years of experience are evident in the story as she masterfully addresses many common concerns for children experiencing a divorce in their family.

    The Littlest Bookshelf