"He is quite intelligent, but daydreams..."
The Ask the Teacher column in a recent Boston Globe had an interesting question from a parent. Her son was "quite intelligent, but daydreams," got distracted easily in class and didn't always finish his work on time. A battery of tests had ruled out ADHD. The columnist, fortunately, suggested that the parent have her son tested for giftedness. "The behaviors you describe tend to trigger thoughts of an attention disorder," the columnist wrote, "but they're similar to those seen in gifted children."
As someone who daydreams, gets distracted easily and hates having my time wasted by assignments that don't make sense, this column struck a note for me. When doing research for Genius Denied, and since, I've heard anecdotal evidence of schools that issue their own diagnosis of ADHD, then expect the parent to shop around for an actual physician willing to confirm it. There are kids with ADHD, sure, that need to be treated. But there are also kids who don't fit into the lock-step watch-the-teacher, sit-still-until-we-call-on-you school mode. I shudder to think how many of the latter are having their personalities medicated away. I shudder more given recent headlines about the potential cardiac side effects of ADHD medication (the FDA is considering a black box warning for the drugs).
Anyway, one solution is to have school districts train more teachers to recognize the symptoms of giftedness, and how those can mimic symptoms of ADHD. The Houston Independent School District is actually proposing such training. According to this article from the Houston Chronicle, all kindergarten teachers would be trained to recognize signs of advanced intellectual ability. HISD is considering this in part to increase the representation of minority children and children from low income backgrounds in the gifted program, but my guess is it will result in fewer ADHD misdiagnoses as well.