Super-bright, not hyperactive


Up to half of really bright children in SA are misdiagnosed and treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because teachers and other professionals fail to identify them as gifted children, says Professor Shirley Kokot, president of the National Association for Gifted and Talented Children in SA.

She says some symptoms of being gifted are similar to those of ADHD.

Gifted children’s attention in class can be poor, probably because of boredom, so they can easily be misunderstood or not sufficiently stimulated at school.

ADHD is misdiagnosed for other reasons too. A recent study found one million American kids had been misdiagnosed because they were the least mature in their classes.

‘‘Gifted means exceptional, higher than above average,’’ Professor Kokot says. ‘‘An academically gifted child generally has a high IQ and can have other characteristics such as high creative ability or physical prowess.

‘‘A gifted child’s behaviour in the classroom might be affected by boredom, a limited curriculum, inappropriate teaching style or other factors. A gifted child who has to spend much of his day waiting for others to catch up might show disruptive behaviour that’s an attempt at self-amusement.’’

‘‘ADHD is definitely being overdiagnosed,’’ Cape Town-based clinical psychologist Vincenzo Sinisi says.

‘‘Classes today have 40-plus children. Teachers and busy parents find it too difficult to work with children who need extra attention.’’

He believes that as with depression, medication for ADHD (such as Ritalin) is considered a money-spinner in the pharmaceutical industry. ‘‘It’s in their interest to promote medicines and theories that justify the use of medicines over alternative approaches.’’

Clinical psychologist Naomi van Wyk says, ‘‘Kids are often put on medication without the person prescribing the medication having a clear idea of what the problem is or without first properly considering alternatives to medication, which is very dangerous for that child.’’

Read all about it in YOU, 21 October 2010.

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