Gifted and disorganized or ADD?

Sarah - posted on 11/15/2010 ( 25 moms have responded )

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I have a gifted son who is 13. Highly disorganized. There have been a few teachers that have said they thought he had ADD (also the ones I trusted least at supporting my child's needs) and I simply dismissed that notion. He is sooo smart but often does not do the little things in life like turning in his work or remembering where he put it. What is your advice? Just the typical gifted kid or could there be more to it? I don't want him to fail out of school because he can't remember to turn in the work he's completed!

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Kate - posted on 12/11/2010

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I'm not wanting to contradict the ADD tendencies, but I would greatly encourage you to look into Dabrowski's Theory of Overexcitabilities. I'm really sorry taht I can't give you the research that I found this in but some 30% of Gifted children were misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD because the people who dianosed them had no idea about overexcitabilities and their prevelance in Gifted Children. WHile I think it is defintiely wise to seek out professional help I would also look into perhaps a professional that has researched into all aspects of Gifted children. Some gifted children can be highly disorganised because organisation does not take priority in what they believe is important or essential at the time. Piechowski is another researcher to look into as well as Dabrowski. You may feel that their research speaks to you in regards to what you feel about your child. They defintiely helped put things in perspective for me.

Laura - posted on 11/15/2010

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Turning in homework is a basic expectation for any student, gifted or otherwise. It is certainly possible that there is more going on with your son's behavior than just "forgetting". The only way you will get the information that you need is to consult with a behavioral specialist. Ask your doctor or pediatrician for a referal or you can ask the school for one. A behavioral specialist will be able to diagnose ADD/ADHD (or not) which will give you information you can use. If he has ADD/ADHD, then you can learn different techniques for addressing his behaviors. Schedule books, charts and calendars can help him organize his thoughts and activities. If he doesn't have ADD/ADHD, you still have gained some information about your son and can learn methods for dealing with his behavior. Again, calendars, schedule books and charts can be helpful, but you can add other consequences for his choices that might not neccessarily be appropriate if he had ADD/ADHD. Hope this helps and good luck!

Margalit - posted on 04/07/2011

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Since I don't know your son personally I can't tell you whether it is ADD or not.What I can tell you that many highly gifted people have a 'tunnel vision' perspective of life-they focus on the topics they find the most interesting and the rest are just pesky details un worthy of significant attention and time.My son now sixteen was similar like yours in Middle School but now has a very clear opinion on the matter-academics are extremely important to him and he is extremely focused on his grades to the point of obssession.Same kid carries a messy school bag,stuff allover the place and looses cell phones like there's no tomorrow-why because to him these are just minor details.

Amy - posted on 01/06/2011

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It's highly possible to have ADHD AND giftedness. Most ADD/ADHD kids are highly intelligent; the minority of them have learning disabilities. It's a common misconception that ADHD kids "aren't smart." I think you should pursue the potential diagnosis. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. :)

Barbara - posted on 12/09/2010

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He sounds like my son as well as myself at that age. My son has had a whole list of diagnoses, seems like a new one for each person he sees. I suggest finding a behavioral therapist that you feel you are comfortable with and trust. While I agree with the ADD diagnoses that my son currently has, I believe that it is over diagnosed. We have chosen not to medicate (although we did try several), and find that repeated encouragement and help seems to be good for my son. Also, adding resposibilities that are appropriate to his higher abilities seems to have helped him mature even though he did not seem to show his readiness for these resposibilities. It was hard to trust him with certain things, but the trust that we were able to give seemed to boost his internal desire to succeed and be more responsible. Hope this helps.

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Lisa - posted on 10/04/2013

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Oh my gosh - your son sounds just like my 14 year old son. It's so frustrating because he is getting penalized and graded down for what I look at as a disability of sorts. Not all brains work the same and not remembering to turn in work or forgetting where they put things should not be a reason to mark them down. It would be like penalizing a paralyzed person for not walking. I wish I had an answer - I've been working on this with him (and the school) for so long and I'm at my wits end.

Melissa - posted on 08/20/2012

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Look into what they call 'twice exceptional'. My son is and I advocated for him all the way they hs- we got thru but barely. Your son is probably the same, it sounds so familiar!

Stephanie - posted on 08/16/2012

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my son is 14 and he had an issue with being totally unorganized as well, he would do his work and leave it at home, leave it in his book bag, forget to turn it in, etc. We tried everything we could think of. The doctors diagnosed him with a mild form of ADD. I have found that as he got more involved in sports and extracurricular activities, it forced him to become more organized and it really hasnt been much a problem since. He is a couple years older now as well, but over the past couple years he has also been running track, cross country, in the band, and several other activities. He has to organize himself and his time

Tina - posted on 04/06/2012

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I already posted earlier, but I really am a fan of working on coping skills unless a child is undeniably ADD. I have one niece who is absolutely ADD and, at age eight, can't even sit through a game of Chutes & Ladders with a four-year-old neighbor w/o medication. When she is on her meds, she does well in school and even has less anxiety to the point that she participates in class, whereas she will hang back and never raise her hand out of high anxiety when not on her meds. Everything from her focus to her courage and gregariousness is changed when she is on her meds. She has such high anxiety, that it is wonderful to see her come out of her shell when on her meds.



I have another niece (on the other side of the family) who is more like my daughter... the "absent-minded professor" type. They are both bright girls who have been labeled "gifted" but sometimes fail to do even the simplest task b/c they were spacing out. That niece had two conflicting diagnoses (one saying ADD and one saying not), and her parents opted for meds. Personally, I wouldn't do it if she were mine, but it's their prerogative. She can read a several hundred-page book, play a game of Monopoly, etc. all without medication. To me, she is not even on the same plane as my other niece. She is just a "space cadet." So is my daughter. Then again, so is their grandfather. I seriously think they just inherited the spacey trait from that side of the family. Mine has never been officially diagnosed, but I already know I wouldn't do meds in my kid's case, which is why I haven't even pursued a diagnosis. Instead, we'll just keep working on writing to-do lists and staying on task.

Divina - posted on 03/30/2012

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I wonder if its possible not to medicate my kid and just stick with exercises and developing his social skills. My son is only 9 and I do not want to start him with drugs for ADD.

Miam - posted on 06/08/2011

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I think it may be best to have him assessed. My son I feel is gifted; at the very least, advanced. I had him tested quite a few times and he scores above what is expected. Your son can be disorganized and gifted...Einstein used to lose a lot of honorarium checks and Kepler couldn't even give a straight lecture because he's mulling over some implication or other. You might need to put up some managing strategies like inputting on a calendar the deadlines for school work and have regular times to check on the progress of his work. Later, you may need to teach him how to do this himself / self monitoring. Hope it helps.

Ceinwen - posted on 05/29/2011

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children can have multiple labels. i new one little boy who had asd add torrettes and gifted. if you have doubts talk to your doctor or pediatrician. academic giftedness does not mean your child will perform highly when using other forms of intellegences

Jane - posted on 05/21/2011

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My daughter is very gifted and quite disorganized as well. She got straight As all the way through school and all her teachers loved her. She was also very active in sports, being varsity in four sports in high school. Her brother is very ADHD so I am aware of what the signs are, and I always thought she might be ADD but coping. So, she went off to college this year and, while still a good student and very popular with her teachers and fellow students, she got the first C's of her life. Just to be sure, I had her go through extensive psychological testing. It turns out that, yes, she IS ADD. She evidently controlled it through exercise, but in college she doesn't have enough time to be as active. She is now taking Adderall and doing much better.

You might consider letting the school test your son for ADD. If he turns out to be ADD he may not have to take meds. If he is like my daughter he can learn coping mechanisms. These can include my daughter's favorite, exercise, but there are other ways to cope. My daughter's second favorite way is lists. Lots and lots of lists, all written in a specific notebook that she never lets out of her sight. Another is to set up designated places for things. For example, you might set up a box specifically for all homework, so both you and your son know where it is always.

Another thing to try is "mindful doing." This is something I do. Whenever I put my keys down, or my cell phone, or get a bill in the mail, I make a point of "watching" myself put it down so I can remember where it is. I can't tell you how often I used to lose my keys because I simply could not remember where I put them.

It could also be that your son is not ADD but simply concentrates on other things so much that he forgets important stuff like turning in homework. This is rather like the classic "absent-minded professor." Just as if he were ADD though, he can be taught coping methods.

Good luck!

Angie - posted on 05/20/2011

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The school evaluated our son and double promoted him to second grade. Three days in Kindergarten and the teacher knew he was different. Our state made us wait a year before testing him. Fortunately, his second grade teacher is tolerable of his boredom and behavior. He is gifted and VERY disorganized. Compared to the rest of his class, it looks like a bomb exploded inside his desk. He is learning more every day but just could care less about homework and complains daily that it is useless; and "why" do this worksheet if his teacher already knows the answers and he does too.
We have a long way to go.....

Michelle - posted on 05/05/2011

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I agree with Traci wholeheartedly! My son is what folk would call "profoundly" gifted...and became the youngest kid to attend Morehouse College at age 13! He actually began taking classes at age 11 and could have easily acquired the label of ADHD given the fact that he also is highly disorganized; thinks on a higher frequency on most things (which means thoughts are extremely fast) and forgets things he deems "irrelevant". Given our family's understanding of the way his mind works...these things can easily be explained but what of the kids who possess the same traits yet don't manifest such evidence as taking college courses by age 11?!



If you look at the personal habits of iconic geniuses like Einstein, they too experienced similar traits yet as we know many have gone on to contribute to society in profound ways! My point...don't let these things stress you too much! Only when these kids are expected to perform and behave like the masses that these things become major issues. Find ways that set them up for success while allowing them to be the brilliant beings they truly are...

Traci - posted on 05/04/2011

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Gifted kids are an interesting puzzle -- and it is possible that ADD/ADHD is a factor in your son's disorganization, but don't take the teachers' word for it. While ADHD is a very real thing, too many people see a lack of focus in a child and assume that is the problem without really looking into it -- it's an easy label to apply. There are a lot of behavioural similarities between giftedness and ADHD, but knowing the underlying cause of the disorganization will tell you how to deal with it -- is it a lack of focus, or does he just not see the point? My advice to you is to seek out a psychologist and have some testing done -- the findings will give you peace of mind

My son, also 13, is gifted and diagnosed with ADHD, and his lack of organization is a constant source of friction between us. He can't be bothered with homework -- he doesn't see the point -- he gets most work done in class, and unless the assignment is interesting to him, he can't be bothered to do it. Some people would call this "lazy", but really, he just finds writing reader's responses or dozens of math questions to be boring and a waste of his time. His bedroom constantly looks like it belongs on an episode of "Hoarders", he doesn't shower or brush his teeth unless he's told -- I even had to tell him to eat breakfast today. These little things are not important to him but he is learning, slowly, that his life will be less stressful is he learns some strategies. It's a struggle for both of us -- but we're learning...

I could go on all day, but will stop here. I hope this helps a bit. Good luck to you!

Carmen - posted on 04/28/2011

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Oh I need help I feel I am drowning!! My daughter is 9 y.o now and is very disorganized, I am pretty tired of this situation! I have been trying for so long to teach her and show her to be organized but seems that she does not care about it, she forgets books and notebooks at school, and if she bring them they are all messy and dirty.

I took her to a doctor and she has not ADD, I am wondering, Is all that, part of her giftedness or her personality, what do you think?

Tina - posted on 04/06/2011

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I don't know. My feeling is that ADD is often overdiagnosed. We've all heard of the "absent-minded professor." Well, he probably was once the "absent-minded smart boy," right? I was/am highly gifted and was super-organized and on-task as a child, but my daughter is much more distracted and distractable than I ever was. We have mostly worked on coping skills, like learning to always check her homework folder and using a highlighter to highlight instructions on a page. (If she ever misses a problem, it is almost always b/c she neglected to read the instructions on her assignment.) I really don't think she's ADD, though. Her attention span is phenomenal, and when she gets really "into" something, especially something where her creative juices are really flowing, like authoring her next little book or poem, you can't tear her away from her work. To me, those are huge indicators that, despite her absent-mindedness, she is not ADD. I would definitely look for other signs besides some absent-mindedness, which often goes away with maturity but sometimes is a lifelong character trait. :-)

Julie - posted on 03/25/2011

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Since when did teachers become medical experts? As if they actually know your child the best anyway... For that matter, doctors are only human, they don't know everything either and make mistakes, but have to fix the problem you come in with with whatever little information and time they have to deal with it. As the parent, I'd advocate fiercely for no medication after researching giftedness characteristics vs. ADD/ADHD vs. Aspergers vs. Thyroid conditions, vs. etc. and you would see it could be a variety of things. In my experience, I'd say your child has learning differences (which you already knew) - their focuses aren't the same as yours. Their brain is still developing until the age of 28. Give them a break and help guide them in establishing a routine. Help teach them to advocate for themselves at school and elsewhere by talking to them and finding out what they want and need to survive school and let them know what you are going to do and get them involved. Maybe school isn't covering topics in depth enough for them so they are bored - tunes out, doesn't hear what's going on, etc. or if there is bullying going on they may have their mind on just keeping things under control until they get home. Talking to the student should always be the first treatment, medication should be the last. If you do decide to medicate read all the label - side effects, warnings,etc. and do your research at www.cdc.gov, www.fda.gov, www.nih.gov , www.hhs.gov, and www.ed.gov .
Take care.

Dawn - posted on 03/17/2011

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I had a similar problem with my 17 year old gifted child and now with my 7 year old gifted child. The teachers say he has ADD and that I should see a doctor for it. I don't care I worked through the first one and I will work through this one. With my oldest we established a routine. I got a folder marked it homework and every night when he finished his work we would put the assignments in order of how they had to be turned in. That way he pulled out 1 folder every time and the assignments got turned in. A good teacher will also communicate with you to make a plan that works. I son teachers would tell him to get his homework folder which helped to remind that real-ling brain to turn in the assignment. Good luck to you all!

Cyd - posted on 02/07/2011

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My son is just like yours that doesn't grasp that the simple, everyday things are important in school. I am lucky in the fact that he has amazing teachers (both of whom work with special needs and gifted kids). They let him do his homework on the computer and then email it in, communication between the three of us is daily and he has special tasks that he helps out with at school. He likes having that importance in his life, but we counter it with (in order to have it, he has to work on his everyday things)

Nicole - posted on 02/05/2011

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i have a brother like this. he is by far a genius. he works in IT. he is almost a functional adult! lol! he is messy to the point that you cannot see the carpet in his bedroom. forgets for days to brush his teeth, he does shower every day.. he's a great chef and keeps his kitchen clean. tho he will not buy shoes with laces cos he cant be bothered wasting time to tie them up. forgets to pick me up when we have arranged to go out. almost never calls me back. but he's a good man and has a good heart. although he does get frustrated with people who are not at his level of intelligence.... which is basically everyone. he can be quite arrogant and hates teaching people things more than about 3 times.. and thats if he loves you and has 'patience' for your 'stupidity'.

my honest opinion.. Genuis does not need to be drugged to 'fit' in with society. let them be their annoying, aloof, eccentric selves. human society has learned alot from people with symptoms of 'ADD' in our past.. look at the life and characteristics of people like Micheal Angelo, Einstein, Tschikovsky... almost every know genius has been catogorised and labelled. these days they would have been catagoraised, labelled and then medicated and probably hospitalised and studied..
i hope you get the idea xx but unlike my brother you are welcome to ask me the same question over and over again and i wont get frustrated.

Tammy - posted on 01/25/2011

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My highly gifted daughter was diagnosed with ADD when she started a gifted high school. She has always been organized and motivated so I didn't believe it. I teach early childhood and see ADD WAY over used. My daughters problem became apparent when she was doing the very long complicated physic problems and when she had to show her steps she would miss alot of steps but get the right answer. The teacher sat her down and watched her do her work and when he would ask her to explain she just couldn't slow it down enough in her mind to understand and put it on paper. After much debate I agreed to let her try a low dose of Adderol and it doesn't change her personality at all, no zoned out effect like I've seen and she can actually focus and concentrate better. She had a well respected Psych do and extensive evaluation as well as observe her in the classroom before we got the diagnosis. It's a common misconception that highly gifted kids don't have ADD or that they must be failing or doing poorly.

Jane - posted on 01/07/2011

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Lots of gifted kids lack organization and no desire to do homework that is too easy and mundane. You need to find ways to assist him with organization and also talk to his teachers about relevant challenging homework.

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