Misdiagnosed! 6 Questions to Ask Before You Treat for ADHD

by Melissa on May 10, 2010

3rd grade report card comments: James is a bright boy. However, he is not living up to his potential. He is unable to pay attention in class for even short periods without distracting others or exhibiting off-task behavior. James has difficulty following directions and rarely completes assignments to finality.

This is what I imagined the report card to look like for a boy I went to elementary school with. He was only with us for a short time before the principal informed his father that the private school we were attending was too challenging for him, and he should be placed in a school that had more resources to handle his learning challenges.

Fast-forward 20 years or so. I get a call from an old friend from elementary school.

“You’ll never believe who I ran into today. James Migallen.”

I felt my heart hurt a little bit at the mention of his name. It always made me sad when I was in school with kids like him, because for some reason things came easily to me in the classroom. It never really seemed fair to me when others had a hard time.

In an instant, I imagined his life, probably married with a couple of kids, working a low-paying job, living in an apartment. My jaw dropped when the next sentence came out of her mouth informed me that he had recently graduated from an Ivy League university with a medical degree.

I immediately replayed the memories of our classroom interactions in my head, and said, “Wow! Someone must’ve wised up to the fact that he was suffering from ADHD!” There’s so much more knowledge out there about ADHD now than there was then.

Imagine my surprise when she answered, “Nope. Turns out, his father got him assessed by a team when he got kicked out of our school. Everyone thought he was dumb, but it turns out, he was bored! James was gifted! He put him in a school for gifted kids and look where he ended up!”

I immediately hit the bookstore. This mistake happens more times than you can imagine. Kids who are gifted often exhibit the very same behaviors as children with ADHD. If your hearing that your kid has ADHD, these questions from Colleen Willard-Holt might help you and the school team figure out if your child is gifted or has ADHD:

  • Could the behaviors be responses to inappropriate placements, insufficient challenge, or lack of intellectual peers?
  • Is the child able to concentrate when interested in the activity?
  • Have any curricular modifications been made in an attempt to change inappropriate behaviors?
  • Has the child been interviewed? What are his/her feelings about the behaviors?
  • Does the child feel out of control? Do the parents perceive the child as being out of control?
  • Do the behaviors occur at certain times of the day, during certain activities, with certain teachers or in certain environments?

Tune in next week to discover what steps you can take to help your kiddo if it turns out he is gifted. There’s going to be a ton of great info coming soon on what you can do and how to go about it. I’m excited just thinking about it!

Melissa is the founder of Tandem Teaching and teaches in the inner-city. She blogs weekly about tips parents can implement to enhance their connection with their children and ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.

{ 1 comment }

Jim May 11, 2010 at 7:12 pm

How often do kids get misdiagnosed? As in someone’s quick to say they’re ADHD and put them on meds? Is that still an issue? Do you ever see kids who are on meds and don’t need to be?