Now a days, it seems as though if a child bounces around in their chair at school or appears to be distracted and can’t pay attention, many teachers and counselors are quick to assume that a child may be struggling with Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder.  This seems to be the norm and typical reaction now a days when a child seems to be unable to focus as much as their peers may be able to.  However, jumping to these kinds of conclusions is not always helpful to the child nor is it usually the reason as to why the child is having problems.  Sometimes, the reason as to why a child cannot concentrate is because they are actually bored with the information being presented in front of them.  This could be due to the fact that a child is gifted and may be above the curriculum level that is being taught. So how can we identify whether or not your child may have ADHD, is gifted, or is maybe just struggling with some behavioral issues?  To help break it down, here are a few signs of what may be considered gifted and signs and symptoms of ADHD to compare.

ADHD Signs and Symptoms:

1.) Self-Focused Behavior – not recognizing the needs of others.
2.) Interrupting – getting into conversations that they are not a part of and not waiting their turn to speak.
3.) Trouble waiting their turn – when playing games with others, children may struggle to wait patiently.
4.) Fidgeting Frequently – children may struggle to sit still, squirm often in their seats, and will get up and run around.
5.) Trouble Regulating Emotions – children may struggle to keep their emotions in check, may have unwanted outbursts of anger and frustration.
6.) Struggle to play quietly  – children with ADHD may struggle to play calmly on their own accord.
7.) Unfinished Tasks – many children or people with ADHD will struggle to commit to one task, when they are bored they will simply move onto the next thing as quickly as possible.
8.) Lack of Focus – struggle to pay attention to someone who may be directly speaking with them and can’t relay information back to you.
9.) Mistakes – many children with ADHD make mistakes, not because they don’t understand what they are doing, but simply because they may not plan well with the executive functioning part of their brain.
10.) Trouble staying organized – this fits together with mistakes because children with ADHD struggle with executive functioning.  Executive functioning is the part of the brain that controls planning, organization, and time management.
11.) Symptoms in multiple settings – a child with ADHD won’t show lack of focus in only school, however, it will present in the home as well.
12.) Forgetfulness – a child with ADHD will often forget things such as toys or make forget to do homework assignments and chores around the home.

Now to compare, we’ll take a look at the signs of a child who may be gifted.

Giftedness Signs:

1.) Unusual alertness, especially in infancy.
2.) Deep, intense reactions
3.) Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
4.) Unusual sense of humor.
5.) Distracted attention span because usually thinking about multiple things and interests all at once.
6.) Highly developed curiosity.
7.) Rapid learner and puts thoughts together quickly.
8.) Excellent memory
9.) Desire to organize people and control games/situations
10.) Pre-occupied with thoughts and daydreams
11.) Very keen on following rules.
12.) Highly sensitive

After looking at these lists, you may see some similarities to those with ADHD and those that are gifted.  It’s important to look closely at these lists, however, to properly differentiate which is which.  For instance, a gifted child may have a distracted attention span simply because they are thinking about many things at once.  This does not mean, however, that they are not listening to what is being taught or said to them.  If you were to ask a child who’s gifted that appears not to be focused to repeat something back to you, they would be able to.  The difference, however, would be that if a child with ADHD appears to lack focus and you ask them to repeat something back to you, they would most likely not be able to do so.  Another similarity that ADHD individuals and gifted children share is that they are both highly sensitive.  Again, to differentiate, however, is to understand how they display their sensitive feelings.  A child with ADHD is more likely to have abrupt temper tantrums and will struggle to regulate their emotions.  A child, however, who is gifted may get upset easily over something, but can usually be talked down from getting too overwhelmed and upset.  They have an easier time managing their unwanted emotions more appropriately than the child with ADHD.

Now, if your child has some of these characteristics does it necessarily mean that your child is gifted or should have a diagnosis of ADHD?  No, not necessarily.  It could also mean that your child is struggling with something happening in their life and it could be a brief behavioral issue.  Perhaps they are struggling with a transition in their life, they are worried about something, or they are having problems with friends.  It’s important to talk to your child and pay attention to the frequency and severity of behaviors they are displaying.  If things appear to be out of your control and you feel as though you’ve done everything in your power to help but nothing has worked, that’s when it may be helpful to speak with a therapist or your primary care provider.