Duck… Duck… Misdiagnosis

The Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of the Gifted

Misdiagnosis of the GiftedWe have all heard the saying, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

This statement implies that things are usually exactly what they seem to be.

Do you agree with that statement?

We all know the story of the Ugly Duckling. The poor little duck was much maligned until his ducky brothers and sisters realized he was not a duck after all. He grew into a beautiful swan.

We are often fooled by our pre-conceived ideas about what things look like or what they should be. This can be a frustrating experience for gifted students whose overexcitable tendencies or quirky behaviors often earn them labels that are inaccurate.

ADHD, Aspergers, ODD, OCD, and Bipolar are serious diagnoses and must be addressed. But G/T students, whose tendencies mimic those serious disorders may or may not be suffering from them. How can you know for sure?

In the 1-hour course, “Misdiagnosis, Dual Diagnosis of the Gifted,” Lori Comallie-Caplan will guide you through the diagnosis of each of these disorders and clearly contrast them with common behaviors of G/T students. You will be able to name the contradictory features of each disorder with G/T tendencies.

Ms. Comallie-Caplan is a New Mexico Licensed Master Social Worker, a Licensed Educational Diagnostician with a Masters Degree in Psychological Counseling. She is best known for her work with gifted individuals and frequently provides professional development for school districts and mental health professionals regarding the social emotional needs of the gifted.

Why Does it Look Like a Duck?

What is it about G/T students that often gets them mixed in with these serious diagnoses? Gifted brains often result in greater:
Misdiagnosis of the Gifted

  • Intensity – if a little is good, a lot is better
  • Sensitivity – physical and emotional
  • Idealism – desire to make things right
  • Perfectionism – try to impose a sense of order
  • Activity – verbal and/or physical

All of these traits taken to the extreme may present themselves as diagnosable disorders. However, the treatments and pharmaceuticals appropriate for a diagnosed disorder such as ADHD, can actually be damaging to a child who merely has a gifted mind and a few overexcitable tendencies.

ADD/ADHD vs. Psychomotor Overexcitability

ADD and ADHD are diagnosed disorders with specific criteria. Although this course will not magically give you a degree in psychology, you will learn a framework for each diagnosis and clear differences between the diagnosis and the G/T imposter.

For instance, an ADD or ADHD diagnosis requires six or more symptoms, persisting longer than six months. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Often has difficulty maintaining attention in tasks and play activities
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores etc.
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Often loses things
  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Often acts as if “driven by a motor”

These are just a sample of the possible symptoms for ADD/ADHD.

Finding similar symptoms in G/T students with psychomotor overexcitability would not be surprising. They also may talk or act compulsively, display nervous habits, or show intense drive.

The gold mine you will find in this course is that Ms. Comallie-Caplan explains the contradictory or incompatible features of the diagnosed disorder and the G/T characteristic. In this case the contrast is between ADD/ADHD and Psychomotor Overexcitability.

In contrast to a student with ADD/ADHD, a G/T student with Psychomotor OE:

  • Is easily distracted by his/her environment when uninterested in a task, but tries to avoid disturbing others
  • Delayed response when spoken to, but gives thorough responses
  • Intentionally fails to finish tasks (especially repetitive or memory tasks)
  • When he/she blurts out an answer, it generally is correct

All the Other Ducks in the Pond

In addition to ADD/ADHD and OE, Ms. Comallie-Caplan contrasts the following disorders with G/T tendencies:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder vs. Perfectionism
  • Asperger Syndrome vs. Sensual Overexcitability
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder vs. Intellectual Overexcitability
  • Mood Disorders (such as Bi-Polar or Depressive) vs. Emotional Overexcitability

You will learn key features of each disorder as well as the contradictory or incompatible features of the G/T imposter.

Could it be a Duck AND a Swan?

Of course, there is always the possibility that students may be both G/T and be diagnosed with a disorder. This makes it even more imperative that we can differentiate. A few of the other tips Ms. Comallie-Caplan unpacks include the following:

  1. Look at the child’s developmental history
  2. Consider which behavior patterns are typical for gifted students
  3. Study carefully the context in which the problematic behaviors are occurring – Often a G/T student will act out when placed in a learning environment that is frustrating or inappropriate for their giftedness

Duck vs. Swan – Not Better, Just Different!

Duckling or swan? In the end it doesn’t matter where you start. “Misdiagnosis, Dual Diagnosis of the Gifted” will equip you with tools to distinguish between diagnosable disorders and misdiagnosis G/T overexcitabilities.

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Delivering Quality Training – No Matter Where You Are

Mobile Ready Professional Development GDid you know that this course is mobile ready? That means you can complete the course on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or any other mobile device!

Images courtesy of Flickr via basheertome & US Department of Education