ADHD, Autism, and Giftedness: An Invitation To A Conversation


By Marianne Kuzujanakis M.D. M.P.H.


Northwestern University researchers recently announced a 66% rise in the U.S. in ADHD prevalence in the past decade. Shortly after their announcement, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control reported that autism rose 78% in this same time period.

Some of the increases are a result of better diagnosis and improved medical access, yet there remain children who are over-diagnosed, and others who are entirely overlooked and untreated. Among those in the gifted world, it is known that gifted traits in an educationally misplaced child may be misunderstood as ADHD or autism. Giftedness can also mask these disorders in some twice-exceptional children. Giftedness was only tangentially considered in the DSM-IV ADHD criteria. The 2013 planned DSM-5 criteria for ADHD are entirely silent about giftedness. In the new ADHD guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics in October 2011, which lowers diagnosis to age four, giftedness is never even mentioned.

Why so hush about giftedness? Even among some families of gifted children, there can be a dis-connect between giftedness and health. A child’s giftedness is not always discussed during medical exams, and the reasons may stem from both the physician and the parents. Yet isn’t giftedness often as much a part of who a person is as any other health parameter such as cardiac function and eyesight?

Our entire society has changed so drastically in the past decade. The internet. Schools. The economy. War. So many things lay claim to our attention and our daily lives.  Today’s high ADHD and autism prevalence may seem too complex an issue to confront. But confronting this issue is exactly what needs to be done. Society must begin a profound conversation about both ADHD and autism. What cannot be lost –now, more than ever – is that giftedness must play an essential role in that conversation.




Dr. Marianne Kuzujanakis


Marianne Kuzujanakis M.D. M.P.H. is a pediatrician and former director on the board of SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted).



Check out all the posts in this series:





Misdiagnosis book


Be sure to check out GPP’s bestseller Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders for a more in-depth look at gifted misdiagnosis concerns.



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