Executive Functioning in Children Who Are Gifted

Paul Beljan, PsyD, ABPdN, ABN

March 12, 2020

Gifted children represent a disproportional amount of children identified with ADHD, which is as widely misdiagnosed as it is misunderstood and mistreated. The high rate of over-diagnosing this condition places gifted children at risk for being further misunderstood and mistreated as they fail to respond to traditional ADHD interventions. It is important to understand the components involved in an intact attention and executive function system in order to avoid misdiagnosing and over-pathologizing gifted children.

Asynchronous development is a commonly observed phenomenon of gifted intellect. However, the term is never associated with the brain function from which it originates. The presentation of asynchronous development predisposes many gifted children to be misdiagnosed with various psychiatric illnesses, including depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder, just to name a few.

Typical gifted children, and those with a significant expression asynchronous development, often find themselves ostracized, misunderstood, bullied and questioning themselves. The small and large problems gifted children repeatedly experience can have lasting negative effects. Their normal way of being can result in a cumulative trauma expressed as anxiety, low frustration tolerance, and academic indifference.

It remains increasingly important for mental health providers and parents alike to understand the unique challenges faced by gifted children, so as to not overly pathologize them.

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Paul Beljan, PsyD