Gifted, and LD/ADHD

You may be surprised to learn that child can be both gifted and have a learning disability. This is not an obvious combination of strengths and weaknesses. However many people have written about this subject over the past 20 years or so. A whole field has grown up around what is often referred to as the “twice exceptional” student. These are children who are extremely smart in some ways, but have a great deal of difficulty in others. So for example your child might be a wiz at putting puzzles together, drawing, or building with Legos, but may have great difficulty learning how to read. Or your child might be an excellent reader, but may have difficulty getting thought onto paper (or into a computer). Perhaps your child is excellent at sports, is a superb musician, loves to learn, but just can’t sit still in a classroom and do class work or homework. These are often children who are gifted but have something that interferes with their ability to success in a school setting. Often they become discouraged and may begin to fall behind. Teachers and parents will then say that the child is not “working up to their potential.” The child will often complain that they are bored. Parents may complain the child is “lazy.” These are catchwords that raise red flags that a good evaluation is needed because these children often slip through the cracks. One exceptionality cancels out another; the giftedness masks the learning disability or the learning disability makes it so the giftedness is never looked for.


How is this kind of dual exceptionally identified? Psychological testing can be extremely helpful in determining a child’s particular strengths and weaknesses. Intelligence tests measure some aspects of intelligence, those that are most related to academic performance. They do not measure interpersonal intelligence, athletic intelligence, musical or artistic intelligence however. These can only be learned about by interview with parents and teachers, or with the student themselves.


What is the treatment in this kind of situation? Treatment depends on what is learned in the evaluation. It might be that the child needs remediation for a reading disability, or perhaps the child has ADHD that needs to be treated. Perhaps the child would benefit from a different kind of educational setting. I provide psychotherapy to treat and emotional difficulties that may have developed as a consequence of growing up being twice exceptional.

Additional Resources

To read “A Guidebook for Twice Exceptional Students – Supporting the Achievement of Gifted Students with Special Needs”  click here.

For more information about Gifted children please visit:
National Association for Gifted Children
Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted

Illustrations by:
Charles Beyl


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