One of the problems for gifted kids with ADHD is finding strategies that help them that actually work.
In this post, I would like to go through some of these: both the research, and what has worked for us personally.
It’s cool, it’s fun, and it actually works.
Gifted ADHD Kids need Different Interventions For Learning
There are strategies that work for gifted kids. There are strategies that work for ADHD kids. But sometimes, it’s not an easy copy/paste to find learning strategies for gifted ADHD kids.
One of the reasons is that gifted ADHD kids really do think differently.
If you are familiar with breaking steps down for ADHD kids, you can quickly run into a frustrated wall when you try to apply the exact same strategies to gifted ADHD kids. ADHD kids need tasks broken down into smaller step (or they forget).
But gifted ADHD kids can quickly become bored. Boredom and ADHD are not a good mix.
For these kids, though they do need steps broken down, it still has to be complicated enough to engage their gifted brain. Too simple? Ain’t going to work. They’ll stop paying attention.
What Does Work (According to Research)?
Set them a problem to solve. Break it up into small steps – but make each step a challenge that they have to think about to solve. The less obvious the solution? The happier they will be. Complex, but short assignments work wonders.
Make them write out a story based on what they need to learn! They will dive into figuring out what needs to be there to make the story work.
Find a different way to assess their learning. Let them make a video, or create a poster. How about a computer program? Or an interactive Minecraft environment?
How Could They Show this Information to Different Audiences?
Ask your kids, ‘how would you present this to preschool kids?’ Or ‘how could you turn it into a play?’ What game could they create that could help others learn this information?
One on One Time
One of the best ways to help gifted ADHD kids is simple: be interested and spend time listening to them. Individual attention is a massive motivator for these kids.
Lots of External Reminders
They may have amazing brains, but those brains are really bad at organising. This is where external supports do really well. If you don’t have ADHD, you may not understand just how big a difference this can make.
Everyone needs a bit of help organising sometimes. Gifted ADHD brains really need simple, external reminders of what they need to do. They might be able to talk your ears off over complex economic theory, or Greek mythology, but they’ll probably forget to clean their teeth, pack or eat their lunch, or do their homework.
What do I mean about external reminders?
A lot more direction.
If this is for a class, put down all the details in writing assuming the kids have never done it before. Also remember to verbally remind them about things that need to be done. It may take a few times before it happens. Really. It’s just the way ADHD brains work.
Reminders and cues. I repeat: reminders and cues!
These are lifesavers. Set up automated reminders that ping them at regular intervals. I do this for myself: breaking down the time to get things done into smaller chunks.
“Ping! You have an appointment tomorrow!! Ping! You have an appointment in 3 hours! Ping! You have an appointment now!”
Give them lots of feedback.
Not just on what they did wrong. Make it constructive, but positive. Give them kudos if they actually persist or keep going. Remember: for a Gifted ADHD kid, the task is often the molehill, the mountain is having enough focus to get it done.
Get them to help others.
This can really help them break down the task and give them an incentive to keep going: someone is relying on them. ADHD kids are motivated by emotion: good or bad.
Externalise their organisation system
Use graphic organisers to help them see how time is broken down. But don’t expect them to instantly know how to use them. They will need help to use any organisation system.
Help them with memory strategies
Figure out ways to help them remember stuff they often forget. For example, using mnemonics or instantly writing down names when they meet new people. I use this myself. I will use the excuse of ‘getting their phone number‘ to create a record on my phone of their name. Doing this kind of thing has long-term positive effects on their working memory. Not to mention their own self-esteem!
What We Have Done at Home
While we have implemented a lot of these in our home already – hello calendars and alarms! – we also have done a few other things as well.
These are more specific to our needs and our homeschooling, but they can work in any home, or even in a classroom too.
One of the best things we have done is create mini-learning spaces. In these spaces, the kids (and we!) have everything they need to do the activity. Cutting down on the amount of steps needed to get a task started can mean the difference between regularly getting stuff done and falling down into the ‘what was that thing I needed to do?‘ black hole.
Breaking Down Tasks
One of the best things we have done is figure out how to break tasks down into smaller chunks.
For this, we:
Create pictures of the steps.
For getting ready to leave the house, the kids have personalised picture lists. This list has all the steps they need to get ready, including photos of shoes, sunscreen, hats and the kids doing tasks that need to be done.
We have labels on all of our clothes drawers. That way the kids can read where their clothes go in their drawers. They don’t need to remember – it’s right there. And it’s not just the kids that need this! Doing something so simple has meant the difference between me doing everything and them feeling like they are able to help out and participate in looking after themselves.
That’s All Folks
There are so many things I also wanted to talk about: such as what to do when things go really wrong, or how these ideas have been implemented in some amazing schools around the world. But I will need to leave it till another time.
Hopefully, some of these strategies will help other ADHD and gifted families. I certainly hope so!
References and Further Reading
To find out more about the research referenced in this article, and for some light reading on what else can be done to help 2e kids, consider the (light) following:
- Giftedness and ADHD: Identification, Misdiagnosis, and Dual Diagnosis, (2015) Dianna R. Mullet & Anne N. Rinn, Roeper Review Volume 37, Issue 4, pp. 195-207
- Review-of Boost: 12 Effective Ways to Lift Up Our Twice Exceptional Children
- Learning and motivational characteristics of boys with AD/HD and/or giftedness (2001). Zentall, S. S., Moon, S. M., Hall, A. M., & Grskovic, J. A. Exceptional Children, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp. 499–519.