Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Quotes Differentiating Giftedness vs. Asperger's

I'm referencing "Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression and Other Disorders" by James T Webb Phd et al.

This is a fantastic book. I respect the tone and appreciate the outlook of James T. Webb PhD. His other book "A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children" is the best book on giftedness I've ever read. This second book "Misdiagnosis" is helpful to sort out whether a gifted child or adult's traits are just giftedness or are a disorder. The book lays out what giftedness looks like compared to the clinical diagnosis and how giftedness is sometimes misdiagnosed as the disorder.

When comparing the symptoms and behaviors of giftedness vs. the disorder it is very clear (even me as a layperson) can see when the situation is "just giftedness". It the author's opinion that health care professionals who are uneduated on giftedness may go straight to a diagnosis (a misdiagnosis) of a psychiatric condition or Asperger's, and the child may have treatments and therapies and sometimes prescription medications trying to fix something that is not a disorder at all, it's "just" giftedness.

A few years ago, two mothers have told me they thought my older son had Asperger's. I can state equivocally that my son does NOT have Asperger's Syndrome, backed up with information in this book "Misdiagnosis". My son has many traits of giftedness as laid out by James T. Webb PhD in this book and in the "Parent's Guide". I'm not interested in having a debate over whether other people think that son of mine is gifted or not. I am just explaining why and how I came to read this "Misdiagnosis" book. I read the "Misdiagnosis" book first but realized after reading both the ideal order would be to first read the "Parent's Guide" then "Misdiagnosis" second (if you feel you have a need to read that).

Both of these books are published by Great Potential Press whose focus is on giftedness in children and adults. If you have trouble locating copies of these excellent books check the publisher's website. They sell directly to consumers, parents, teachers and schools from their website and through a print catalog.

In relation to my last post asking about kid's behaviors and possible Asperger's Syndome, I am sharing these quotes.

You may read portions of this books for free on GoogleBooks to get a sense for the tone and content. I only realized this was on the Internet after taking the time to find and type out the quotes in this blog post. I will leave my quotes here as they speak to the parts that I felt were applicable to my general concerns and what was discussed in my last blog post. I have added italics for emphasis to show the parts that were most important to speak to my point.

"As with autism, persons with Asperger's Disorder have extreme difficulties with interpersonal relations; they lack empathy and the ability to read and interpret social cues and nuances. (footnote 2) They strongly prefer routine and structure, and they are usually fascinated with rituals, sometimes to the point of apparent obsessions or compulsions, (footnote 3) which can also affect interpersonal relationships. Their interests are often esoteric and even unappealing to most of us. For example, one child with Asperger's Disorder was obsessed with deep fat fryers. He insisted on visiting the kitchens of fast food restaurants to see which model they used. He knew the history of each manufactureer and the geographic locations of their plants. Another child was equally obsessed with washing machines. Such passions are qualitatively different from those in a bright child who is a Dungeons and Dragons "addict" or who lives for sci-fi novels or magic cards. (sic) These people are likely to find a community of like-minded friends. The child obsessed with fryers seldom finds anyone who shares his enthusiasm." (page 94)

Generalization is discussed on page 93-94. Learning can be fact memorization based but they cannot apply it in a meaningful or creative way without direct assistance. Statements are accepted in a literal sense and metaphors confuse them. The example is given "in my other life..." cannot be understood.
"Their concreteness of thought makes them appear different, and it is perhaps this component that also makes them appear to lack empathy." (page 94)

"A child's ability and capacity for empathy and consideration of others are key areas for evaluation to establish the Asperger's diagnosis, as opposed to a child who simply has poor social relationship skills. In school, the poor social awareness of children with Asperger's Disorder handicaps the development of relationships with peers, and they are often seen as odd or different." (page 96)

NOTE: The author's always address that dual diagnosis can occur so a person can be both gifted and have Asperger's Disorder. However in this section the authors are trying to differentiate between "just" a gifted child and a child with Asperger's.

Differentiating Characteristics section (starts on page 100)

"True Asperger's Disorder children lack empathy and will continue to demonstrate social ineptness with a wide range of peers. Children who incorrectly carry this diagnosis are quite socially facile with certain sets of peers and enjoy satisfying social interactions.

The second key is to examine the child's insight regarding how others see her and her behaviors. Gifted children typically have good intellectual insight into social situations and will know how others see them; children with Asperger's Disorder do not (Neihart, 2000). In general, gifted children without Asperger's Disorder are at least aware ofa nd often distressed by, their inability to fit in socially. Even an introverted gifted child who has found one friend, though content socially, will be intellectually aware that she is different from most age peers, even if it does not distress her.

Children who suffer from Asperger's Disorder tend to talk about their interests in a pedantic, monotonous voice. Such children cannot explain why they have their abiding love for deep fat fryers or washing machines, nor can they draw people into their fascination by their descriptions. In contrast, a gifted child's interests may be boring to many (or even most) adults, but they will be of interest to some subculture, such as collectors of Star Wars memorabilia. In those situations, the Asperger's diagnosis is less probably. In addition, if the child can convey to others some of the joy that he finds in his hobby and spontaneously seeks to share it with others, then there is a decreased likelihood that an Asperger's Disorder diagnosis is appropriate." (pages 100-101)
On page 101 an example is given about how a child in fourth grade with a passion for airplanes might not find other fourth graders with such a passion. A gifted child can read nonverbal cues from his same aged peers indicating boredom with the fact-telling and will move on to another topic that has a give and take conversation. A child with Asperger's cannot read the nonverbal cues and will not move on to another topic that is not just a one-sided conversation.

"When a child's lack of empathy is seen in some situations but not in others, the liklihood of Asperger's Disorder is substantially reduced. If the problem is primarily a lack of tolerance rather than a lack of empathy, the likelihood of Asperger's Disorder is also markedly lessened. A gifted child often shows remarkable empathy and understanding of others, particularly towrad those who are less fortunate or who are hurting." (page 102)

"In working with children who suffer from Asperger's Disorder, despite their often high intellectual functioning, one must break down every social behavior into smaller components. For eample, it may be necessary to physically show the child exactly how close one typically stands when having a conversaton, or to specify that it is important to look directly at the face of the person  with whom you are conversing. Instruction in social skills must be detailed and concrete, and it often must be repeated for several different types of situations due to the difficulty that chidlren with Asperger's Disorder have with generalizing. Often these children will rely on rote memory for the "rules" of social interactions. Sometimes insructions do not help because the child lacks the motivation to improve social skills (lack of insight) and finds the behaviors (such as looking someone in the eyes) very uncomfortable." (page 103)

I would guide you to read also the full page list of "incompatible or contradictory features" from page 104 which can be viewed free on GoogleBooks here. It is too long for me to type into my blog to quote from.

This chapter also discusses comparing introversion to Asperger's Disorder which may be of interest to some other parents who may be reading this post.

Perhaps one of the best things about the books authored by James T. Webb PhD is the focus on the EMOTIONAL needs of the gifted person. There are plenty of books on the market for parents of schooled kids helping them try to be a good advocate for their child to get access to academics that are challenging. These books by Webb focus on the child as a whole person and their emotional state of being and family relations and on growing a happy healthy person (not just talking about academics).

Again, if you read just one book on giftedness, consider the "Parent's Guide", it is fantastic.

If people are suggesting your child has a disorder before going right from topics of parenting a "normal" child to reading about the disorder, read about giftedness in the "Parent's Guide", then read "Misdiagnosis" next.

It kills me to think of gifted children and adults being misdiagnosed with psychiatric conditions instead of correctly being labeled as gifted.

If you harbor negative opinions of giftedness or think that also is an overused label please open your mind and read the "Parent's Guide". It makes clear the difference between non-gifted kids and gifted kids (and adults). It tells the negative or challenging aspects of giftedness, they are brought to light with ideas for how parents can help them. Being gifted is not all rosy and light, despite what some people might think. It is not "just" being smart or a fast learner. It is much more difficult to parent a gifted child than a non-gifted child due to the various sensitivities and intense emotions, it's no cakewalk, believe me.


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Excellent post. And very important as well. I am the mother of a gifted child with Aspergers, and there are many qualitative differences between his behavior and that of a gifted child without a diagnosis. Further, Aspergers masks his giftedness in the eyes of people who don't know about both.

As a mother of a highly gifted child with no diagnosis as well, and as a teacher of the gifted, I believe one reason for persistent misdiagnosis, as well as missing the gifted component of a child who deserves dual diagnosis, is the denial that giftedness has real, quantitative neurological characteristics, as well as qualitative differences in behavior.

Thanks again for the post!

Verlin said...

Thank you for this well researched post. As a therapist who sees gifted children, teens, and adults, I will use mention this blog site on my website as a link on the 'Giftedness" section. Thank you.
Verlin Miller

gpbrown said...

Analyzing someone's social skills is very tricky! I don't have any quick answers, but I will offer a cool new website where Asperger's kids can rehearse a conversation with an online character and get feedback. It's at Many of these "conversation simulations" are free, and the rest are very low-cost.

home handymum said...

Thank you so much for this blog post. I've been wondering if my eldest has high-functioning Asperger's, or is 'just' gifted, with a large dose of Dabrowski's overexcitabilities.

I have my answer :) 'just' gifted and introverted, with a pile of OEs.