Making Sense of Your Gifted Child’s Diagnosis: A Review of “Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults”

by Teresa Currivan, LMFT, Parent Coach


I’m in a therapy session with Peter (not his real name), a high-school-aged boy. His depression is palpable. He’s assuring me that he’s fine and can work harder to keep up his grades. While his ADHD meds helped him get his homework done for a while, “I could stay up all night,” they have since stopped working. He tells me that sometimes he “just can’t focus”, but he’s not able to answer when or why that might happen. When I ask Peter about his artwork, he gets excited; the room seems to lighten. With pride, he talks to me a bit about the process he goes through in creating his work: a lot of the planning is in his head. It becomes clear that with his artwork, he is able to focus.

When we turn to other topics, the room returns to a feeling of fuzzy depression. He’s determined to do his homework and get better grades. But his history shows that no matter how much he promises, and how much effort he puts into it, it’s unlikely this will happen. He wants to fit in.

As a second-grader, Peter went through a variety of tests. The result was that he tested as gifted. He was also diagnosed with depression and ADHD. The diagnoses of ADHD and depression are what stuck. His giftedness was ignored by professionals and over time, also by his family and himself.

I witness variations on this story often. It is heartbreaking for all, but particularly so for those of us who have seen the gifted fail. We understand what’s going wrong, or at least where to start in helping a child get out of depression, but how much is a real pathology? How much is due to an ill-fitting education? How much is due to misunderstandings? I wonder how many times James Webb, psychologist and author of “Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults”, sat in a room with a gifted individual who suffered from lack of understanding of giftedness rather than any other factor. Those of us who are parents of gifted children or who regularly work with gifted children in these types of situations are grateful for James Webb’s work in the field of gifted psychology and education.

In “Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults”, Webb et al. (see complete reference at the end of this article) reaffirm what many of us have found out anecdotally: that changing school fit and understanding the quirks that come along with giftedness can remove many struggles.

© 2018 Teresa Currivan

This is an excerpt from the Chapter of the same name from the book, My Differently Tuned-In Child: The Right Place for Strength-Based Solutions, by Teresa Currivan. 

In the chapter, I go on to describe how Webb’s book explains how different learning styles, intensities, sensory processing issues, sensitivities, depression, and deep empathy of the gifted can be misunderstood if not seen through the lens of giftedness.

Note: The complete reference for this book is “Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders”, by James T. Webb, Ph.D., Edwards R. Amend, Psy.D., Nadia E. Webb, Psy.D., Jean Goerss, M.D., Paul Beljan, Psy.D., and F. Rich Olenchak, Ph.D., which includes the President of the National Association for Gifted Children, two clinical neuropsychologists, two clinical psychologists, and a board-certified pediatrician formerly affiliated with The Mayo Clinic. (Second Ed: James T. Webb, Edward R. Amend, Paul Beljan, Nadia E. Webb, Marianne Kuzujanakis, F. Richard Olenchak. and Jean Goerss.) 

About Teresa Currivan

Teresa Currivan is a mother, licensed marriage and family therapist, author, and parent coach at  Help My Child Thrive Coaching LLC and The Right Place Learning Center. Headshotclear Teresa is the author of  My Differently Tuned-In Child: The Right Place for Strength-Based Solutions. She offers assessments, coaching, and support for parents of children who are tuned-in differently and who have co-occurring symptoms such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism, high sensitivities, school and social issues, visual-spatial learning styles, sensory processing issues, anxieties, depression, giftedness, and twice-exceptionality. She has connections to San Francisco, Bay Area schools and speaks to teacher and parent groups there about differently tuned-in learners. She is published on sites such as, Filter Free Parents, GHF Forum, and Hoagies Gifted Education. You can follow her on Facebook at

About the Book

My Differently Tuned-In Child: The Right Place for Strength-Based Solutions


My Differently Tuned-In Child Differently Wired
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~Is smart but doesn’t test well
~Is wise but has problems with “easy” tasks like tying shoes
~Refuses to go to school (or do schoolwork)

~Have changed schools for your child a few times
~Are spent emotionally, physically, financially, in your relationship with your child
~Notice problems in your marriage possibly due to your child’s challenges


The Currivan Protocol™ will give you strength-based solutions to your differently tuned-in child’s exceptionalities such as:
~Social challenges
~School Refusal
~Childhood Depression and anxiety
~Giftedness, High IQ and Talents

Click here to order on Available in paperback and ebook.