Students who have a “dual diagnosis” of gifted with AD/HD present a particular challenge to any school district, teacher and special education department. The student must be challenged academically, while the AD/HD diagnosis means he faces specialized challenges in “executive function” tasks such as time management and organizational skills. Parents of gifted students with AD/HD also present a challenge to the school district because they often have specialized knowledge and the school may not know ask for the help the family can provide.
Services in the schools that are designed to work with the child’s dual diagnoses of “gifted with AD/HD” pinpoint each strength and need specifically. If a child with a dual diagnosis is receiving a more challenging curriculum, he must also receive a service that will help him to address a need, such as dysgraphia. This service may be as simple as a “scribe” who will write class notes; it may be a voice-operated recorder or a laptop computer so he can type rather than write his notes. Dysgraphia is the inability to produce legible handwriting in any form. Other services might include regular forums with a gifted specialist and other students who have been identified as gifted.
Some students may be assigned to teachers who have been educated in the existence of AD/HD and other learning disorders. In spite of this education and training, they may not have worked with the gifted or AD/HD students in accordance with the student’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). Instead, they may call the student’s parents in for a conference and blame them for their child’s “failure” to do the assigned work. If this happens to a student or his parents, he can reach out to advocacy organizations such as PRO (Parents Reaching Out) to seek assistance in getting the school to comply with the current IEP. Many times, the student’s strongest resource is his own parents. If they have accessed and read everything they can about their child’s diagnoses and know what their rights are, they can become their child’s best advocates. It means communicating with the school staff and faculty very frequently; visiting the school and becoming as familiar as a regular member of the staff.
When the student and his advocates speak up as often as they need to, then he has a better chance of the services and accommodations he needs. When a student has a strong advocate within the faculty, he can only benefit. The staff member/advocate has to be able to communicate and get along with his or her young charges. Pulling a student from class to complete an application for college financial aid or take a college placement exam, finding out how that student is doing with classes, teachers or challenges takes a special talent.
Within the school, resources for gifted children with AD/HD are meant to increase the academic challenges while meeting a need and helping the student to learn time management and organizational skills. Perhaps that means setting up a course plan that includes some honors or AP (advanced placement) classes along with an accommodation that enables him to complete his work in a method that meets his needs. Special education staff members are given specific tasks to work on with each student in their case load. When each staff member is able to work with an individual student and allow other staff members to carry out their functions with the same student, the purpose of the IEP is met.
At Las Cruces High School in the Las Cruces, New Mexico, public school system, special education services include services for gifted students. In this way, the gifted child has access to additional academic resources. By including the AES (advanced educational services) component within the Special Education Department, a hypothetical student who was identified as gifted in the third grade and who also has a diagnosis of AD/HD receives attention and services from two facilitators. One facilitator concentrates on the advanced educational services he will provide, while the special education facilitator concentrates on ensuring that every accommodation is provided to that student to give him the best possible opportunity for success. The AES facilitator interacts with this student to make sure that he is progressing well in his classes and assists him in following his four-year course plan and applying for college testing and financial aid. The special education facilitator tracks this student’s grades and, if necessary, schedules time to focus on low grades. In this school district, each student with a dual diagnosis is given every opportunity to reach his fullest potential.