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Asperger's, Gifted, or Both?
characteristics shared by gifted and Asperger's children
Is your child gifted? Does your gifted child also happen to struggle socially? This doesn't mean necessarily that your child has Aspergers, nor are all Asperger children gifted, however the defined characteristics of Aspergers and what to look for in a gifted child are strikingly similar.
I started out to write an article about how to tell if your child is gifted, as my 9 year old who is a straight A student has been complaining that school is too easy for her. My husband I and have been wrestling over rather or not to have her tested for ELP(the gifted program at our daughter's school), so I was researching traits of a gifted child when I discovered that some of them are the very same traits listed for symptoms of an Asperger's child. I am all too familiar with this subject as one of my 6 year olds (I have twins)has diagnosed with Aspergers or autism of the high functioning variety. My 9 year old, though not diagnosed as of yet, also shows some signs of being AS, though not to the degree of my 6 year old.
If you line up the traits side by side, you will be amazed at how many there are in common. Let's take a look at them now:
Traits commonly shared by gifted children:
- High vocabulary for age
- may struggle socially
- may learn to read at an early age
- reading books above grade level
- love for science and math
- advanced memory
- extremely curious
- ultra focused on certain interests
- hypersensitivity or sensory disorder
Some of the Symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome
- Social awkwardness
- unusually high vocabulary
- hyper-focused on one or more particular interests
- may excel at math or science
- sensory disorder or hypersensitivity
Let's break these down a little, starting with the sensitivity or sensory disorder depending on how you look at it. Polish phsychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski states that there are 5 of these "overexcitabilities" or "supersensitivities" as he defines them present in gifted children: sensual, emotional, psychomotor, intellectual, and imaginational. If your child is bothered by the seams on clothing or will refuse to wear certain types of fabric than you know what is meant by the sensual part of this equation. Another example of this is a heightened sensitivity to taste, thereby refusing to eat certain foods or textures of food. Loud noises are also a problem for these children(my daughter hides under a table or chair if she is on sensory overload) as is anything that affects the five senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight.
The psychomotor is similar to ADHD like symptoms, restlessness, rapid speech,impulsive behavior, physical expressions of emotions, etc. They kiddos commonly get misdiagnosed with ADHD and my be medicated unnecessarily.
The emotional side to this is described as anxiety, extremes of emotion, problems adjusting to change, just to name a few. Keep in mind Dr Dabrowski is discussing traits of gifted children here, not Aspergers. Doesn't this sound familiar for those of you that have children with Asperger's?
The intellectual is characterized by a deep curiosity, love of learning and knowledge, avid reading, asking of probing questions, etc. Again, for those of you with Asperger children, this will likely bring about some recognition here.
Lastly, we have the imaginational, which I know doesn't match up to the clinical description of Aspergers as this is said to be lacking in most Asperger children, however, my daughter doesn't quite fit that mold and your child might not either. The imaginational is described as the following: vivid dreams, fear of the unknown, daydreams, imaginary friends, and detailed visualization..
This is by no mean an exhaustive list and the list of symptoms for Asperger's goes far beyond what I have listed here, but I wanted to make a point of bringing up the similarities between Asperger's and some of the traits that a gifted child may have. I will not go so far as to imply that all Asperger children are gifted and certainly not all gifted children have Asperger's, but I believe they share enough common traits to warrant further research on this subject.