Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gifted Children Misdiagnosed with ADHD

Dear Parents,

There is often great pressure from schools, health-care providers, and others to get a diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There is associated pressure to then place your child on medication. Over the years, I have noticed that careful and comprehensive evaluations for ADHD are often not conducted. I have seen many children who are "misdiagnosed" in that they do not have ADHD. Instead, they may be depressed, anxious, or even gifted intellectually. In the local community in which I live (Bainbridge Island, WA), I frequently see very smart, talented, but "very active" children being called ADHD when in fact they are extremely smart. I have talked about this many times to parents and others. Often, only the idea of ADHD sticks in the minds of others which makes me very sad. The gifted part of the child is often neglected and the child's overall enthusiasm for learning begins to fade away.

I am extremely excited that the American Academy of Pediatrics is now beginning to recognize that giftedness is an issue that should be considered in the diagnosis of ADHD. Recentely, the (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) has embarked on an international campaign to educate pediatricians about the possible misdiagnosis of ADHD in gifted children. If you would like to read more, please click on the following link:

My advice to you is this: If you have an active child who appears to be quite bright, do not settle for a quick evaluation and subsequent medication. Medication can be extremely helpful with the right child. But, it is important to first be accurate in an assessment so that any subsequent treatment is the right pathway to take. Take the time to get a thorough evaluation by both a pediatrician and a child clinical psychologist. Make sure that your child's talents are taken into consideration before any treatment plan is implemented. If you have any questions about this, please let me know. Further information about ADHD and giftedness, and contact information, may be found on the link above.


Steve Curtis, PhD, NCSP
Licensed Child Clinical Psychologist
Nationally Certified School Psychologist

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Navigating the Quest for Help: Understanding Your Gifted Child's Puzzling Behavior

Dear Parents, Teachers, and Providers,

We are pleased to inform you of several activities for parents of gifted children. First, I will be conducting the following national webinar:

Nagivating the Quest for Help:
Understanding Your Gifted Child's Puzzling Behavior
April 15, 2010
Place: webinar (at home!!)
Sponsored by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted Children)
For more information visit:

Upon completion of this webinar, Sara Fleehart, MS, LMFTA and I will be hosting the following seminar:

6-week seminar for parents of gifted children (SENG inspired)
Beginning April 22nd
Thursday mornings from 9:30am until 12:00pm.
Place: Lifespan classroom in Rolling Bay on Bainbridge Island, WA
For more information visit:

Finally, please note that SENG’s annual conference is coming to Seattle during the Summer of 2011. If you wish to become involved in conference planning, please let me know.

In my work on Bainbridge Island, in the greater Puget Sound area, and nationally, I have seen many parents struggle to meet the needs of their gifted child. For example, some gifted children present behavioral challenges in their early elementary years. Others become disillusioned with school as they mature. Many have social challenges that are misdiagnosed as something else. Professionals often dismiss giftedness due to skepticism regarding the term and/or lack of exposure to the field. Whatever term is used (e.g., gifted, highly capable, advanced), children with exceptionally bright minds often need more individualized care than their same-age peers. The webinar, seminar, and conference activities are all designed to help parents ensure their gifted child takes a productive and satisfying path to success. We would love for you to take advantage of these opportunities by attending or spreading the word to someone else. Thank you!

For more information about Lifespan, please visit: For more information about SENG, please visit: For questions, please contact me at


Steve Curtis, PhD, NCSP
Licensed Child Clinical Psychologist
Nationally Certified School Psychologist

Monday, March 1, 2010

Parenting Teens with ADHD

Parenting Teens with ADHD by Sara Fleehart, MS, LMFTA

On February 8, 2010, King 5 posted a video on their website about helping teens with ADHD. Julie Ogata from ParentMap, which can be accessed at, outlined a few tools for parents who are raising teens with ADHD. First and foremost, Ms. Ogata talked about the need for extra structure for teens with ADHD. This goes beyond the basic structure that helps many kids and teens to thrive to include even clearer and consistent rules, procedures, guidelines and rituals. This extra structure, including things like study time that is set in stone (with no cell phone), is of great importance to the academic, emotional, and social success of teens with ADHD. Part of the need for this extra structure is due to the findings of a recent study, which show that a child with ADHD is two years behind in certain areas of brain development compared to same age peers. This means that it is often not reasonable to expect that your ADHD teen will function the same as his or her peers when it comes to remembering things, task persistence, and even understanding of responsibilities. Understanding that your expectations of your child should more often match up with a child two years younger than yours can help lead to the second important feature of parenting a teen with ADHD: patience. Kids with ADHD are not trying to be impulsive, they are not trying to forget things, and they are not trying to distract themselves. Your child’s brain simply works in such a way that these things are difficult for them and require more practice and more prompting than kids without ADHD. Your child with ADHD is likely to experience a fair amount of negative feedback from teachers and peers at school, and therefore what they really need from you is patience and understanding. This is not easy, but it is something very worthwhile to strive for.

Ms. Ogata recommended a few key things for parents to do to help not only their teens but themselves. Help your teen to get involved in an extracurricular activity at school that may reduce some of the feelings of negativity your teen may be experiencing. Get updates every Friday on homework, due dates, projects, success in the classroom, etc. so that you are informed and can help your teen to not get overwhelmed or behind in work. Also, make sure that your teen is getting at least 8-9 hours of sleep at night. Structure and routine are your best friends when raising a teen with ADHD. Remember, around 5% of kids today are diagnosed with ADHD. You are not alone. To combat always feeling like your conversations with your teen are negative, help your child find his or her passion and nurture it so that both you and your teen can feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.

As recommended by Dr. Laura Kastner, a highly respected Psychologist in Seattle who is giving a lecture series with Dr. John Gottman, one of the best things you can do for your ADHD teen is to hire a tutor. Tutors can help your teen with academics, study skills, organization, and other school related struggles. Almost more importantly, as Ms. Ogata articulated, make sure that it is someone who really connects with your teen and can help boost his or her self-esteem. In my work as a tutor for teens, I have seen that confidence is often the key factor when it comes to doing well in school. The more you believe in yourself, the less likely you are to be paralyzed by that paper, that project, that math test and therefore put it off to the last minute and then have to cram all night long. It is often in this process of helping a teen to have confidence in their abilities combined with academic instruction that I feel the greatest reward in my work as a tutor. The peace students experience from feeling competent and able is a joy to behold, and keeps me coming back for more!

So don’t get discouraged. Use your resources and implement the strategies outlined in the King 5 story. To view the full interview, visit

Sara Fleehart, M.S., LMFTA is Lifespan’s tutor and therapist for teenagers. To contact Sara, email her at or call the main Lifespan office at (206) 780-7782. Look forward to working with you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Support group for teen girls!

Sara Fleehart, MS, LMFTA at Lifespan will be offering a support group for teen girls. It will start Tuesday, February 9th from 3:30 to 4:30 pm. The group will meet weekly in the classroom at Lifespan Psychological Services. The fee is $25 per session (pay as you go). Please click on the following link for more information: Support group for teen girls!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Teenage Girls and Sex

"Teenage Girls and Sex"

Posted by Sara Fleehart, MS, LMFTA.

On September 11, 2008, exactly seven years to the day after the United States experienced one of the greatest tragedies within our borders, Time magazine published an article outlining another possible home-front crisis. This one is not originating on foreign soil, does not involve flight plans and goals for ending American lives, and it is not a hard-hitting day that burns images of suffering and rubble into our minds and memories. It is slower, perhaps more invisible in the daily blur of life. It is a crisis hitting a targeted population: teen girls. In Time magazine’s article "The Truth About Teen Girls" about girls becoming “sex-wise,” younger than in years past, paints a picture of a culture of the OC and Gossip Girl where high-school girls are showing more skin and talking about engaging in more sexual activities than some people even knew existed. Belinda Luscombe, author of the article, states that “we idealize youth and sexiness but recoil if our young want to be sexy.” These mixed messages of “be sexy but, by gosh, don’t be sexy (and absolutely do not have sex or a sex drive)” set-up our teen girls for a lose-lose situation. One question is: how are our teens interpreting these messages?

As Luscombe relates, it may not be in the way that we think they are. After all, teen brains are not adult brains. Research shows this. While they are on their way to having adult brains, they’re not there yet. This can cause some problems when, as Luscombe points out, the media presents being hot and sexy as the only identity worth pursuing. Teenagehood is already a time of confusion about identity. It is, in fact, normal for teens to try out different identities and ask questions about who they really are and who they really want to be. It is not healthy when all other possible identities related to anything other than hotness are taken off the table. With arrests for child pornography on the rise, many parents are worried and wanting to put more effort into protecting their teenage girls. So what can you do on the home front to combat this?

In my experience, providing teen girls with a safe place to talk about sex, expectations, identity, and other related issues serves to re-open doors that may have been closed or at least mostly shut in the wake of the media focus on sexuality as the only acceptable measure of identity. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your teen about these things, as many parents do, try websites that are not aimed at selling things to teens and more about information such as (recommended in Luscombe’s article). On the website there are links titled strong girls, smart girls, bold girls, etc., painting a much more holistic picture of real girls out there. Search the web for other sites like this one, and show your daughters what you found. Then they can visit the site whenever they have questions that you don’t know how to answer or are uncomfortable answering yourself.

So, the point is not to convince girls that sexuality is not a normal part of life, but to teach them that it has a place in life just like everything else, and that to be a well-rounded person it is important to develop in multiple areas. Focusing on other areas where identity can be formed and shaped (like sports, academics, music, dance, community service, art, etc.) as well as talking with teens about the messages they are seeing/getting from media regarding sex and “being hot” serves to help your teen girl broaden her definition of success and self-acceptance. Bottom line: this is not a crisis we have to submit to. We can help our teens understand the influences around them so that they can make and own healthy choices as often as possible.

Editor's Note: Sara Fleehart, MS, LMFTA is employed by Lifespan Psychological Services and provides therapy and tutoring services to adolescents with a variety of challenges. She completed her undergraduate training in psychology at Gonzaga University and her Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Seattle Pacific University.