Speaker says gifted children often misdiagnosed

When Leslie Morley’s daughter was in the third grade, her teacher believed she had a learning disability and tried to put her in remedial classes. When tested for intelligence, however, results showed that she was an extremely bright girl.

Nadia Webb, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at James Madison University, discussed the misdiagnosis of gifted children and adults at the Salt Lake City Public Library last Thursday. The lecture was hosted by the department of family and consumer studies at the U.

“Children are easily misdiagnosed by teachers and administrators,” Webb said.

Mood disorders such as bipolar and attention deficit disorder are common labels placed on children who seem different from other students.

“Children who have difficulty sitting still in class or start walking around ignoring the lesson are often labeled with attention-deficit disorder,” Webb said. There could be many reasons a child is fidgeting, including boredom, parents going through a divorce or problems at home, she said.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder where a person usually has obsessive, unwanted thoughts and performs repetitive rituals to make the thoughts go away, can be misdiagnosed in gifted children too.

“Some children can conceptualize how things should be and try to make things perfect, it often seems obsessive and compulsive,” said Webb.

She warns that some children might be very intellectual and act older than they are, but will still display childish emotions.

“Children who could talk like a mature high school student may still want their allowance in pennies,” she said.

Leslie Morley, a junior in early childhood education at the U, was glad to hear Nadia Webb’s lecture and the focus more people are putting on correctly diagnosing children.

“My daughter had a difficult time when the teachers kept trying to put her in remedial classes,” Morley said. “She was just so bored in class that she kept walking around.”

The lecture was sponsored by the Eric Moerer Memorial Lecture Series.

Tina and Michael Moerer went through similar problems with their son being misunderstood more than ten years ago.

“We tried taking Eric to a doctor, but the doctor told us we were over-concerned,” said Tina Moerer.

When Eric Moerer, who suffered from undiagnosed depression, committed suicide 10 years ago, the Moerers went to Cheryl Wright, the department chair of family and consumer studies, and together they set up a program to sponsor lectures about the emotional needs of children.

“It helps us to feel that we can do something for the community and honor Eric’s memory,” Tina Moerer said.

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