Performance of Intellectually Gifted Children on Three Measures of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Kent S. Rosengren


While there is a growing awareness of the co-occurrence of giftedness and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), little is known about the clinical presentation of ADHD in intellectually gifted children. Current diagnostic decisions with this subpopulation are made employing procedures and norms developed using a nonexceptional population. However, it is unknown whether this common practice is appropriate. This study explored how intellectually gifted children perform on three commonly used measures of ADHD, specifically: (a) the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA); (b) the Conners' Teacher Rating Scale, Revised- Long Form (CTS); and (c) the Conners' Parent Rating Scale, Revised- Long Form (CPS). Children who met traditional criteria for giftedness (N=90) were obtained from nearby public schools. Each was administered the TOVA and their parents and teachers completed a Conners' rating scale. The performance of these children was compared to nonnative data. It was hypothesized that: (a) gifted children would perform significantly better on the TOVA than normative children, and (b) no differences would be found between the performance of gifted children and the normative sample on both the CTS and CPS. The hypotheses were partially supported by the findings. Gifted children performed better on three of the five TOY A variables, but only for the younger children in the sample. In addition, no evidence of differences in scores was found between the gifted children and the normative sample on the CTS and CPS. The findings do, however, address the underlying clinical question regarding the appropriateness of using the normative data provided for the TOVA, CTS and CPS to assess ADHD in intellectually gifted children. Ultimately, the performance differences found for gifted children on the TOVA suggest that alternate TOVA norms are likely needed for younger ages. A rationale for adjusting the TOVA norms is proposed, and a few simple "rules of thumb" for transforming the age-based are summarized in an Adjustment Matrix. The differences on the CTS and CPS were found mostly for variables unrelated to ADHD and suggest that the normative data for the Conners' Scales can be used when assessing ADHD in gifted children.