Book Review

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults
by James T. Webb, Ph.D., Edward R. Amend, Psy.D., Nadia Webb, Psy.D., Jean Goerss, M.D., M.P.H., Paul Beljan, Psy.D., and F. Richard Olenchak, Ph.D., Published by Great Potential Press, Inc., Scottsdale, Arizona, 2005
Reviewed by Sandra Mosk, M.Ed., BCET, FAET

The authors of this fascinating study of the gifted include two clinical neuropsychologists, two clinical psychologists, the President of the National Association of Gifted Children, and a board-certified pediatrician. The theme of the book, as expressed in the title, is the current misguided practice of diagnosing gifted adults and children with behavioral, emotional, or mental disorders. The result in many cases is unnecessary medication and/or counseling which might make them more acceptable in society at large, but at the same time curb their creative talents and even be harmful to them.

The authors describe the characteristics of the gifted children and adults in great detail, including their learning styles. There are many disorders that often coexist with giftedness, including ADHD, Anger Diagnoses, Ideational and Anxiety Disorders, Mood Disorders, Sleep Disorders, and Allergies. The key issue that professionals must address is how to differentiate gifted behaviors from pathological behaviors before attaching a label to the particular condition. It is common practice for educators and health care professionals to find the problem and then label it. “Many people in our everyday society show unusual, eccentric, non-impairing behaviors that might be symptoms of a variety of disorders, but that does not mean that a clinical diagnosis is appropriate1.” By relating many real life vignettes, the authors make a convincing argument that it is time to reconsider the accuracy and utility of the current diagnoses.

The phenomenon of “gifted” and “learning disabled” is discussed. Some gifted students display unusual abilities only in specific domains and may, in fact, be eligible for special programs for the learning disabled due to weaknesses in other areas. Others show average achievement despite their giftedness and therefore are not identified with a learning disability even though they are not working up to their potential. Early evaluation and identification of the twice-exceptional child can be helpful in preventing years of frustration and low self-esteem. Educational therapists have an important role to play with these individuals. Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults unveils educational and health care problems related to a population that has been sorely overlooked.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Sandra Mosk, M.Ed., BCET, FAET, is the Educational Therapy Director at the Exceptional Children's Foundation/Kayne-Eras Center in Los Angeles and has a private practice in Beverly Hills. She is a Past President of AET.