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The ERIC/OSEP Special Project

OSEP, Ideas that Work

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Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs


Research Points to Effective
Strategies in Teaching Boys
with AD/HD and/or Giftedness

What can a teacher expect of a student who is gifted but who also has Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)? Can the intelligence of gifted students help them to stay on task or channel their energies more constructively? Or does the intelligence of these students lead to too high expectations, given that children with AD/HD are often at a greater risk for academic and social failure?

A study by directed by Purdue University Professor Sydney S. Zentall and funded by OSEP, sheds light on these questions and has implications for improved practice, including effective teaching strategies that tap the strengths of gifted students to help them overcome the motivational difficulties associated with AD/HD.

The study, the first collection of data about the overlap and distinctiveness of AD/HD and intellectual giftedness, compared the learning and academic characteristics of three groups of boys with the mean age of nine: 1) three boys from general education classes who were identified with AD/HD; 2) three boys identified as gifted; and 3) three boys identified as both AD/HD and gifted As expected, researchers found that inattention and a dislike of homework clearly differentiated the two groups with AD/HD from the gifted group. Both AD/HD groups had trouble attending to and following verbal directions, planning and organizing, and getting and staying on task; however, the gifted-AD/HD group was more like the gifted group in that both preferred challenge, pressure, competition, and the use of memory. Both AD/HD groups preferred social and activity stimulation and the gifted-AD/HD group preferred cognitive stimulation as demonstrated by their academic talents, learning abilities, creative talents, and social skills.

The researchers reported that the most effective instructional strategies for students with exceptionalities included personal attention, opportunities to be in helper or leadership roles, and the use of preferred activities as incentives, whereas the least effective were those that took away or withheld activity. They also noted that some strategies might be inadvertently detrimental, given the specific learning and motivational styles of children with AD/HD. Because these children have "greater difficulty starting tasks and organizing their work, teachers might be tempted to give them assignments that were more rote/repetitive in nature ..." However, it was found to be more effective to teach these students "how to simplify, breakdown, or categorize assignments" and to include elements of play or high-interest topics.

The research in this newsbrief was supported by the Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education, Grant #H029D20017, Sydney S. Zentall, Project Director. A full report on the research can be found in Zentall, Sydney S., Hall, Arlene M., and Grskovic, Janice A., "Learning and Motivational Characteristics of Boys with AD/HD and/or Giftedness," Exceptional Children, 67, no. 4 (Summer 2001): 499-519.


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Last updated: August 19, 2001

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