A numbers game?

Now that I’ve read up on both giftedness and ADHD (and dismissed suspicions of Personality Disorders or Bipolar Disorder, at least for myself), I am pretty convinced that I fall into both categories. Dr. Russel Barkley said in one of his presentations that ADHD presents in all populations, thus the ADHD population should follow the normal distribution curve of IQ as well. This means that a small number of people with ADHD are also gifted.

The ADHD prevalence in adults is estimated to be 5 %. This means that out of 1000 individuals, 50 will have ADHD. That seems quite a lot. But if we reduce the population to the size of a school, for instance, there will be 500 people, of which 25 will have ADHD to some degree. Of those 500 you are not likely to interact daily with more than 100 people, and only 5 of them will have ADHD. In your standard class of 25, there will be but 1.25 (a quarter child, what a concept!) people who struggle with their executive functioning.

So far, so good. If we assume that a person is within the top 5 % of the population intellectually, the same numbers apply. But when we COMBINE the two differences, numbers plummet.
Amongst the 5 % that have ADHD, 5 % are also cognitively gifted: they think differently, and experience the world on a deeper level than the rest of the population. What does this mean in plain numbers? What is 5 % of 5 %?

Well, if you take a population of 25 people, all the children in a standard classroom, the chance that one of them will be both ADHD and gifted is as slim as 0.015625! Not seen very often, then?

Would a standard teacher run into such a child in, say, ten years of standard classes? They would, actually! In 250 children, you will statistically run into 1.5625 children who are gifted and have ADHD. One or two children per decade per teacher. Most teachers teach for more than 10 years, so over the course of a career, a standard teacher will come across 750 pupils altogether. Of those 750 students, 37.5 will have had ADHD, and the same number will have been among the top 5 % cognitively. The number of children whose way of thinking and functioning is so different from the norm that they fall into the highly debilitating category of having ADHD at the same time as having cognitive abilities that put them above and beyond the rest of the class is likely to be 1.875, so closer to 2 out of the entire student population a teacher meets in the course of a teaching career. I’d like to put this question to all the teachers reading this: Do/did you know how to recognize these children? Can/did you help them?

In my case, I suspect that I fall into the top 2 % of the population in regards to cognitive abilities. That changes the numbers dramatically (as it should, 2 % is, after all, less than half of 5 %). To find another person that shares those two characteristics, I have to pass by 999 people that do not. The combination is so rare that I am one in a thousand! No wonder I always felt different, and have met so very, very few that are like me, despite having traveled far and wide, and lived in very diverse populations!

When a combination of traits is so rare, it is understandable that it is not a condition that is well studied. Why should health care professionals, for example, read up on people like this?

Even though only one in a thousand know the combination of giftedness and ADHD from the inside, they are far more likely to seek help than those who do not, so the likelihood of this permil being a patient will be slightly higher than every thousandth patient. In addition, both conditions can lead to problems that are severe and debilitating in many areas of life. Patients are likely to feel estranged and chronically misunderstood (after all, only a very select few actually DO understand them). The risk of misdiagnosis is very real i one discounts one or both of the conditions.

I hereby put down my flag and claim the position as holder of the 1/1000 position.


I am odd, strange, and all the rest. But I AM what I am.

A genetic freak, perhaps, but not a bad one. Different, but not superior.

More than anything else, I am simply DIFFERENT.

That’s all. And that’s ALL!


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