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Does IQ Help ADHD?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 10 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Adhd Intelligence Iq Average Above Below

Intelligence for all of us exerts influence on many parts of life. Yet, with all of the health conditions affecting people today, one question is how intelligence can play a role in such conditions. Can it help or does it hinder?

Investigating Intelligence and ADHD

ADHD has been on the rise and affects millions of children and adults - and has become a key topic regarding intelligence. There are many conflicting beliefs about intelligence and how it might affect ADHD. On one hand, some believe that those who have ADHD must have a low IQ because they have difficulties focusing on tasks. Others assume the opposite – thinking a child with ADHD is different and must be gifted. It’s a key issue that everyone needs to be more aware of, whether they're parents or educators.

Looking at Current Research

If you were to compare ADHD children with those children who haven’t received the diagnosis, the IQ of each group isn’t different. Some children are brighter than others, the majority is of average intelligence and some show lower than average intelligence. This is true for both ADHD children and their non-ADHD counterparts.

Using IQ to Overcome Challenges

Where IQ can offer an advantage, however, is that with ADHD, the competencies can in some instances help a child compensate for the troubles with attention span. The structured classroom environment can be particularly difficult for a child who has ADHD. If IQ is above average, this could theoretically provide an advantage only in that a child still achieves success in some areas of school where they otherwise might not.

Problems Relating to Above Average IQ

In one study, however, researchers looked at adults and found that having a higher IQ was not a defence against the problems of ADHD. They found that three out of four adults with ADHD and an IQ over 120 still demonstrated major problems in memory and cognition testing compared to people who don’t have ADHD. Such adults had been told they couldn’t be suffering from ADHD because they were too intelligent, but this is not the case. They had problems with focusing and self-management. They were more likely to be forgetful and complete tasks.

ADHD Children and a Lower IQ

Unfortunately, for an ADHD child who happens to have a lower than average IQ, the consequences can be more dire than for a child who does not struggle with ADHD. Not only will they struggle with the typically stringent structure of a classroom, but also this will be compounded by challenges in other areas of learning and development.

Accurately Diagnosing ADHD

One way that children who have an above average IQ and ADHD may suffer is that recognition of the condition can be harder if the child shows strong competencies in the classroom. If a child is doing well and achieving academic success, their problems with concentration and focus may be overlooked and disregarded.

How Everyone Can Help

Parents and teachers alike should look at the big picture for a child. A child who has ADHD but has not yet been diagnosed may indeed show success in subjects they enjoy. But they may then have a harder time focusing on those they dislike, which is disregarded because of their exceptional performance in other areas. Teachers should be aware of the symptoms of ADHD and follow-up with parents, whether a child is doing well or not in some subjects. Together, we can all ensure better early diagnosis of ADHD and support for those who struggle with its effects each day.

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