ADHD and Intelligence03 Aug

Robert Wilford, Ph.D. and Sarah Ferman, Psy.D., L.M.F.T.

For people who don’t have a condition like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it can sometimes be difficult for them to separate the condition itself from the ADHD individual’s intelligence. It is often true — though certainly not a hard and fast rule — that people with a high IQ have longer attention spans and learn more easily. Therefore, it might seem to follow that people with ADHD must have a lower IQ, or that those with a high IQ can’t have ADHD. As it turns out, this is simply not the case.

Under the wrong circumstances, gifted (high-IQ) children without ADHD can have difficulty concentrating, poor performance, and apathy. This is a matter of boredom and lack of interest in the subject. For someone with ADHD, this problem is exacerbated. An ADHD individual with average intelligence may require a higher threshold for stimulation than the non-ADHD kids in order to stay engaged with a school lesson, but an ADHD individual with a high IQ will require an even higher threshold for stimulation. The measure of intelligence is something that should be considered completely separately from the capacity for high executive function.

About three out of four ADHD individuals with an IQ higher than 120 —which places them in the top nine percent of individuals in the United States — showed significant impairments in memory and cognitive function when compared to people with similar IQ’s who do not suffer from the disorder, according to researchers of a Yale study. Again, this does not imply that they are stupid, because intelligence is only partially related to the areas of memory and cognition. Rather, it demonstrates that they have greater difficulty staying on task and focusing on one subject for an extended period of time.

The prefrontal cortex is the area in the brain that orchestrates planning, organizing, sequencing, and judgment of consequences. ADHD impairs this, thereby making it more difficult to concentrate, to pay attention, to listen, to remember, and to learn. One term to describe these important funtions is “self-management.” For those without ADHD, managing thoughts and thinking about the things they have to do is relatively routine. They can manage their own actions and make plans on the fly without too much difficulty. It is with this that an ADHD individual often suffers.


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Most medical doctors who treat ADD/ADHD do so as part of a larger practice. ADHD Specialists focuses primarily on only treating ADD and related conditions. This intense focus allows us to continually sharpen our clinical skills, attend specialized training, utilize the latest therapies, and build our process to meet the specific needs of our clients.

Often medical, testing and counseling services are all separately owned and located practices. It just does not make sense to have to travel from one location to another to treat the same condition. Besides the issue of time and travel, how cohesive and effective is care being delivered in multiple locations by multiple, unrelated providers who don’t have time to talk to each other?

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