Is it Aspergers or Is it Giftedness?

How Do You Tell the Difference and Does It Even Matter?

In an IEP meeting, the Director of Special Ed (who was also the Principal at our small charter school) said that Trio Man’s issues have more to do with his giftedness than his Aspergers.

Say what!?!

I knew Trio Man was gifted. That’s not what I was reacting to. What I was reacting to was the thought that his giftedness was affecting his behavior.

So I started researching giftedness.

Giftedness Behaviors

I found what you would expect.

  • Gifted kids often get bored in class.
  • Gifted kids talk like adults but have the maturity level of their age peers.
  • Gifted kids don’t have many friends because they talk like adults rather than kids.

I learned a few things that are more obvious but that I hadn’t given much thought:

  • The over-achiever may end up being the teacher’s assistant because she is always the first one done with her work.
  • Other gifted kids (usually boys) will choose not to do their work because it’s “so boring” and instead think about things that are interesting to them–which means they look like they’re daydreaming.
  • Some gifted kids might even have behavior problems because they will act out rather than do their “boring” work.

But the Director of Special Ed couldn’t have been talking about that. Certainly there was more to her statement.

Then I found a book titled Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders.


It never occurred to me that a neurotypical kid–that is, not Autistic, not ADHD–would have behaviors similar to my boy with Aspergers.

(Now that I’ve read what I wrote, I realize that giftedness would not be classified as neurotypical, but that’s another blog post…)

Aspergers AND Giftedness

So I skipped right to the chapter about Aspergers and giftedness.

Here’s what stopped me in my tracks:

“It can be difficult to differentiate between some gifted children and children with Asperger’s…. In fact, there may be a gradation rather than Asperger’s… being a discrete category” (p. 100).

They’re suggesting that Aspergers and Giftedness are on a spectrum!

Wow! How ironic is that?

How are Aspergers and Gifted behaviors similar? Take a look at the graphic.

Comparing Aspergers and Giftedness

However, “if the child can convey to others some of the joy that he finds in his hobby and spontaneously seeks to share it with others, then there is a decreased likelihood that an Asperger’s Disorder diagnosis is appropriate” (p. 101).

JUST Aspergers

But what about Aspergers and not gifted? Read the rest of the graphic.

“May,” “less,” “more,” “almost,” “tend”… All these words indicate that someone with Aspergers is closer to these descriptions and someone with Giftedness is further away from these descriptions–But it’s not black-and-white. On a spectrum, remember?

Misdiagnosed? OR Dual Diagnosed?

Is Trio Man misdiagnosed or dual diagnosed? On his good days, I’d say he’s misdiagnosed. On his bad days, I’d say he’s dual diagnosed.

How about your son or daughter?

Does It Even Matter?

For our situation, no. It doesn’t matter.

Trio Man’s IEP says that he has Autism. Because of his Autism, he gets special educational services that he needs, particularly during the first 2 months of the school year because he has a hard time transitioning into the new year. By the end of the year, you would think that he is misdiagnosed.

But, frankly, Trio Man wouldn’t be doing as well as he’s doing without the support of the special ed teachers and the accommodations by the regular ed teachers.

The difference is that now I know that some of his behaviors are not just from his Aspergers but also from his Giftedness.

But, no matter what…

Trio Man is amazingly and wonderfully made.