"Too Smart"?


I am a bright kid but I have a lot of trouble in school. I do pretty well on tests because I can BS my way through stuff and I’m towards the top of my class but I know I could do better. I’m really annoyed however because I’ve been seeing a doctor who gave me an unofficial test for ADHD and he says that I most likely have it, but that I’m “too high functioning” or “too smart” for treatment because my grades and SAT scores are too high for someone who has ADHD. I’m annoyed because official testing is something I’ve been really wanting to pursue for years, but now it seems pointless.

I’ve known all my life that I might have something wrong but I’ve never received an official diagnosis because people don’t seem to believe me. I’ve always thought this because I know that I’m a smart girl, but I used to be put in special ed classes when I was little because everyone thought I was retarded because I couldn’t do any work. Now I’m in all honors and AP classes but my teachers have to put me near the front of the room, and even then I still barely do anything in class. I still do well in terms of grades, but in class I’m absolutely horrible. Most recently my math teacher came to check on me while the class was doing a problem and she got mad at me because I was on the completely wrong page and I had just drawn a picture without even realizing a whole lesson went by and I just started crying because I really want to learn and get good grades but it just doesn’t seem possible.

I don’t understand how other kids seem to get things done so easily without any problems. I always end up not able to do any work until like 3 in the morning when nothing is around to distract me so I hardly sleep during the school week because I have to wait until I’m focused enough to do work. I can start homework as soon as I get home from school but it probably still won’t get done until 7am the next morning right before I have to go to school again. This hurt me a lot last year when I was so tired I just completely burned out and missed a full month of school due to mental illness. My guidance counselor listens to me and does believe that I might have some sort of LD but the other guidance counselors at my school think it’s not possible because I have 99th percentile SATs and semi-decent grades. And even though I did well on the SAT I think it’s because it was short 20 minute sections and I had a lot of pressure to do well on it, and I also thought it was kind of fun. However there is a huge disconnect between my grades and SAT scores as I have the highest SAT score in my school but I’m not even in the top 10% of my class.

You guys might think I’m an idiot for thinking that I have a problem and maybe I am. I hear it all the time, every time I tell an adult I think I have a problem they laugh at me. But I do know that I’ve been sitting here at this table since 12pm (now it’s 5pm) trying to study for midterms and all I’ve done is solve an elementary math problem and bake a cake. All I’ve done is eat and cry. Please someone just tell me you understand. I can’t be like this anymore or I’m going to fail out of college. I just want to live up to my full potential, because I know I’m capable of so much but it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever be able to achieve anything if this keeps up.

I do understand. My son used to sit at the dining room table all night staring at an assignment that would take someone else probably 30-45 minutes, totally unable to focus. You are still in high school? Don’t your parents notice that you stay up all night doing homework and go to school with no sleep? If you are under 18, one of your parents needs to formally request that the school test you. If you are in a public school, the school must comply. Work on making your parent understand what is going on and insist that they make a written request to the school to test you for an LD. Good luck -

Yes they do notice but I usually just get punished when I stay up. But otherwise I can’t get work done. I sometimes have to stay home from school because I can’t get assignments done. I’m under 18 but it doesn’t seem like my school has that kind of testing. Or if they do offer it, I’ve been lied to… which I wouldn’t doubt at this point honestly it just seems like nobody wants to help me

I’m a senior by the way, I just applied to my colleges

You might want to seek out psychological counseling given your age and that your difficulties seem well belong ADD or ADHD. And no, there is no such thing as too smart or highly functioning for treatment.

I would recommend to go to your pediatrician/primary care doctor and request formal testing. They will refer you to a psych clinic/psychologist who can run adequate tests. Once you have the results, take them to your school or future college and ask for accommodations. A lot of HDAD people are supersmart and can accomplish a lot when properly treated.

If your parents are not willing/able to support you in this, you can probably do it via your health clinic at college. There are more and more adults who have been diagnosed late in life. Also, seek out a support group in your community, even if it is one for parents. They will be able to point you to adequate resources.

Ok I made an appointment with my psychologist and he said he’ll refer me to a test center but he and my mom seem really mad at me for doing this…

You are the only one who knows how you feel. And if you think, your thoughts are all over the place and you would like to have an expert look at it, it doesn’t matter what your parents or your counselor think. Be your own advocate!

Thanks for your support

What you are describing is called “time blindness” and it is an executive function that is strongly related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Russell Barkely, an eminant psychologist in ADHD research has some good talks that are on Youtube that describe this characteristic as well as features of ADHD in general, and strategies for treatment. ADHD and high intelligence are not mutually exclusive, and is common for individuals to be both highly capable and also ADHD. The impairment affects productivity and other areas of functioning. There are some good handouts on Dr. Barkely’s website and you might print and share one of these with you mother to help her to understand what you think is going on for you.

The provider who told you that you were too “high functioning” for treatment was likely referring to the probability that you would likely be considered too high functioning to be eligible for special education and an IEP. If you are about to graduate, an IEP might not do much good at this point anyway. However, if you do end up diagnosed with ADHD, you will be eligible for a Section 504 plan that would delineate accommodations that the school would have to make to try to help you to compensate for you ADHD behaviors, This, however, can only happen after you are diagnosed. If you are 18, you can request this 504 plan yourself. If the psychologist you have the appointment with does diagnose ADHD, ask him/her to write a short letter to the school on your behalf that verifies your diagnosis and recommends a 504 plan be developed. Once you request this, the school has to meet to determine if you are eligible then develop a plan–it is federal law. Further, a 504 plan might be very helpful to you once you get to college.

Thanks @NorthernMom61. I’m not too worried about setting up a plan with high school because like you said I’m about to graduate, I just want to set up my college experience so that I can do my best there from day 1.

My parents are accusing me of faking this so I can get medication. It’s ok though I guess because if they refuse me, I can just get myself tested next year when I’m 18.

anon, i sympathize. i knew a high school student with very similar study habits, issues in the classroom, grades “too high” to get help, etc. getting an actual psychiatric diagnosis of ADHD (or other difficulty) before you arrive at your college will benefit you tremendously. many people say it’s harder to get a 504 plan and assistance from a college than from a high school. the student i knew had the opposite experience. the college was extremely helpful and did not question the need for 504 plan assistance, once the letter from the doc arrived.

Most testing isn’t free… so you would have to pay for it if your parent’s don’t approve. Sometimes insurance covers some.

My mother is setting up appointments and she is allowing me to go through with the testing, she’s just upset about it. It looks like the process is going to take a few months but as long as I get what I need in time for college I’ll be fine. And if the tests come back saying that I don’t have it, then I guess I just have a really awful personality and habits that need changing…

You don’t have to wait until you are diagnosed to work on strategies to help yourself. Look up strategies to combat time blindness on the internet and that might get you started. Watch those Youtube lectures by Russell Barkely.


is not as uncommon as you might think. Lots of smart kids have trouble with daily assignments.

As others have said the ‘too smart’ or ‘too high functioning’ argument is nonsense. Oxford (the university in England, not the college in Mississippi!) tells incoming students that as many as 1/3 of them will be diagnosed with some sort of learning disorder while they are there!

You might tell your mom that it’s entirely possible that medication won’t be the solution- a lot of people with executive function/ADD issues don’t need or even benefit from medication.

There are a lot of tools and systems that you can use to help you manage your challenges- some available online, as @NorthernMom61 points out- but it is a good idea to get a full work up, and an expert opinion on which group of tools will suit you best.

Factor this into your college selection process: you are likely to be somebody who will do better with less continuing assessment (ie, small quizzes and assignments) and more exams (if it’s affordable for your family, check out England and Ireland, where virtually all of your marks are based on end of term exams). One good thing about college: you get to pick your subjects in a way that you just can’t do in high school- you might want to try and find colleges with fewer general education/distribution requirements.

One thing that I can tell you for certain: sitting at a desk longer isn’t going to help :slight_smile:

You are probably what is called “twice exceptional” - very smart but hobbled by your learning disability. Because you’re very smart, your brain has coping mechanisms and ways to help you learn. But it were to harness its power instead of using so much energy on trying to compensate for the LD, you’d be like a turbine. :slight_smile:
After you’ve read those resources, you may want to print one out and bring it to your parents, and perhaps your GC or your doctor.

He is probably saying you’re too high functioning to be ADHD because the disorder means you have trouble completing schoolwork due to not being able to focus. You were obviously able to focus enough on your schoolwork, but you also meet the criteria, as it stands. The typical ADHD student will be doing poorly academically. Also, most cases of ADHD are identified and diagnosed in the classroom-- this is probably another factor he is considering.

If I remember correctly, you said you were classified as gifted and talented. ADHD is overdiagnosed in this community because they get bored with their classroom assignments, for individual reasons such as tedium. They will also move from topic to topic because they see so much information in every sequential thought.

Also, yes, you are probably twice-exceptional. If it’s any solace, I haven’t been diagnosed as gifted or anything, but I’ve dealt with what you’re going through. I went through school starting at age four, started speaking at eight months, and I was always writing in notebooks and generally had a very very rich imagination. My parents noticed how well I was able to put together a mock ‘newscast,’ and how advanced the composition was for an eight year old.

I was always very linguistically proficient, but when bullying hit I completely lost any focus and started doing very poorly. It also took a while for my body to catch up with my mind since I felt everything so intensely, it took a while for things to sink in. I’d imagine myself doing normal, everyday tasks, but I wouldn’t actually be doing them, instead caught up in my imagination. Everyone but teachers and my parents would think I was intellectually disabled, but I knew I wasn’t because of how creative I was and proficient I was with writing. I look back on the videos and poetry I produced and having now had education on film, I see the material was all actually very advanced for a 14 year old.
Being locked up in a building for eight hours also completely burned me out due to my sensory issues.

I went on SSRI’s and now I’m making almost all A’s in college. My professors love me, and I’m usually their top student (except in biology… but that doesn’t override all of my other performance). You might ask for medication? That’s really what helped me out. Now I’m very successful in school and completing a research project, and have plans for more.

I wish you luck, it can be tough when you don’t fit the ‘mold’ of ‘smart.’

My GC thinks that I have found my own ways of sort of “compensating” for any issues that I might have, for example by staying up really late and wearing earplugs during tests, but it’s just not working anymore because of all the AP classes and stuff. I had a lot of issues last year especially because I learned that, when you’re taking 5 AP classes at the same time, you can’t rush all of the homework an hour before school and still get good grades on the assignments. (but I still got 4s and 5s on the actual exams, so…) I’m definitely not doing poorly in school, but I feel like in terms of raw ability, I’m much smarter than my grades are capable of showing. And it really hurts me emotionally too, because I know that my colleges might not accept me because of my grades, even though I know and my teachers know that I’m just as smart as anybody in the top 10% of my class.

I applied to a lot of colleges so that I’d have a variety of options in the spring. I applied to the University of Scranton, Siena College, NYIT, Fordham (Rose Hill), SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Stony Brook, RIT, Union College, RPI, Princeton, UPenn, Tufts, Columbia, and Vanderbilt. I’m nervous though, I’m not sure if attending an “elite” school would be good for me. Any opinions would be appreciated…

and no @collegemom3717, as amazing as that sounds, my family can’t afford to send me to England or Ireland, haha (I’m a twin, paying for college is going to be a disaster as it is)