CASE: Casey is a first grader who is brought to the pediatrician for consideration of ADHD. His mother is concerned that he is very difficult to focus at home when asked to do anything and gets so distracted at meals that he eats very little. The teachers last year and this year say that Casey is very distracted, always “in a fog” and just can't seem to get his work done. “He's in his own world.” His report card has several unsatisfactory marks because of poor completion of work, doing things other than the assignment and talking too much to the kids around him. The parents are very upset as they see their son as very bright. His advanced vocabulary, early reading skills and his extensive knowledge of engines, machines and aircraft were all noted in his medical chart in the past as part of his health supervision visits. He has lots of friends, mostly third graders and plays soccer with moderate success. The paternal grandmother says Casey is just like his dad who is now a biochemical geneticist. He too had a hard time getting his work in as a child and “always talked back” to the teacher. Casey's mother would like him on medication before the Iowa Basics come around. The Vanderbilt rating scales by both teacher and parent are positive for inattention and borderline for hyperactivity. Casey took it upon himself to speak to the principal about how bored he was with the classroom work. She agreed that he could have some special assignments.
In the pediatrician's office, Casey is a delightful, verbal, thin boy who has about 100 things to talk about, from train engines to the sports scores, acquired from the television sports channel, to what should be done to “fix” his school. He said he was bored and knew more about volcanoes than the science teacher. He just wanted to get home each day and work on his elaborate train setup. He doesn't seem overly active, distractible, anxious, inattentive or oppositional. Testing by the school psychologist showed him to have an IQ of 138 with an even verbal/performance profile.
Sam is a 4-year old whose parents brought him to the local private school for application to kindergarten. The admission requirements consisted of a group “developmental” test, given to groups of 20 youngsters at a time. Sam failed the test. The report said that he was too immature, talked out of turn and generally wasn't ready for the vigorous academic program planned at that school. He asked too many questions and argued with the admissions person. They suggested he might need medication before he attempted school. His parents asked their pediatrician for an opinion on the school report. They asked for a referral for testing as they could not believe their son was a preschool failure. The psychologist reported that his IQ was 142 (verbal 146 and performance 136).
Yi Hui Liu, MD, MPH, Division of General Academic Pediatrics, University of California San Diego.
Jamie Lien, MD, Pediatric Resident, University of California San Diego.
Tina Kafka, Curriculum Coordinator, Explorer Elementary Charter School, San Diego, California.
Martin T. Stein, MD, Director of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, University of California San Diego, Children's Hospital San Diego.