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What To Look For in Those Diagnosed with ADHD with High IQ

September 21, 2023

The neurodiverse world is surrounded by different stigmas, ADHD with high IQ is a topic discussed. The discussions are whether there is a connection, how does masking affect this, and are all people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) geniuses, and many others.

What To Look For in Those Diagnosed with ADHD with High IQ

In this article, the goal will be to help dispel some of these stigmas and other potentially toxic ways of viewing individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD. It is important to note that if your child is experiencing any of the signs and ADHD symptoms, it is helpful to talk to their doctor about what the diagnostic criteria are and open the conversation to better understand ADHD and what support and resources are available for your child and family.

There are people who use both Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) interchangeably with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The argument is that ADHD has a behavioral aspect, which is the hyperactivity in the name, whereas ADD is more disruption with attention.

ADHD symptoms include:

It is important to note that symptoms can change as an individual as they get older, among other aspects. It is also important to know that the criteria for diagnosis differs depending on age and all encompass a consistent difficulty with being able to pay attention for a length of time, as well as impulsive and hyperactivity that can interfere with daily activities and development.

Difficulty paying attention (inattention):

Children up to age 16 who display at least six of these developmentally inappropriate behaviours and characteristics that have been present in the last six months, or five if the individual is 17 years or older:

  • Carelessness or inattention to details with schoolwork or other activities
  • Difficulty focusing on different task at hand or activities
  • Doesn’t seem to hear when someone is speaking to them
  • Has a hard time with follow through when given instructions or finishing duties and school assignments, playing sports, or at work
  • Difficulty with organization of different assignments and goals
  • Is less likely to partake in challenging activities for a longer period if time
  • Distracts easy
  • Tends to be forgetful or absentminded with tasks and assignments and misplacing items needed for schoolwork or other activities

Impulsive and hyperactive behavior:

Children up to age 16 who display at least six of these developmentally inappropriate behaviors and characteristics that have been present in the last six months, or five if the individual is 17 years or older:

  • Seems fidgety and squirms around in their seat, unable to sit still
  • Gets up and moves around an area when they are expected to sit
  • Likes to run, climb, jump, etc. when it isn’t appropriate or displays restlessness
  • Difficulty with calm, quiet, and overall laid back activities without being louder than others
  • Seems like they are unable to stay still and have to constantly move
  • Talks a lot with verbal outbursts, interruptions, and not waiting their turn to speak
  • Has an overall hard time with turn taking

Along with the above symptoms, the individual would also need to display:

  • Impulsive and/or hyperactivity disorder in children before 12 years old
  • Multiple symptoms are displayed in multiple places like at home, work, school, sports field, etc.
  • There are obvious behavioral interferences that affect the quality of life, functionality, and interactions in the school, work, home, etc.
  • Symptoms that are present cannot be diagnosed as another mental health disorder like anxiety or other personality disorder. They also aren’t present if or when there is a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia.

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The main points in this article will be:

  • Is there a link between ADHD and higher IQ?
  • Can ADHD symptoms affect IQ?
  • Do people diagnosed with higher IQ mask their ADHD symptoms?

The ideas stated in this article are by no means meant to take the place of professional help. As stated above, if you have any questions or concerns when it comes to your child’s health, it is always a good idea to talk to their doctor or other medical and/or mental health professional to get the best results for your child.

As with many other factors and situations, children with ADHD diagnosis that have higher IQ scores can vary dependent on the individual, external, and internal factors. There have been different studies that have tried to explain these differences and have a hard time because of the differences based on the individual.

In one article, High intelligence and the risk of ADHD and other psychopathology, it was found that parents and teachers noted certain behaviors associated with the children with ADHD that had higher IQs. It was found that the factors that seemed to contribute the most to IQ was the individual’s ability to pay attention and how hyperactive and/or impulsive the individual was.

Higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsiveness seemed to lead to low IQ scores among the students discussed in the article. It was also found that a child’s ability to externalize problems played a part on the level of IQ, those with a higher IQ seemed to have fewer problems.

A lot of the findings are very individual based and can change depending on the environment and how the individual interacts with their environment and the people within that environment.

Can ADHD symptoms affect IQ?

Those that have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been found to have a harder time with executive functioning. These and difficulties with some other cognitive abilities needed for higher thinking and concentration can cause school difficulties and be difficult for individuals with more intense behavioral symptoms.

Cognitive impairments can be difficult if the children with ADHD have a harder time with concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors. For instance, if a child is constantly needing to move so they can focus but don’t have the tools necessary, like a kick bungee on their seat that they can use to keep their feet busy while listening to the lesson that is longer than expected, it can lead to not understanding or retaining the information that they were just taught.

There was an interview, ADHD and Intelligence Why YOU May Be Missed, on YouTube between Daniel Jones from the Aspie World on YouTube and Dr. Thomas Brown who wrote a book, ADHD and Asperger Syndrome in Smart Kids and Adults, about higher intellectual abilities among people with ADHD and autism. Dr. Brown discussed how different stimulant medications can help with some of the symptoms that people with ADHD display.

He also stated that dosage of these stimulant medications isn’t dependent on age and size, but rather the person’s tolerance of the medication. He stated that he treated children that are on dosages close to what he has prescribed adults and adults that cannot tolerate the dosage given to children and require less.

Basically, with these medications, he would sometimes see a decrease in behavior that affects higher executive functioning and would lead to these highly intelligent children being able to concentrate and function in their daily tasks. That is not always the case, but was discussed in the interview.

Do people diagnosed with higher IQ mask their ADHD symptoms?

It has been discussed that children with high IQ are typically better able to control impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and focus on their tasks. It may seem that they are using masking techniques.

It would depend on the individual, whether they are truly understanding what they have learned and the answers they are giving. It could also depend on whether they have received any type of ADHD support, medication, or therapies that may have taught them coping mechanisms for these behaviors.

It would be irresponsible to state that all children diagnosed with ADHD that have higher IQ mask their symptoms because that would not be true. As with any other diagnosis, it is very individualized and depends on the individual, their circumstances, and a number of other factors to indicate whether the child is only masking their symptoms to get through their day or if they really have the tools and support to be successful.

Wrapping up

It is so important to remember that like other learning disabilities and neurodiversity, symptoms and coping mechanisms are very individualized. They depend on the individual, their environment, and other aspects specific to them.

The ideas and thoughts, as well as any products discussed in this article are not endorsed by Autism Parenting Magazine. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, behavior, or overall health, please talk to their doctor or other trusted medical or mental health professional.

They will be able to diagnose or provide support for the individual’s overall well being. That could help improve their quality of life by teaching coping mechanisms and providing the individualized support they may need.


Antshel, K., Smeets, S., Greven, C., & Rommelse, N. (2017). High intelligence and the risk of ADHD and other psychopathology. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320507331_High_intelligence_and_the_risk_of_ADHD_and_other_psychopathology

Aspie World. (2022). ADHD and Intelligence Why YOU May Be Missed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU42MQelCpE&t=1453s

Centers for Disease Control. (2022). Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

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