The school principal and my son's teacher want not only to hold him back, but also to put him back into the second grade just because his writing is bad. He also distracts some of the other students and speaks out of turn. They insisted that we take him in for a medical evaluation for ADHD and put him on Ritalin. This has helped him calm down in the classroom, but by the end of the week he sits around like a zombie and is not the child that he should be. They don't seem to give one iota about his abilities or interests, but only want him to conform to their standards! How can I tell if these are signs of giftedness or ADHD?
Unfortunately, this evaluation process is more an art than a science. There's no perfect test to determine if your child has an attention deficit disorder. In any case, it sounds like the dosage of the Ritalin your son is taking is not being monitored carefully. He should never seem like a "zombie" to you. Call the toll-free number for CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders) at 1-800-233-4050 to get some guidance about good practitioners in your area.
Despite your child's real gifts, he's also exhibiting some academic delays in writing. I would ask for a complete evaluation by your local committee on special education. (You're entitled to receive this for free.) Many factors can contribute to the appearance of ADHD. You need to get the whole picture of what is going on with your child -- and that includes measures of his potential versus an evaluation of his performance across academic areas. Armed with information, you can make a much more informed decision about what kind of help he needs. Good luck!