The term “gifted” can be misleading. Some people may think that since gifted children possess the special “gift” of high intelligence, they do not need any extra help and will succeed no matter what. This line of thinking does these children a disservice. While it is true that many gifted children do very well both academically and socially, it is important to remember that giftedness can bring with it its own set of social-emotional challenges that require understanding and ongoing support from adults. In this article, I discuss the challenges in navigating peer relationships that some gifted children face. I also explore possible ways to address these challenges. Continue reading Gifted Children: Navigating Peer Relationships
“They never talked about how far ahead he was in reading or other subjects,” said one parent of her son’s experience in first grade. “They never named it. It seemed like there was an invisible line, and the teacher’s job was to make sure that all the students reached that line. But anything that was above that line, they just didn’t notice.”
The first step that parents and educators can take towards meeting the needs of a gifted child is to acknowledge that the child is gifted. With this acknowledgment should come the understanding that this child has unique cognitive, educational, and social-emotional needs. “It takes a while to come to the understanding that really, it is a question of needs,” says a parent of two children who have been identified as gifted. “It is not a question of wants; it is not a question of ‘it would be nice if…’. As a parent, you have to keep looking for opportunities to address their needs.” In the publication, A Nation Deceived: How schools hold back America’s brightest students, leading researchers in the field of gifted education, Colangelo, Assouline, and Gross (2004), agree. “Doing nothing is not the same as ‘do no harm,’ they write of educating gifted children. “The evidence indicates that when children’s academic and social needs are not met, the result is boredom and disengagement from school” (1).
In order to keep a gifted child excited about learning, parents and teachers must work together to figure out how to best meet the child’s academic needs. When appropriate, the child herself can also participate in this conversation. The goal of the conversation is to create an educational plan that would keep the child appropriately challenged and engaged in the learning process.
Parents bring their children into my office for a variety of reasons, but usually the children are there because somehow their cognitive, academic, or social-emotional needs are not being met by their current environment. Sometimes, after I get to know the child and conduct an evaluation, it becomes clear that the child is gifted, and that giftedness is part of the equation of this child’s unmet needs.
One 12-year-old boy told me his reasons for wanting to be evaluated: “I want to find out how many people in the world have a personality like me, because I want to know: where do I fit in?” He then poignantly added, “at lunchtime, all the boys want to talk about football, and I want to talk about physics!” A 16-year-old I tested shared with me that middle school had been the hardest time for him, because that’s when he “had the most disagreements with teachers on the worth of what we were doing.” A mother of a 6-year-old girl told me that her daughter comes home from school looking dejected, and described what she termed as her daughter’s “nerdy acting out.” When the girl’s first grade teacher asked the children to write down different ways to make the number 6, the girl wrote “2×3” and “-1 + 7”. The teacher then told the girl that “that’s not what we are doing right now.” After that incident, this child became even more disengaged from school.
When I share the results of the evaluation with parents and with the child, we discuss how being gifted is an important part of the child’s unique learning profile and of the unique way this child relates to the world.
At this point, it becomes important to clarify: what does “being gifted” mean?