But you are gifted, you should be at the top of your class!
I’ve been writing about gifted children for a few years now, and the more I write, and the more I connect with parents of gifted children, the more I realize just how misunderstood giftedness is, even among professionals who should have sufficient knowledge of giftedness in children. We need to shed light on what giftedness really is, and try to dispel the myths and misconceptions many believe about gifted children.
Sam is in my class this year. He’s gifted, so thankfully I won’t need to worry much about him because I do have a few students who will really need my help!
The following is a list of facts, traits and issues many would not recognize as a part of giftedness in children. Why such a list? It’s time to banish the many widely-held inaccurate perceptions of the gifted child. The pervasive but misguided idea of the gifted child—the child who excels in school, is well-behaved, is a natural leader and is emotionally mature—is the elephant in the room and that elephant needs to leave.
We need the facts to prevail so that gifted children can have, as all children should, the education and support they need to grow up to be happy and thriving adults.
I’m tired of hearing about her gifted child. What can be so hard about raising a smart kid? They always do well in school.
Ten Facts You May Not Know About Gifted Children But Should
1. It is widely acknowledged that giftedness is an inherent attribute.
Although a few believe giftedness can be achieved through nurturing, the overwhelming consensus is that giftedness is present at birth, an inherited trait. Chances are very high that one or both parents of a gifted child, as well as siblings, are also gifted. Approximately 2% of the population is said to be gifted regardless of race, culture or socioeconomic status. It is a neurodiversity which does not discriminate.
2. Gifted children do not always excel in school.
Being gifted is no guarantee of success in school or later in life. For many various reasons, a gifted child will not always score well on tests, ace every assignment or turn in his homework. Despite having above-average cognitive abilities, if a gifted child’s educational needs are not met appropriately, he may not show exceptional achievement in school. Many gifted children underachieve in school and often drop out.
3. Gifted children can and do have learning disabilities.
As with any child, a gifted child may have learning disabilities which can negatively influence their achievement in school. Unfortunately, gifted children with learning disabilities, also referred to as twice-exceptional, often go unidentified because their advanced cognitive abilities often mask their learning disabilities. It is common that neither the giftedness nor the learning disability are recognized or addressed in school.
4. Gifted children often develop asynchronously.
Asynchronous development is an imbalance or uneven growth of developing traits, skills and abilities—a gifted child’s intellectual abilities can be years ahead of their emotional maturity and social skills. A 12 year old child who understands high school algebra and science, but is unable to sleep at night alone without a nightlight, a fan and all of his stuffed animals is an example of asynchronous development in a gifted child.
5. Gifted children can have overexcitabilities (OE’s).
These are the emotional intensities and sensitivities set off by various forms of physical and psychological stimuli. A constant buzzing sound which causes extreme irritability and the inability to move on until the sound is located and stopped; the strong emotional reaction of shaking and vomiting from seeing a neighbor’s dog lying in the road after being hit by a car; and the gritty texture in`her mom’s turkey gravy which causes a gifted teen to totally refrain from eating the family’s holiday dinner are all examples of OE’s.
6. Gifted children often have difficulty finding like-minded friends.
Gifted children, with their intellectual, emotional and developmental differences, can have a difficult time finding friends or same-age peers who share and understand their intellectual interests and quirky traits. Parents of gifted children find this common situation the most painful to watch their gifted children experience.
7. Gifted children often feel like they don’t fit in.
They realize early on that they may be out of step or out of sync with children their own age. Feelings of isolation and not belonging can eventually lead to emotional struggles, depression, dropping out of school and even suicide.
8. Gifted children are gifted in and out of school.
It is not only an educational designation or label administered by schools to identify high-achieving children. The emotional intensities, asynchrony and social struggles leave school with the gifted child and follow him home. Being gifted is who they are, not how well they do in school.
9. Being gifted is not a net-positive situation.
Looking back at the above list, there are many facts about giftedness which demonstrate that being gifted is not an all-good-all-the-time situation. Being smarter or able to grasp and master concepts and skills above grade level is not a guarantee that any child has it made and will be successful in life.
10. Raising a gifted child is not easy.
Given the educational considerations, overexcitabilities, social struggles and asynchrony, life with a gifted child can easily come with its share of bumps in the road. Additionally, the reality that so many only see the stereotypical gifted child—the child who has it made—means parents find little support or empathy among other parents or adults when they need it most.
I wish my child could be gifted and get to attend special classes. Personally, I think all children are gifted and should be able to be in the gifted program.
Giftedness has its upsides and it downsides. It has many attributes which are misunderstood by many and are often not associated with giftedness in children. Because of this, the education of our gifted learners has been a global concern for some time. Every child should be able to receive an education which best meets his or her needs and offers the best chance to reach their full potential. Gifted children should, too.
Celi Trépanier is the author of Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling. She became a passionate advocate for gifted children after tiring of her battles with schools and their misunderstanding and neglect of gifted students.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Kain Kalju.