10 Facts You May Not Know About Gifted Children But Should

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. Shared social experiences can be hard to find.  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.

30 Comments

  1. There are several problems with this blog post. First, there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that giftedness is even an attribute / trait of people let along an inherited one. Giftedness is an educational / socially-constructed concept that denotes a lack of challenge or mismatch between readiness and environment (at least with regard to schools). There is certainly research on the genetic contribution of intelligence, but I know of no research to support the idea that “giftedness” however
    defined is genetic or an actual trait of people. It’s far more widely accepted that giftedness is a temporary state (See Renzulli, Lohman, Borland, Subotnik, McBee).

    Second, recent research by Dan Winkler at CSU showed that identified gifted students show no higher OEs (on four of five OEs) than do non-gifted kids. This is based on the published research literature which therefore calls into question whether OEs even exist as separate from many other psychological concepts.

    Third, the vast majority of research literature shows the gifted students suffer from no greater or lessor levels of social emotional struggles.

    I would love to see some of the empirical research bases for the posts in this blog.

    1. Scott, do you know anyone who is gifted? Like you, for a very long time I also thought that giftedness meant high achieving child and adult. Recently, after much research, I discovered that I was in fact gifted and everything fit together. Gifted people share many of the same traits.

      We share a curiosity and craving for knowledge. Do you?
      We share a sense of being “different”. Do you?
      We share a compelling sense of justice. Do you?
      We are very sensitive. Are you?
      We know things without being able to tell you how we know them. Do you?

      Just as I can’t explain how it feels to be of a different race, have cancer, or understand calculus, giftedness isn’t something you do, it’s who you are.

      Please continue to do more research.

      Besides Celi being a wonderful source, please look into Gail Post, Paula Prober, and read a book by Mary Elaine Jacobsen called The Gifted Adult. If you can make it through all of those and still not be convinced, that’s okay. It just means you’re not gifted; but at least then you’ll be better informed.

      Best of luck!

      1. Atlas – I am a professor of gifted education and my PhD is in the same area. But none of that matters. My post above refers to empirical research evidence – not anecdote or personal opinion.

      2. I’ve crafted a beautiful new suit of clothing for you. It’s woven with the finest hues and threads of gold. The only problem is that its intrinsic beauty is rendered invisible to anybody who isn’t gifted, but I’m sure that won’t be a problem for someone with your unique intelligence. Interested in buying?

    2. Scott,

      While the article states that “it is widely acknowledged” that giftedness is genetic, research studies proving this assumption beyond a shadow of a doubt are inadequate from a scientific standpoint. This article from Davidson Institute for Talent Development gives a thorough review of all research studies in this regard:http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10032.aspx

      In regard to the OE’s, I’m sure you’ve heard of the work of Kazimierz Dabrowski. But, like many studies and scientific research, many will object and refute it. Despite the work and research done by credible professionals, there will always be someone to find flaws in the work. I find flaws in Renzulli’s work. Empirical data and research studies, no matter how well done, are never infallible and always refutable. For every study that claims one fact, another can deny it.

      If you are well-read in the professional and educational literature available throughout the gifted community, you know the points made in this article are all very widely accepted which is why there are hundreds upon thousands of articles discussing the very points made in this article. Are they all completely defendable with empirical data that is irrefutable? I doubt it. Will there ever be enough research done to prove these posits beyond a shadow of a doubt? Probably not. There will always be a need for more research.

      For now, parents, teachers and others who work with, teach and are raising gifted children, we accept and acknowledge the anecdotal evidence available for decades that allows us to educate, counsel and raise these gifted children so that they can reach their full potential.

      For me personally, I can’t ignore my children’s giftedness and the inherent struggles until I have irrefutable empirical data to prove to me what I already know. That would be wrong in so many ways.

      Sincerely,
      Celi Trepanier

      1. Saying things are “widely accepted” and that the actual empirical research that does exist is “flawed” is not a logical argument. Note I said nothing about giftedness not existing. Instead I just pointed out that several of the statements made in your post are not accurate representations of the current knowledge base in gifted education. Also note that I said nothing about proving anything beyond doubt, just that there is no empirical research suggesting giftedness, however defined, is a genetic trait carried by some humans and not others.

      2. Thanks so much reading this article has really helped me as a mother I have 11 year old son who is gifted and will start 6th grade he will be alp learning advance classes for writing and reading will be doing 7th grade work . He has adhd and was diagnosed with mild Aspergers… He does have problems with being social and feeling different. He’s also had problems with anxiety and nervous not liking certain sounds or the way certain clothes feel. He can get really scared of bees or bugs. Because knowing facts of harmful ones that aren’t even in this country. He is in play Theapry and has learn coping skills. In some areas he’s gotten better. But the last week he was complaining that he thought he heard me calling him and I’m no I didn’t. Also like 2 weeks ago he said he kept hearing buzzing I thought it could be the neighbors motorcycle or people mowing but today he just came told me the same thing and was very upset and I’m like what I don’t what to say what to think I told him that it was just his mind and getting himself worked up and over thinking … I asked him if he was still hearing it he said no. That’s when I decided to google about it to see if any other kids experience this that are gifted. Is there something I can do or should I discuss this with his doc and play therapist. It’s only been since 3-5 grade that I learned about a child being gifted and learning how different it can be rasing children that are gifted. This is all still new to me but I want to be very support of my son and make sure I do everything I can for him to excell in school and outside of school.

    3. I’m sure you have seen studies of prodigies, especially young kids in early elementary that can write at high school level. Some even younger kids that write far in excess of their age. Do you really think that comprehensive writing and comprehensive, detailed grammar can be taught to a kid of that age in just 3 or 4 years, prior to second grade? If the skill of acquiring the knowledge isn’t taught, it’s inherited. There are only two possibilities. If you want proof of giftedness, simply look at young prodigies, ones too young to have been coached by their parents. If those prodigies are not gifted, then those without comparable progress are by definition, disabled. The *difference* is repeatedly observable and undeniable. We may not know how something is inherited. Genetics and genetic interactions are extremely complex. But if we can not explain a talent by teaching and there are differences in the way individuals learn, then the attribute is heritable.

  2. I am sad to see the snark in these comments. A child is just a child. Gifted kids are often bullied by adults, and it is unclear to them why. This list, copied from a commenter, doesn’t need some great study to verify. EVERY gifted child has lived it.

    “Gifted people share many of the same traits.

    We share a curiosity and craving for knowledge. Do you?
    We share a sense of being “different”. Do you?
    We share a compelling sense of justice. Do you?
    We are very sensitive. Are you?
    We know things without being able to tell you how we know them. Do you?

    Just as I can’t explain how it feels to be of a different race, have cancer, or understand calculus, giftedness isn’t something you do, it’s who you are.”

    What is missing from the list is the cruelty that such children are hit with, not from their fellow students, but all too often from teachers who have a visceral dislike of kids who do their own thinking and who will challenge anything that doesn’t make sense.

    1. Your last statement about challenging anything that doesn’t make sense. I fear that this will really irritate some teachers as my son goes through school. He questions everything. Not just to be defiant, but because he has to know. And he will remember and later associate it with new learning.

      1. Oh, great; now I am having what my husband calls “Nam flashbacks” to my own elementary school days. Luckily, our kids never experienced any of that. BUT, one of my kids had such a need for order that she alerted parents to other children doing things that were wrong. When we tried to tell one of her first teachers that she would do this, the teacher immediately dismissed her as “a tattler.” Sigh. Luckily,it could be straightened out, but, still…!

  3. When your 5 standard deviation kid goes to a 0 standard deviation school… You wonder how much potential is flushed down the drain…

      1. Because every parent has the time or resources.

        Because every gifted child loves museums.

        Because it’s so bloody easy to just pick up and move.

      2. The weird thing about being a parent is the fact that they now have the responsibility to raise a child, no matter what their needs are. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want schools to raise my child, nor do I expect them to do my job in enriching their education. Communities have all sorts of resources. A good start is always the public library. The great thing about focusing on the needs of your child is you can actually zero in on their individual needs, not the needs of the group. You can also talk to the teacher and ask that your child be more challenged. Most teachers do this anyway through the different levels of questions they ask during class discussions. So yes, parents do have a certain amount of responsibility for the individual education of their child. It’s called being proactive.

      3. Don’t presume to lecture me.

        My son is multilingual. I had the luxury of being a SAHM. I also had the luxury of moving my child to Europe.

        But I’m also acutely aware of the challenges other parents face and your simplistic ‘solutions’ smack of a sort of victim blaming.

        And regardless of the parent’s situation, a child spends a lot of time at school and every child deserves a quality education that takes their differences into account.

        Haul yourself out of your ivory tower, hun.

      4. I’m happy you had that luxury. As you pointed out, most people don’t. I am one of those people, who raised a gifted child. She turned out quite successful with the help of the public school system and her family support of her interests. She’s only bilingual though. It all depends on the time you invest, which I did, and you are obviously doing.

      5. Five standard deviations is 75 points. Do you think a child with an IQ of 25 would do well in traditional classes? It’s the same whether you’re five deviations above or below: you need special education. No amount of time in a museum is going to make up for what you aren’t getting in school.

      6. You have never been in our classrooms. We have fun, and the kids are working at their own levels. You cannot compare a child with an IQ of 25 with a child of even average intelligence. That’s just silly. In an ideal situation, all of these kids would be getting special services, because you’re right, they need them just like a child with a learning disability needs them. They used to have them, and my daughter benefited as much as my borderline LD son. But until this country’s leaders realize that no amount of testing at the cost of literally billions a year (between curriculum and the actual test) is going to help these kids, it’s not going to happen. We’re a basically low to mid income district, and we were given the opportunity to get our gifted endorsements, which has helped tremendously. It’s not perfect, but coupled with trips to the museums and the like by way of parents, it’s getting there!

  4. Despite my sons IQ (141) that puts him in the top 2%. Despite the fact that in tests his reading an comprehension is in the top 3% in Australia. Because of his Aspergers he writes very slowly in fact he does everything slowly and meticulously. My son has never been extended in any subject at school. He is not allowed extra time for classroom assessments or in any of the education department tests. In fact no very high IQ child with learning disabilities is allowed extra time or electronic typewriters in tests. If Steven Hawking did the test they would take away his computer that enables him to communicate and give him a big fat 0.

  5. Thank you for this article. It does not only help me understand my gifted teen with whom we have struggled mightily. She is an emotional wreck, full of anger, struggling with Misophonia, depression, ADD (no H), and the like, but highly creative and advanced verbally (150 verbal IQ). We have pulled her from school and I am also a public school teacher. Still struggling to get her to start the online high school program we purchased for her. But this article also helped me understand myself. I am a high school dropout who returned to college in my late 20s and excelled. I have dyslexia and dysgraphia, ADD, extremely high verbal skills (though never tested), highly creative, etc. The note that really struck for me is #7. I have always felt like I am an outsider. Still do. I have friends and I am social, but I always feel like I stand outside of whatever circle of fiends with which I happen to be involved. I do much better one on one, but I often cannot continue friendships if I feel that they have betrayed me, betrayals that others seem to learn to get over and move on with the friendship. I finally found my true love and true friend in my husband who is also highly intelligent, highly creative, and always felt a bit outside. I believe that his status as a man made life a little easier for him, but he nonetheless has found real understanding only with me. For both my husband and me, our creativity has been difficult to harness because we are creative in so many different areas that we have failed to fully develop any. He was a concert violinist and is an essayist, a poet, a novelist, an artist, a cook, etc. I am a poet, essayist, artist, seamstress, carpenter, cook, crafter, used to dance, used to act. Jack of all trades and master of none, We always felt like we would have been highly successful if we had been talented or able to focus on only one area. Sorry for such a long comment. I am interested in your thoughts and hope that maybe these experiences speak to others. I will definitely be getting your book.

    1. Thank you for that, Dana. I grew up in a small community in the 1980s. In Grade 1 I was placed in the lower stream based on statistics that showed that children of single parents tend to be less successful in school. My mother told the principal that I was gifted and they should test me, but they couldn’t be bothered. My Grade 1 teacher not only lacked social skills, she was physically abusive. My glowing report cards in kindergarten predicted a bright future and I loved going to school. After Mrs Goetz, I never wanted to go to school again. I succeeded in grade school without trying, but had no passion or work ethic for when school finally got hard in high school. I started failing classes and dropped out. Still, I managed to get a good job and a good life. At 33, I butted heads with my boss and she sent me to a fitness to work evaluation to try to get me on disability leave. The psychologist administered an IQ test and found that I was in the 98th percentile overall, and the 99.9th percentile verbally. Gifted! She also diagnosed ADHD. Twice exceptional! Things that might have been good to know much earlier in life. Long story short, the psychologist told me how much more I was capable of, and I’m finally getting a post-secondary education at 35. I have a 4.0 GPA and I’m finally enjoying school. It’s never too late, but it sure would have been nice to have more support when I was both a gifted child and a child with a disability and no one in the school system cared.

  6. Good article. Am not sure that the example of OE about the dog and the car is helpful in really understanding the differences and intensity of an OE reaction. That reaction to seeing an accident is normal – typical shock.

  7. I raised a gifted son. It was a struggle all through elementary school and middle school. When your 4 year old is sitting in their car seat and starts counting backwards from 100 and gets it correct all the way to zero you realize theres something different about him. He advanced academically but not socially. We were blessed to find a few older boys who were also gifted so he had a few friends. We were also blessed to be able to send him to summer CTY programs. It was okay for him to be smart there. It wasn’t until high school that the social and academic skills caught up to each other. At that point he could make same age friends. Now in college he’s more than excelling. I find it very frustrating with all the information that’s out there that schools still far way short of the mark in educating the gifted kids. Our elementary school finally started what they called a gifted program, but it was based on language arts. My son was gifted in the math and sciences. There were no programs for him.

  8. Thank you for this article. I am struggling with my 12 year old. She excelled in elementary school, she was one of the “easy” ones for the teachers and did what she wanted to in class. She is now in an advanced 6th grade program and struggling. She was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. I am struggling too on how to help her and encourage her in school.

    1. Hi Martha. Lovely to have your comment and truly understand the struggles you are going through. Particularly as your daughter is entering her teen years. One of our writers, Dr Robert Brown, did a post last week that might be of interest to you and your daughter. He discusses helping your child with their work ethic. This is particularly applicable for students have have found early study quite easy and don’t have the opportunity to develop study skills for later learning. Hope you find it of value:

      “Help Your Child Build an Indestructible Work Ethic” – http://www.fractuslearning.com/2016/03/25/child-indestructible-work-ethic/

  9. Thanks so much reading this article has really helped me as a mother I have 11 year old son who is gifted and will start 6th grade he will be alp learning advance classes for writing and reading will be doing 7th grade work . He has adhd and was diagnosed with mild Aspergers… He does have problems with being social and feeling different. He’s also had problems with anxiety and nervous not liking certain sounds or the way certain clothes feel. He can get really scared of bees or bugs. Because knowing facts of harmful ones that aren’t even in this country. He is in play Theapry and has learn coping skills. In some areas he’s gotten better. But the last week he was complaining that he thought he heard me calling him and I’m no I didn’t. Also like 2 weeks ago he said he kept hearing buzzing I thought it could be the neighbors motorcycle or people mowing but today he just came told me the same thing and was very upset and I’m like what I don’t what to say what to think I told him that it was just his mind and getting himself worked up and over thinking … I asked him if he was still hearing it he said no. That’s when I decided to google about it to see if any other kids experience this that are gifted. Is there something I can do or should I discuss this with his doc and play therapist. It’s only been since 3-5 grade that I learned about a child being gifted and learning how different it can be rasing children that are gifted. This is all still new to me but I want to be very support of my son and make sure I do everything I can for him to excell in school and outside of school.

    1. Thanks for such a heartfelt comment Makaela. It sounds like you and your son have a wonderful relationship and your support is the best thing you can continue to give.
      If you are in any doubt whether to see a doctor or not, then you should absolutely do so. It’s always better to try and deal with these challenges earlier than later.
      Thank you again and wishing you and your son all the best.

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