Few people understand the challenges that come with raising a gifted child. If your 2-year old is reading or your 7-year old is doing algebra, others might accuse you of hot-housing the child, pushing her to go beyond what her true intellectual capabilities. Not only do you have to deal with this judgement, but gifted children also tend to be a bit more than other children — more active, more curious, more disobedient, and more emotional.
Inappropriate educational environments can make things even worse. While one might think that a child with a high IQ would naturally do well in school, this isn’t always the case. In fact, some gifted children are never identified because they don’t fit the profile of a high achiever. Consider some of the challenges that gifted children and their parents face, along with potential solutions.
Boredom, Acting Out, and Underachievement
A gifted child may need only a cursory explanation of a concept like addition or a grammar rule before “getting it”. Other students may need weeks of practice. Gifted students are often not challenged in typical classrooms. Each child responds to this differently. While one child is happy to quickly finish a worksheet and silently read from his favorite book while others finish, another student might finish and try talking to his friends. Another might even refuse to do the work because he feels that it’s beneath him. This can lead the teacher to think it’s because he doesn’t understand the material and needs remedial help. No matter how the gifted child responds to the environment, it’s clear that the lack of challenge can prevent him from reaching his full potential. Though there’s a lack of exact statistics, according to the Duke Talent Identification Program, some gifted children eventually choose to drop out of school.
Overexcitabilities and Misdiagnosis
Gifted students often have what’s referred to as “overexcitabilities,” an idea discovered by Kazimierz Dabrowski. These include psychomotor, intellectual, sensual, imaginational, and emotional overexcitabilties. For instance, many gifted kids with intellectual overexcitabilities have an intense need to delve deeply into a topic of interest. These kids might take out every book in the library on snakes one week, then come home with a stack of books about Egypt the next. A child with an emotional overexcitability might have difficulties learning about war. When a doctor doesn’t realize that the child is gifted or doesn’t know much about giftedness, he might misdiagnose the child. Children with psychomotor overexcitabilities are frequently misdiagnosed as having ADHD. Children with imaginational overexcitabilities might be misdiagnosed as having an anxiety disorder. To complicate matters, real psychological problems can co-exist with overexcitabilities. It just takes an expert to tease them out.
Undiagnosed Learning Disabilities
Surprisingly, some gifted children also have learning disabilities. A lot of times, teacher don’t realize that the disability is there because the child can compensate with her natural intelligence. For instance, a dyslexic child might simply learn all words as sight words. When she comes to an unknown word, she doesn’t have the skills to sound it out. Even though she might be reading “on grade level,” reading could take twice as long as it does for a child who’s not dyslexic. This is not usually a problem in the early years, when students are learning to read, but it becomes difficult to deal with after third grade, when students must “read to learn”. When every subject relies on the ability to read, it can get overwhelming.
Making Social Connections
Gifted and talented students often have a hard time finding good friends. A preschooler might find himself frustrated with classmates’ lack of interest in astronomy, and a high schooler might be be bullied for being a nerd. Even children who can get along socially in a group of same-age peers may still struggle to feel like someone really gets them. Special gifted schools, pull-out programs, and other types of alternative groupings are usually the only solution for this problem.
Despite all of the problems that gifted children face, they are also often delightful to be around, and can really shine in the right type of environment. Unfortunately, most school teachers simply don’t have the knowledge or resources to properly differentiate for a single student.
Gifted children need a positive school environment that allows them to work at their own pace. A student who’s several years ahead in math might be average or behind in reading. At the Tenney School, we offer one-to-one classrooms, which allows us to completely personalize the education your child receives. This makes us the ideal school for gifted children, as well as children who simply don’t fit the usual classroom. Contact us to learn more about how your child could thrive in our school.