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It goes without saying that gifted children are as varied in their academic, psychological and social needs as the households that produce them. Some children have successfully managed to integrate their academic gifts and talents with who they are as a person while others struggle to make such adjustments.
One thing I hear most as an acceleration coach from parents is how their child exhibits scholastic talent at home but “dumb themselves down” to avoid being singled out in school. We as parents know all too well the disastrous affects this behavior can have not just on our children’s academic career but on their self-esteem and the realization of their full potential.
Going along to just “get along” can cause children to lose their sense of self by constantly seeking outside approval and yielding to the will and intentions of others. For many kids this has led to profound stress, depression and exaggerated angst that further complicate the natural maturation process. Whereas for gifted children whose parents have taken the time to instill the confidence that comes through a balanced recognition of their precociousness (through the meticulous amending of their children’s educational and social needs to complement their intellectual prowess), many of them have gone on to enjoy healthy self-concepts and fulfilling careers.
So how can YOU as a parent help your child to find equilibrium as a gifted child? Here are a few suggestions:
oIf they are already sensitive to having gifts and talents that sets them apart from their peers, try to avoid using the terms “gifted”, “genius”, or “precocious”. More than likely, they want to be perceived as normal and singling them out even further by sticking them with these labels will only exacerbate the situation.
oBe creative in finding ways to focus on and further develop their gifts at home without the use the above-mentioned terms. Just because they may not want to be identified as gifted around their peers doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want to engage in their gifts outside of school. They can’t help it! It’s just the way their brains are wired! Typically, who they are at their core will consistently drive them to want to learn and excel – albeit privately!
oIt is a known fact by experts that when children engage in activities they love and perform exceptionally well in…they become enthusiastic and inspired! This is where they find their POWER and within that their confidence will soar. You want to build up their self-esteem to the point where they become particularly proud of their gifts/talents and begin to stop caring about how others may perceive them.
oFinally, honor and acknowledge their personality/character traits. Tie some of their personal attributes to a successful life skill. For instance, once my daughter had difficulty grasping the way a particular lesson was being presented in her Pre-calculus class. After struggling a few minutes with the homework, she took the initiative to refer to other resources on the same lesson to find a “better way” that she could comprehend the information. Her tenacity and determination did pay off; attributes that serve as cornerstones to achievement in all of life’s endeavors!
Acknowledging the other personal virtues of children will help them to develop as a whole person and come to appreciate how they more than just their gifts.
Parents please remember that navigating this terrain isn’t just a matter of spontaneous spurts of adequate gifted instruction and personal attention. Raising precocious children requires commitment, skill and a lot of loving-kindness (in the form of patience) to realize a successful outcome.
Take solace in that the many parents who have come before you on this journey have already achieved the results they desired. You can most assuredly take your place among them!
Michelle Brown-Stafford,Acceleration Coach, Entrepreneur
The term gifted is used to describe children who have exceptionally high intelligence quotients (IQs); children who display unusual abilities in artistic, creative, physical, or niche areas; and children who are outstanding in both dimensions. Using the Wechsler or Stanford-Binet intelligence tests, children who score 130 or above-about 2% to 3% of the population-are labeled gifted.
However, because children with special gifts do not always achieve this IQ score, other assessment measures are also used to identify a broader range of special talents. Gifted children may score a year or more above their age or grade level on tests of academic achievement in language arts or math. Children with exceptional creativity may be identified by behavioral checklists evaluating innovative problem-solving skills, initiative in developing concepts, and even boredom with school routine. Children with outstanding musical, artistic, or physical competencies can be identified by teachers, tutors, or coaches. Children with unusual niche-fitting skills are often found through special activities in which they show gifted abilities in diverse areas such as leadership, computers, or practical mechanics. This broadened definition of giftedness emphasizes the contributions of both genetic inheritance of competencies and environmental influences of identifying, developing, and training these inherited potentials. Casting a broad net allows gifted children who are hard to identify-those with fewer environmental advantages, with physical handicaps, with cultural differences, or with underachieving barriers-to achieve their God-given potential.
It remains true that intellectual assessment through IQ and achievement tests provides more standardized results and more reliable prediction of success in educational endeavors. The question of appropriate schooling for gifted children is always under debate. Educators with a philosophy of heterogeneity maintain that keeping gifted children in classes with children of all other ability levels benefits both groups of children; this approach appeals to democratic as well as economic concerns in some school districts. Other educators argue the necessity of a separate school program with classes of only gifted children; curriculum can then be consistently ahead of grade level and there is freedom for the whole class to do challenging special projects to draw out creativity often associated with giftedness. In many cases gifted children are moved up to the next grade level with good academic results, but many parents raise concerns about age differences in psychosocial and physical development. In between the extremes, various enrichment programs seek to help gifted children reach their potential while still attending classes with peers of the same age and different abilities.
Teachers of identified gifted children describe their students as intellectually curious, lively in generating ideas and questions in discussion classes, exercising initiative to learn, and unusually self-motivated in areas of gift. Gifted children with supportive learning environments may be recognized in various areas of talent by their large oral and written vocabulary; ability to perceive and organize visual/spatial relationships; broad range of information and ability to store and recall the data quickly; capacity to generalize, conceptualize, and deduce; intensity of concentration; elaborate and clever responses; and persistence of effort.
Research in giftedness addresses questions of cognition and culture. There are four approaches to the study of how humans learn. The stimulus-response approach emphasizes learning by rote association. The widely utilized Piagetian approach stresses stages of biological and cognitive development, from the infant’s simple taking in data by the senses to the teen’s or adult’s highest order abstract and theoretical reasoning capability. The psychometric approaches seek to quantify and measure intelligence from two theoretical views: tests of general intelligence-Charles Edward Spearman’s “g,” a general mental energy or unitary underlying ability thought to exist in gifted persons; or tests of specific intelligence-multifactoral domains of ability, interconnected but distinct, such as spatial or comprehension abilities. The information processing approach seeks to understand the actual cognitive workings of the brain. Other theorists argue more attention should be paid to the outcomes of giftedness: do individuals apply their abilities not only to help solve social problems but also to identify significant new problems needing solutions? Giftedness, some theorists argue, must include development at the highest moral as well as intellectual levels. The values of the culture influence definitions of giftedness, these theoreticians maintain, and some children are thus not identified and given opportunities. Acknowledging the need for multiple tests of giftedness, proponents of intelligence testing still maintain considerable research shows no systematic or significant bias in IQ measurements and that IQ tests provide a fair and useful measure for identifying gifted individuals.
K.C. Brownstone is an independent scholar who believes that critical thinking and spiritual reasoning should not be mutually exclusive. She received theological education from Dallas Theological Seminary and Asbury Theological Seminary. Personal subjects of interest are psychology and counseling.
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