Gifted and Talented: Understanding Giftedness
Giftedness comes in many forms. I state the obvious because it’s easy to forget when school myopically focuses on linguistic and mathematical prowess. This articles focuses on academic giftedness because Central Park Tutors is a resource for all things academic. We don’t teach singing and horseback riding and so don’t address them here, but many of the concepts that are addressed in this article are universally applicable to families whose children demonstrate giftedness in nonacademic areas.
Gifted children are not at the top of most educators’ priority list. When faced with children who are struggling to learn basic skills, educators too often forget about gifted kids who seem to require less than their peers. In fact, educators aren’t even particularly good at identifying gifted children. Most of them aren’t trained to identify giftedness and often confuse it with other traits, such as confidence, verbosity and exceptional intrinsic motivation. Dr. Miraca Gross, a leading scholar of education for the gifted, warns that teacher nomination is “probably the least effective method of identifying gifted children in the early years of school.”
The problem is compounded when the child doesn’t behave in ways that are celebrated at school. A 1988 study by Drs. George Betts and Marueen Neihart showed that as high as 90% of children identified as gifted by untrained teachers were high-achieving conformists who sought approval from teachers and acted accordingly. These are the so-called well-behaved students who pose few problems for teachers and administrators. The study suggests that gifted students who don’t fit this profile are unlikely to be identified.
If not the teachers then who will identify these children? Not surprisingly, it’s the people who know them best, i.e. their parents. Studies have consistently shown that parents are more reliable than teachers in identifying giftedness. A 1992 study of 550 children reported that half of the children identified as gifted by their parents had i.q.s of 132 or higher. Considering that only 2.3% of the population scores in this range, a rate of 50% accuracy is extraordinary.
Gifted children who are not adequately challenged run the risk of becoming bored and uninterested in school. They may benefit from early intervention and an individualized education plan. Unfortunately in many cases, it will be up to parents to identify and advocate for their child. If you suspect your child is gifted, we encourage you to explore the resources below and to consider psychometric testing. We can work with you to supplement your child’s education so that s/he is challenged, engaged and growing.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development
“Small Poppies: Highly Gifted Children in the Early Years” by Dr. Miraca Gross.
Dr. Gross is a leader in the field of education for gifted children. She argues that gifted children are woefully underserved.