For many of us, the word “gifted” brings to mind very specific assumptions. It’s an elite label that we put on high achieving children for whom things will come easily. We believe that success is pretty much guaranteed.
But, not necessarily.
Many parents who seek my help have been told that their child is gifted.
They’ve breathed a sigh of relief knowing that “he’ll figure it out, he’s smart.” At the same time, they may have received the news that their child has a learning challenge such as dyslexia or has an emotional problem.
How can this be? Aren’t these contradictions? Too often, I find that the connection between these two is not made. This can be detrimental to both the child’s learning and mental health.
Giftedness means having a brain that is wired differently.
While no two gifted people are the same, gifted individuals can have extreme sensitivities, intensities, creative and intellectual drives and perfectionism.
The inner world of the gifted child can be much larger than he knows how to express and sometimes learning how to be in the world can be difficult. While many people associate the term “special needs” with children who have developmental or learning challenges, it means only that a child has “special needs” and gifted children are a special needs population.
The Columbus Group, a small group of individuals (parents, educators, and psychologists) who, in the late 1980’s worked with highly to profoundly gifted children in Columbus, Ohio, sought to re-define giftedness in terms of the inner experience of the individual.
They define giftedness as follows,
“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (The Columbus Group, 1991)
Asynchronous development means that the child is not following the developmental milestones that we expect from a typical child.
He may say his first word at four months, but not read until age 10. She may hold a calculus book in one hand and a teddy bear in the other at age 9.