5.4 How different?

If you suspect your child is gifted, you many notice a lot of signs. IQ isn’t the only thing that distinguishes a profoundly gifted child from other students. Though their intelligence is clearly the most prevalent feature, ironically, it may not be the first thing that a teacher notices when faced with a child whose intellectual potential exceeds her own. If you think your child might fit the bill for the profoundly gifted, read on for some valuable information and tips to help your child succeed in school and in life.

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They’re Precocious in Nearly Every Way
Studies of highly and profoundly gifted students have revealed that these students aren’t just smart -- they’re advanced at nearly everything they do. Although there are exceptions to the rule, these children tend to walk, talk, and achieve other developmental milestones much earlier than other kids. Obviously, they are mentally advanced, but not just when it comes to reading and math; students with extremely high IQs develop an awareness of “self vs. others” much earlier than their peers. For example, most preschool and Kindergarten students are entirely self-absorbed and therefore don’t compare themselves to others in their class. Profoundly gifted students in this same age group, however, can and do observe not only their own behaviors, but the behaviors of the children around them as well. They may comment on a friend’s speech, for instance, or wonder why Susie can’t read yet. Their curiosity isn’t born out of arrogance, but from an almost desperate need to understand why they’re so different from their peers.

They’re At Greater Risk for Social Isolation
It’s because of this early and keen awareness that profoundly gifted students are at a greater risk for social isolation. Although all gifted students are susceptible to social difficulties, exceptionally gifted students find it particularly difficult to relate to others because firstly, they are so very different and secondly, they’re painfully aware of it. Instead of being proud of their accomplishments, many highly intelligent students feel ashamed and will begin to hide their abilities in an attempt to fit in with their classmates. Since they typically have little in common with their same-aged peers, however, this attempt is usually an unsuccessful one. This realization can result in further isolation and even depression. Exceptionally gifted students are not socially inept though. When given the opportunity, profoundly gifted students often get along swimmingly with students who are 2, 3, or even 5+ years older than them. Unfortunately, since these children are almost always put in classrooms with students of the same age, regardless of their academic ability, few have the chance to form meaningful relationships with older kids. This system forces an artificial and unnecessary sense of social isolation.

They May Not Appear Gifted
Ironically, the most gifted of all students are often the ones who fall through the cracks. This is especially true for students who aren’t identified within the first couple of years of schooling. As profoundly gifted students become more aware of their differences, they are more likely to try to blend in with their peers, either mimicking their behavior or becoming completely withdrawn. As they realize that they cannot assimilate to the classroom environment, they may become increasingly apathetic about school. This apathy often evolves into anger. Some highly gifted students decide that school just isn’t their thing, rebelling against their teachers and refusing to complete their school assignments. Many teachers see this behavior and dismiss the students as incapable when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. In these cases, someone -- whether it be a teacher or more likely, a parent -- must intervene. It’s imperative that these children come to grips with the fact that they’re not like other people, and more importantly, they must accept the fact that this is ok.

They’re Underserved
Perhaps the most important distinction we can make about profoundly gifted students is the recognition that they’re grossly underserved. Schools make many accommodations for the learning disabled and for students who are moderately gifted, but for the smartest among us, there is often little to no intervention or assistance. Even when teachers do recognize a gifted student who hasn’t been accurately identified, many of them turn a blind eye to the situation. Schools often favor classroom management over individual assistance, and in these situations, gifted students who require enrichment or more challenging assignments can easily be perceived as a nuisance. When this perception takes over, many teachers resort to assigning busy work which, of course, bores gifted students, and the cycle continues.

They Need Advocacy
More than any other group of students, the profoundly gifted are in need of advocacy. The parents of these students are likely more aware of their intellectual capacity than anyone else. That’s why it’s imperative that parents either speak up and demand that schools listen or provide the necessary educational resources themselves. Whether you develop a relationship with your school’s administrators and teachers or take a do-it-yourself approach, keep in mind that a profoundly gifted student requires:
  • A stimulating environment
  • Challenging tasks
  • Lots of encouragement
  • Relationships with people of similar intelligence levels
  • The freedom of choosing which activities to pursue
  • Stimulation of all senses
  • Interactive assignments rather than passive lectures
  • Autonomy to explore curiosities
If you suspect that your child is profoundly gifted, then the first step is to have him or her tested. An IQ score will confirm your suspicions and allow you to provide the necessary resources and accommodations your child needs to excel, not only in the classroom, but in life as well!

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