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Unique Needs of Gifted and Talented Kids

What common misconceptions or challenges gifted children face in school?


Parents, educators, tutors, and administrators may minimize the impact of giftedness, claiming these children do not need services. Families who advocate for their children may be labeled as overinvolved or elitist and insensitive to academically struggling students’ needs. There are widespread assumptions that gifted children will “do just fine on their own,” and some are relegated to “tutoring their peers” or they may receive busywork to occupy their time. As a result, gifted children may become disillusioned with school, exhibit behavioral problems, or underachieve. Some gifted children present with “twice exceptional” conditions; they are intellectually gifted but struggle with psychological or learning-related problems that limit their engagement with school or their ability to achieve academically. Examples include learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Many gifted children with these conditions are never identified as gifted because without a proper assessment, their diagnoses mask their innate abilities.

On the other hand, some receive little support for twice exceptional conditions because their intellect allows them to “get by” just enough to remain unnoticed. For example, a gifted child with ADHD might perform at grade level; their distractibility limits their ability to concentrate, but their giftedness aids their performance just enough so that their difficulties are never identified. Both their ADHD and their giftedness are overlooked.

Giftedness is often confused with achievement, and gifted underachievers are sometimes refused services because they did not earn high enough grades. No other exceptionality would be denied the specialized learning instruction they needed because they were struggling in school. 

What are some of the main differences in the emotional needs a gifted child may present compared to their non-gifted peers?

In my expereince, gifted students present with heightened sensitivity, intensity, and a desire for fairness and social justice. This creates a situation where they may be highly reactive to emotionally or socially challenging interactions and often feel a sense of frustration. Some gifted children are perfectionistic and feel demoralized if they are not the best. Many gifted children exhibit asynchronous development, where their strengths and skillsets vary, or their social maturity lags far behind their intellectual abilities. But most of all, if their intellectual abilities are not challenged, they may become bored, lose their love of curiosity and either emotionally react or disengage altogether.

Proper assessment requires a thorough evaluation, which is why Dr. Brosius completes a comprehensive assessment. A full understanding of strengths and weaknesses is required to illuminate your child's abilities. For more infromation, contact Gretchen, her assistant at 703-215-4101.

Author
Dr. Debra Brosius Licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years of experience.

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