Guest blogger Rebecca Howell is the Senior Education Consultant for Potential Plus UK. Today she writes about why it matters to nurture gifted children.
The one thing that gifted children share is the ability to learn quickly when they are enthused, not stressed and not being affected by any difficulties they face. Many are passionate learners when they are well supported and barriers are removed. Sometimes they learn far too quickly for the system they are in, sometimes the lack of support they experience (for their strengths and weaknesses) gets in the way of them being able to achieve and thrive.
So why do we need to provide for gifted children? The reasons are pinpointed and explained below.
- Gifted Children are a Significant Minority
Education systems and societies are set up for the majority. However, a fair system attempts to cater for significant minorities within them. Gifted children, at a minimum, are defined at 5% of the child population. 5% of the child population is a large number. This represents approximately 38,000 school children in New Zealand alone.
If a society sets out to be inclusive, then it needs to try and include this significant minority. If education sets out to promote learning and help children progress, then it needs to ensure this significant minority are enthused in their learning and progressing. If schools set out to teach children strategies for learning and living a successful life, then they need to make sure they are teaching relevant strategies to this significant minority.
- Gifted Children are Vulnerable
Research shows that gifted children suffer from a variety of issues that can affect their achievement and mental health if not supported. These include anxieties, perfectionism, attention difficulties, sensory issues, emotional sensitivity, organisational difficulties and self-criticism.
In addition, gifted children can have multiple diagnoses such as high functioning autism or attention deficit disorders. Supporting these diagnoses alone, without taking account of their high cognitive ability or achievement, would lead to disaffection and demotivation.
Gifted children’s vulnerability leaves them at risk of underachievement. They are prone to getting frustrated and demotivated when their education is at the wrong level or teaching doesn’t keep up with their thought processes. They are also sensitive to teaching style; being especially sensitive to fairness, tone of voice, enthusiasm for the subject and the integrity of the teacher.
- Gifted Children are Lonely
Although there are approximately 38,000 of them in New Zealand, these children are in all age groups and spread across the nation’s schools. It is rare to find more than one gifted child in a regular primary school class. Unless they are given the opportunity to work and make friends with other children of a similar ability, gifted children feel different, miss out on establishing meaningful relationships, suffer from a lack of self esteem, remain unchallenged in their knowledge and views, and may dumb down or lose their passion for learning.
- Gifted Children are Asynchronous
All children develop at different rates in different areas but gifted children’s abilities mean that these differences are more pronounced, often markedly so. They are at risk of being misunderstood because adults (and children) around them either expect them to be more mature than their age because of their ability, or expect them to act their age when they are capable of very complex thinking.
- Gifted Children are Complex
Gifted children are difficult to understand and often have many layers to them. As well as the asynchronous development and vulnerabilities already mentioned, they often think in abstract ways, make big leaps in understanding at times and little progress at others, and make complex connections. It can be very difficult for people to understand all of this and provide appropriately for them.
- Gifted Children are an Untapped Resource
The abilities and creative ways of thinking that gifted children are capable of are a resource that can be used by the nation to solve problems, improve the wellbeing of the populace and create a better economic climate for all. If they are left unsupported, gifted children will not achieve the considerable potential they have and this opportunity will be missed.
Find other #NZGAW Blog Tour posts at ultranet.giftededucation.org.nz/WebSpace/1104/.
You can contribute to gifted awareness by reading, writing or sharing posts. Please also consider talking to a parent, a teacher, a school board member or a principal about giftedness. If at all possible, write to your Member of Parliament.