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Beyond the Norm: Thriving as a Gifted Student

Traditionally, a child with an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of 130 or above, showcasing high academic and verbal skills compared to their peer, was called “gifted”. But now, the term gifted is not just restricted to academic skills; it is defined as students with exceptional skills in areas of learning that may range from art, writing, speaking, etc. These children exceed the expected level of expectation among their peers of the same age and perform outstandingly compared to them. The cognitive abilities of gifted children are heightened, and this rise in intensity helps them differentiate from others based on their intellect and skills. The Minnesota Department of Education has bifurcated gifted and talented students with potential academic or intellectual aptitude and creativity abilities. It is believed that children with high creative thinking, exceptional leadership ability, or visual/ performing arts come into the same category.

To substantiate the same with an example,

Do you remember the lead character, Sheldon, of the fictional series The Big Bang Theory?

Don’t you think he was shown to be gifted based on how he already completed his graduation at 14, which children are still not close to finishing high school yet?

Hence, Gifted children have innate qualities and skills that help them learn and grasp things more quickly, allow them to study more difficult fields that enhance their capability, and look for challenging cognitive tasks.

Identification of Gifted Children

On the one hand, these students are pretty intelligent and admired for their abilities and intelligence, making them much more capable than an average child. Still, it becomes highly crucial to understand the difference between intelligence and giftedness. The identification of gifted children from their general peers is essential so that they are not discriminated against based on their exceptionality. But living with such exceptionality, gifted children face a lot of challenges in their daily ongoing lines, especially in the way they learn/ are taught, their social-emotional capability, and the psychological issues they encounter because of a considerable mismatch in their physical and mental age.

A significant challenge gifted children face is the educational gap that keeps widening because of the unavailability of teachers and mentors who cannot understand their students’ true abilities. The giftedness sometimes leads to isolation because of the misinterpretation of the students, which not only increases the rate of social and emotional difficulties in such children but also forces them to hide what they are capable of to try and fit in with their peer group. This makes it difficult for them to come out and ask for help, making it more challenging for the teacher to find effective strategies to understand the children and their needs. This starts getting linked with the unavailability of the kind of educational intervention gifted children need, as teachers are mostly unequipped and are afraid to teach such students who are viewed as a threat to their abilities. Also, the pressure to conform to the thinking and skills of their peer makes them an underachiever, leading them to sacrifice their curiosity and hide their true self. This combines them facing career-related problems because of multipotentials, lack of information, lack of guidance, and other supporting factors.

Can something be done for these children in the School setting?

The gifted students’ learning and educational challenges call for intervention in the school environment that makes them feel aligned with their fellows. Since these students incorporate unique traits, their teachers must possess the values and capabilities to understand and work with them.

  • Each gifted child has different needs. Hence, teachers must actively understand and find ways to address these traits and conditions. One way of doing so happens to be through the process of differentiation. The facilitator must find ways to encourage more significant inquiry, more advanced learning activities, problem-solving and problem-based learning, advanced material and resources, and things that try to challenge and advance the child’s cognitive thinking. Schoolwide differentiation involves providing challenging tasks, focusing on ‘big ideas and concepts for the gifted, and formulating the instructional task as per their interest to report a positive gain in their achievement factor.

  • Every child has their own gait to carry out different aspects of education, whether academic or non-academic. However, gifted students have a different notion wherein they learn and attain knowledge much faster. Their ability to comprehend and grasp things more quickly than normal makes them susceptible to an evolved course curriculum.

Acceleration can be grade-based, for individuals who demonstrate high general ability across subject areas or subject-based, which is more domain-specific. This allows gifted children to learn something more advanced instead of sticking to what they already know. It also allows them to study in a fast-paced accelerated method, helping them achieve academic gains. The acceleration method includes adjusting the speed of learning and imparting knowledge for the gifted compared to the average students, which in an educational setting can be done through either subject/ class acceleration, early entry to school or college, or providing them with non-graded yet enriching classrooms.

Even though Gifted children have their own heightened abilities and enhancements, they are yet to be treated as normal. Their requirements and needs might exceed the regular, which can become both an advantage and disadvantage, making it complicated for them in the real world. It’s not like they like being extremely introverted or unable to understand sarcasm. Still, their high ability skills in one area of functioning bring out difficulties in another.

Hence, equipping them with an environment that fosters their growth and nourishes their abilities and talents instead of demeaning them of the good they have is a priority everyone around these children takes into consideration.

It's important to let them grow and be ‘THEM’ in the world where they might feel different.

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