Children who are blessed with innate talents that go above and beyond the capabilities of most kids would seem to have a leg up in life. But according to a new study, such exceptionally talented children are just as likely to fail as their more average peers.
The study, which was conducted by Professor Joan Freeman and included over 200 children, found that for some gifted children, the label itself is the problem. Being identified as gifted at a young age often results in being treated differently – by parents, teachers and especially peers. With such high expectations and few friends, a gifted child can suffer emotionally.
Being gifted means being better able to deal with things intellectually but not always emotionally. Others such as parents and teachers, can feel threatened by them and react with put-downs. What they need is acceptance for who they are, appropriate opportunities to develop their potential and reliable moral support.
Shortly before my own child started fourth grade this year, I received a letter from her school informing me that she had been designated as gifted and talented and, as such, would be given “differentiated problem based learning opportunities” that will encourage her to “think critically and analytically.” Not being gifted myself, I had to ask what that meant.
What that means, of course, is that she will be assigned different and more difficult work than most of her classmates. I made a conscious decision not to tell any other parents and debated long and hard about whether or not to tell her. In the end, I told her about the letter and regretted it almost immediately. Struggling with math homework the first week of school, she fretted that if she didn’t do well her gifted and talented designation might be taken away.
We are now pretending we never got that letter.
Of course, every parent thinks their child is gifted. But when they are officially identified as such, is it a blessing or a curse?
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