Four Points to Ponder for Parents of Gifted Children
1. Giftedness is in the brain! The brain of a gifted learner is physically different than the brain of other learners. In the same way that some people are built to be great runners, the gifted brain is built for creativity and critical thinking. Often gifted children are identified by their zany ideas that no one else understands. This trait is a direct result of the physical differences of the brain, which allow gifted learners to make connections thatothers do not see. Along with these connections, gifted brains make strong and vivid first impressions of information, which means that, not only does recall come easily, memories and information often come to mind with the same intensity as it was learned. Because gifted brains require meaningful educational experiences, Dr. Suzanne Waddell, Interim Director of theKarnes Center for Gifted Studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, encourages parents to seek experiences outside the traditional school setting for gifted children. She says, “Along with allowing learners to pursue individual interests, these experiences also allow them to develop skills and abilities while finding like-minded friends.”
2. GPA is not a reflection of intellect. As a high school junior, Emily Nelson was dedicated to her love of classical dance. She also found herself struggling in her Algebra 2 class. Now, she serves Desoto County Schools as Director of Leadership Development, and knows that if her parents would have made her give up dance to spend more time studying abstract math, her self-esteem would have taken a hit. Emily says, “GPA is much more a sign of organization and maturity than a sign of intelligence.” She adds, “We all have strengths and weaknesses, so understanding them allows us to make smart life choices.” This personal experience highlights a misunderstanding of gifted children: that all academics come easy. Although the gifted brain processes things in amazing ways, this does not mean that gifted children will not need educational supports. It is important to remember that a gifted learner who needs academic support does not lose their giftedness. Often, the learning need comes from the same place as other learning strengths.
3. Creative minds are rarely neat. Gifted children tend to be highly creative, whether that means creative in how they make connections and solve problems or creative as an artistic experience. No matter which type of creativity gifted children hold, they are inclined to disorganization. For creative minds, the process of learning something new is the goal, not mastering a concept. In fact, most creative minds see no benefit to mastery at all. This means that projects are started, but never completed, and that many children teach themselves or have interests in many different things, but never become an expert at any one thing. Because of this, organization must be taught by example and guidance until gifted children are able to create a system that works for them (and their parents and teachers).
4. Gifted children are children. Gifted children have great potential to learn and discover. Due to the way their brain develops, they often speak and process like someone much older than their physical age. It is so important to remember that no matter the potential, gifted children are still children. They will have errors in judgment that emerges in poor actions or poor words, just like other children. Gifted children are aware that they are different, and that expectations are different for them, so they take criticism, correction, and feedback more personally than others. Because these children are highly self-critical, they are much harder on themselves than any loving, supportive adult could ever be on them. Laura McAlpin, a teacher of gifted children in Clinton, MS and President-Elect of the Mississippi Association for Gifted Children (MAGC), says “(gifted children) are children whose little souls and hearts need the same things that all children need.” Connie West who serves as Gifted Coordinator for the Vicksburg-Warren School District and as Vice President of MAGC, adds, “Gifted children can hold an intelligent conversation in one moment, then within seconds, they have fallen to pieces over a small issue. This is not immaturity or malfunction, it is a direct result of their giftedness.”
Jen Cornett grew up gifted in a small town. She’s dedicated her life to serving gifted children and helping their parents understand giftedness.
For more information:
Gifted Summer Programs offered by the Karnes Center for Gifted Studies
Mississippi Association for Gifted Children