Often gifted children have a mismatch between their emotional, physical, and cognitive levels of development. Their skill levels in varying areas develop at different rates. Social skills aren't always in sync with their intellectual level or chronological age. A child may have very advanced intellectual skills but delayed fine motor skills. Perhaps their math skills are developing at a different rate than their language arts skills. Routinely gifted children are lumped together and expected to perform at similar rates in academic settings. This can create an internal struggle for gifted children and affect their social-emotional development. Teachers and parents need to understand that one size doesn't fit all. Each child is an individual who will develop in their unique way. Guidance to understanding the path can be supported through parent coaching. Therapy can help support the social-emotional needs of gifted children and adolescents.
Twice-exceptional learners are identified as gifted and meet the criteria for a disability. Disabilities for twice-exceptional learners can include learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, speech and language disorders, autism spectrum disorder, physical disabilities, and other health concerns like ADHD. Supporting twice-exceptional learners can be challenging. Sometimes a learning disability is missed because a student is performing on grade level, and the teachers aren't aware of the child's high potential. Other times gifted identification is being missed because the disability is masking it. Seeking treatment is often advisable if you are concerned your child might fall in this category. Testing on an individual basis by a psychologist can help sort out the youth's strengths and struggles which will better help you and the school get your child on the right path.
A certain amount of anxiety about a test can be a positive thing. Anxious feelings encourage a child to study and prioritize the test. However, when anxious feelings become overwhelming and affect performance, sleep, and concentration, it is time to get help. There could be many factors leading to "test anxiety" or underperformance on tests, and it is best to address issues when they first arise.
Schools give a variety of standardized tests, some of which identify giftedness and some that do not. Being identified as gifted doesn't always mean being served, and the school's guidelines can be challenging to understand. The tests are also typically done in large group settings, and a child may have a gifted score at one sitting and not the next. It is confusing and overwhelming. Parent support groups or your school's gifted department can provide guidance for general questions. Specific concerns around how your child is testing or inconsistencies in testing results may want to be reviewed with a psychologist.
It isn't always easy to understand why gifted youth don't meet expectations. Social issues, psychological issues, undiagnosed learning disabilities, and low teacher expectations can lead to underachievement. At times it can appear a child has just given up, but usually, there is an underlying reason. Try talking with your child without judgment and without putting pressure on them. They may not understand why themselves. That is when it is time to reach out for help.
The unique characteristics of being gifted don't stop at age 18. Heightened sensitivity, intense feelings and reactions, idealism, high levels of frustration, high expectations for self and others, heightened self-awareness, curiosity, and advanced intellectual skills are just a few of the characteristics that continue to affect us into adulthood.
The obstacles of being gifted affect many facets of one's life. Just as a child faces challenges in school, an adult faces challenges in the workplace. The structure and hierarchy can be frustrating. The conflict between boredom at work and the drive to succeed can be stressful. Over sensitivities, impatience, and the need to be right can cause friction in relationships. Social isolation isn't just a teen thing. Finding friends can be challenging, even for adults. Lack of social-emotional support as a child or conflicts experienced due to asynchronous development may have left unresolved issues. The challenges of being gifted are lifelong.
You are not alone. There is support and information available. Your school may have a parent support group. This is often a good place to start. If you have general questions about giftedness, several national and state websites provide a wealth of information. A few links have been listed on our website under resources. If you have specific questions and concerns about yourself or your child, then seeking professional help may be the best option. Each individual has unique needs, and individual support may be needed to start down the right path.
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Christy Pulsford, MSW, LISW-S, LICDC
8050 Beckett Center Dr. | West Chester, Ohio 45069
Phone: (513) 847-3891
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