Gifted Childrengifted Underachieversunderachieving Gifted Children

A Gifted Child needs more than just special classes or assignments.  And a Gifted Child in a small or rural school may not even have access to that.  Sometimes, if a Gifted Child finishes an in-classroom assignment before the others, he/she is given an extra workbook to do that is usually totally unconnected to the challenges and feedback Gifted Children need.

A Gifted Child is usually identified through IQ tests, and/or teachers who correctly evaluate the complexity of a Gifted Child’s in-classroom questions, answers and test scores.  Once identified as Gifted, this child needs to be put in Special Classes, or transferred to a school with Special Classes.  If a truly Gifted Child has no access to special classes, parents need to seriously consider home schooling.  Since leaving a Gifted Child in an average schoolroom dooms that Gifted Child to misinterpret their potential and future.  Boredom and alienation in a regular classroom starts the ball rolling for yet another Gifted Underachiever.

Some schools offer no special classes for Gifted Children, but are open to putting the Gifted Child in a higher grade level, to match his/her intellect and learning capacity.  This may be an only option for parents to help their child work toward his/her potential.  But there may be jealousy and alienating behavior in those upper classes too, from average but older students.  And few of these older students will reach out to befriend this younger child, so the child is faced with the same dilemma – be smart and alone, or “play dumb” and have friends.

This also sends a negative psychological message to the Gifted Child that he/she may be smarter, but that it clearly is of no advantage, especially in that regular classroom or school.  If the rest of the class resents the Gifted Child, this also sends the message loud and clear that being Gifted means being a target of jealous and/or bullying behavior from their classmates.  So the Gifted Child may “dumb down” their efforts, becoming an underachiever for their potential, choosing classroom peace and friendships over striving to achieve anything beyond their average classmates.

Another point parents and teachers often overlook is that just because a Gifted Child has mental capabilities beyond his/her age, they are probably still emotionally at their chronological age.  Which means, as I stated above, they may “play dumb” due to peer pressure.  And pick up only the negative connotations of what being Gifted offers and entails.

Gifted Children, therefore, need special handling in multiple areas.  First, if your child is identified as Gifted, get a psychological assessment.   Is your child is just a “savant” in one or two areas, and would struggle in all-Gifted classes?  Is your child mature or independent enough to be skipped to a higher grade level, (if that’s the only option parents have)?  Has he/she been “playing dumb” up to this point, just to have friends?  Many of these conflicting attitudes and negative assumptions in a Gifted Child  have to be clarified, and dealt with one by one.  Otherwise, a Gifted Child won’t truly understand or appreciate their gifts/talents and be willing to strive to reach their potential.

If a Gifted Child is placed in special classes or allowed to skip grades, their maturity level still needs to be addressed.  Allow them time to just play.  Encourage friendships, even if it’s kids in the neighborhood or in their extended family.  They need to tell parents about the questions leveled at them about being Gifted, so parents and child can discuss it.  Parents, especially, need to immediately brush away any negativity directed at their Gifted Child’s abilities. 

Helping your Gifted Child come up with “answers” to other children’s jealous questions and taunting comments is also needed.   “Yea, I tested out really smart in mathematics.  But I still can’t kick a soccer ball as far as you can.”; “Yea, I’m taking some college classes in astronomy, since that stuff really comes easy to me.  And I love that subject.”.  You child may even help tutor other kids in his/her favorite subjects.  Just explain that taking tests for, or supplying test answers to other kids, is wrong and could have serious consequences for your child as well the cheaters.

Children are our future.  And “underachieving geniuses” are a sad waste and a loss to everyone.