Gifted students may be globally gifted (e.g. have an IQ at or above some arbitrary “cut-off,” such as 130), or may be gifted in a specific area or areas. It is important to appreciate that global measures like IQ are composites of many different abilities including verbal reasoning, visual-spatial thinking, fluid reasoning, memory, processing speed and other abilities. Not every gifted student is equally good at everything. Some may not test as globally gifted yet they still have areas of exceptional strength in one or more ability areas. Matthew has exceptionally strong fluid reasoning, visual-spatial abilities and mathematical talent, yet has abysmally slow processing speed. As a result, his global IQ score is below 130, but I certainly consider him to be gifted.
Gifted students require differentiated educational programs and services. They are often out-of-step with their age-peers, feel different socially, and are under-stimulated in classrooms where they may already know 80% or more of the material being taught. Inclusion in an undifferentiated classroom focused on meeting minimum state or school standards can be a very frustrating experience for such a learner. Under-challenged students may misbehave or act up to get attention, appear to have an attention deficit disorder or learning disability, or may earn poor grades despite their high ability because they have lost motivation or grown accustomed to not paying attention to instruction. Too often, gifted students who are under-stimulated lose their enthusiasm for learning and school.
What can I do to help?
First, I identify the student’s needs. The gifted and achievement assessment provides an in-depth understanding of the student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, academic achievement as compared with ability, interests and affinities. Next, I design a learning plan that simultaneously develops strengths and interests while working to improve in areas of relative weakness. This is important because most gifted and talented students are not equally skilled at everything – they may be well ahead of their peers in some skill areas, but performing at the average or even below average level in others. A young student who loves math, is gifted at visual-spatial skills, and plays creatively with Lego’s – yet who performs at the average level in reading – could benefit from acceleration in math and science, participation in summer robotics and engineering camps, and a focus on improving reading skills – perhaps through reading science fiction or subscription to a technology magazine.
While I provide specific school recommendations based on best practices for gifted education, I feel that parents can also play a very important role by providing enrichment outside of school in the form of extracurricular and summer activities.