Nurturing the Potential of Gifted Children

Often mis-labeled as high-achievers, strivers, or simply “smart,” our gifted children are often misunderstood.  Giftedness comes with any number of misguided stereotypes — defined by their overexcitabilities, their sense of justice, an insatiable need to ask questions, or — worse — behavioral issues.

 Researchers continue to redefine giftedness time and time again, searching for a simple definition for something not quite so simple.  Yet, regardless of changing definitions, we just know that our gifted children are different — their brains are simply wired a bit differently. 

Some parents are able to identify their child’s gifted qualities from a very early age.  They’re engaged and alert from a very early age.  They may have passed child development milestones months, or even years, ahead of time. For others, it can be much more difficult.  Identifying a first child as gifted can be even more difficult.  While identifying individual children, during their developmental years, as gifted can be challenging, society tends to identify profoundly gifted individuals based on their successes — or their gifted behaviors.  Most would agree that the child who starts college at a very young age, the young successful professional, or the innovative engineer are all gifted.  Historically, we agree that academic successes such as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Leonardo DaVinci were gifted.  These profoundly gifted successes all shared three qualities:  innate intelligence, creativity, and grit.  Moreover, these individuals had access to resources that nurtured these three qualities and allowed them to flourish.  

Innate intelligence of a gifted child can be neither created nor changed since it is due to structural differences in the child’s brain.   John Geake, co-founder of the Oxford Cognitive Neuroscience-Education forum, once asserted that giftedness was “presumably due to neuro-psychological differences that affect efficiency.”  He went on to assess, through multiple studies, that “gifted subjects have greater inter-connectivity between different areas of their brain” — rooted in several neurobiological differences including: a thicker cerebral cortex, superior cognitive control, greater working memory, and better spatial and temporally coordinated neural networks — a suggestion that gifted minds are, indeed, wired differently.

We frequently discredit creativity, or dismiss it as being strictly related to the arts.  Yet, creativity stands to be so much more.  Our truly successful gifted individuals are creative in non-standard ways.  They have different ways of looking at the world — an ability to see connections where others do not.  Their thoughts and creations are innovative.  True giftedness is seen not in re-creating what has already been created, but by doing — or thinking — something new — by putting the missing piece in a puzzle that no-one knew was missing.  

Some parents are able to identify their child’s gifted qualities from a very early age.  They’re engaged and alert from a very early age.  They may have passed child development milestones months, or even years, ahead of time. For others, it can be much more difficult.  Identifying a first child as gifted can be even more difficult.  While identifying individual children, during their developmental years, as gifted can be challenging, society tends to identify profoundly gifted individuals based on their successes — or their gifted behaviors.  Most would agree that the child who starts college at a very young age, the young successful professional, or the innovative engineer are all gifted.  Historically, we agree that academic successes such as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Leonardo DaVinci were gifted.  These profoundly gifted successes all shared three qualities:  innate intelligence, creativity, and grit.  Moreover, these individuals had access to resources that nurtured these three qualities and allowed them to flourish.  

Innate intelligence of a gifted child can be neither created nor changed since it is due to structural differences in the child’s brain.   John Geake, co-founder of the Oxford Cognitive Neuroscience-Education forum, once asserted that giftedness was “presumably due to neuro-psychological differences that affect efficiency.”  He went on to assess, through multiple studies, that “gifted subjects have greater inter-connectivity between different areas of their brain” — rooted in several neurobiological differences including: a thicker cerebral cortex, superior cognitive control, greater working memory, and better spatial and temporally coordinated neural networks — a suggestion that gifted minds are, indeed, wired differently.

We frequently discredit creativity, or dismiss it as being strictly related to the arts.  Yet, creativity stands to be so much more.  Our truly successful gifted individuals are creative in non-standard ways.  They have different ways of looking at the world — an ability to see connections where others do not.  Their thoughts and creations are innovative.  True giftedness is seen not in re-creating what has already been created, but by doing — or thinking — something new — by putting the missing piece in a puzzle that no-one knew was missing.  

Our gifted children may be born with an above-average innate ability, however, without the proper resources, their gifts are wasted.  For our gifted students, enrichment classes aren’t just “extra.”  Our gifted students won’t “be fine on their own.”  They won’t be fine withering away day after day in a regular classroom with no additional resources.  Our gifted children need resources.  They need attention and direction.  They need support.  They need a challenging academic environment.   Our gifted children may be “wired” a bit differently, but they need resources to fully develop their creativity, develop grit, and direct their gifts —  to become successful and happy gifted adults.

 

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