Most people think of special education as children who are performing well below their age and grade peers. However, it may come to surprise many that children with gifted talents can be complicated and in need of special services, as well. Children with giftedness and their parents are often considered low on the special education “food chain”. I have heard people say unkind things about parents of gifted children, questioning whether or not the child really has “issues”.
This is what I do know. Children with exceptional talents (we are talking clinically gifted and not just the really smart kid in the class), often are complex and have interpersonal issues. Why? Because when they are seven and their friends are playing simple board games or involved in basic sports they are calculating baseball averages or reading material well beyond their years. Thus, using concepts that the average second grader wouldn’t have a clue about! Many times schools will decide that the best “course of action” is to skip them in school, which presents challenges on so many levels.
Conflict can also arise because the child with “talent” can outplay, outsmart or outwit his age peers just based on his own “being”. Often he or she isn’t trying to win at a board game – but just does because of the ability to process information or strategize at a level well beyond the opponent.
Long ago I worked in the back hills of western Pennsylvania. I had a referral from a teacher who was concerned about the well being of a new kindergarten student. We will call her Julie. The referral said she was “odd” and “very different” from her peers. In addition, she couldn’t relate, seemed bored and was a bit of a “snob”. Julie walked in to my office and presented herself as a petite and cute almost 5 year old (she started school early). Over the course of time I gave her an IQ test. She scored in vocabulary to the college level. She finished every question. She knew words that I didn’t know until I learned to give the test. Her reasoning skills were exceptional and rivaled any teen.
I asked Julie to draw a picture and she opted to make a rainbow. She asked me to hand her crayons one at a time. First red, then orange, followed by yellow, green, and blue. After the blue crayon was handed she looked at me and said, “Next I would like INDIGO.” I replied, “INDIGO?“. Julie didn’t bat a lash as she explained that there was an acronym known as ROY-G-BIV, for all the colors in a spectrum and that I was for INDIGO. Now imagine if she casually explained this to her classmate as calmly as she relayed the information to me? Julie wasn’t showing off. She wasn’t bragging. She had learned this and much more during talks with her grandfather who was raising her in a small home that still had outdoor plumbing in 1985! She didn’t have television and read everyday since she was two. She truly registered as gifted with an IQ score well above 150. (85-115 is average) I have kept the picture of the rainbow in a frame for more than twenty years as a reminder not to overlook the gifted child in the grand scheme of special education.
Believe me the Julie’s of the world may struggle with making friends and finding their way in life, too. Fortunately, in the past years we have come to give resources, help and programming to assist the gifted child. Some may need therapy to help with feelings for not being able to relate to peers or having conflict within the home. Others may need to find guidance for proper programs post high-school. Social skills may need to be taught and practiced much more than for the peers.
I stumbled upon a book by Free Spirit Publishing which was written for the gifted teen versus about the them. I believe it is a great guide to help kids who are book smart but street smart challenged. The GIFTED TEEN SURVIVAL GUIDE, by Galbraith and Delisle, is a start for tweens and teens to understand what makes them special and how they can learn to feel more comfortable in their “skin”. You can read more about it on the publisher’s website. FREE SPIRIT PUBLISHING