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Gifted children and their problems

If we are talking about the gifted child, we usually are not talking about one single phenomenon, like for example, whatever he reads, he also remembers. What I am talking about here is the IQ, the intelligence quotient. In Germany, the IQ is 85 – 115, with an average of 100. People with an IQ of over 115 are considered to be very talented. However, anyone who has an IQ of over 130 is considered highly gifted. This can be discovered quite quickly and already in very young years. For example, some children, age 2 are talking as if they were 4 and show a faster development in other areas as well. Unfortunately, it does happen that an exceptionally gifted child is wrongly diagnosed as sick. For example, they might be diagnosed with ADH (S) and consequently they are sedated with Ritalin or other pharmaceuticals.

Highly Gifted children
Highly Gifted children | ©: lassedesignen - Fotolia

On one hand, we need to work towards the recognition of the gifted child while our system needs to be adjusted to the needs of such a talented child on the other hand. Currently, there are neither enough schools nor teachers to adequately educate those special children. Also, besides the misrecognition of their talent and subsequently inadequate education those children are up against other, individual hurdle. Even though, late on in life, high intelligence can be a tremendous advantage; privately as well as in their professional lives. But as children, they might encounter significant problems.

The hurdles of gifted children

In reality, highly giftedness should be an advantage all around. However, in many ways they are automatically excluded. This becomes evident particularly in the social field. Partly because of their giftedness there are significant differences compared to their peers. You could compare this situation to a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old having to study in the same classroom. The older child will always be bored. Obviously this setting is not favorable but sadly true for schools with gifted children. If possible at all, those children seek out older children. This, of course, bears its own problems. One of those problems is, by hanging out with older kids, they are losing the connectedness to their peers; going to school, therefore, becomes an unpleasant experience. This unpleasant experience is only reinforced by the fact that schools are simply to set up to accommodate gifted children. Teachers alike, are not always trained to know how to deal with talented children and, therefore, they are unable to educate them a way that would deserve those children. The worst case scenario though is, if the gifted child is not recognized and labeled as lazy. But it works the other way around as well. The teacher might recognize the talented child and automatically assumes, “He knows all the answers anyway” and, therefore, does not pay the necessary attention to the child. He might even assume, that this child might pre-empt the learning objectives. It does not take long for the gifted child to get bored only applying himself less and less.

“Normal” schools are naturally designed for “normal” children, after all they are the majority. And that’s how it should be. However, by now we succeeded to accommodate less intelligent and children with disabilities. We realized that those children need a learning environment, tailored to their needs. What we have not succeeded yet, is to provide a suitable learning environment for highly intelligent children. Those talented children, however, are not just a handful either. Currently, about 2.2 percent of the population are classified as highly gifted. It follows that a school with 500 students has an average of at least 11 gifted children. This appears to be a small number but extended to the entire country this is huge. Throughout Germany are of the nearly 14 million children under 18. About 300,000 of them are highly gifted. These children deserve to attend a school that is tailored to their individual needs.

How to recognize gifted children

Before we even can think about supporting a talented child appropriately, it is important that we understand the basics. One definite advantage would be, if, when enrolling the child in school a thorough test would be made, to determine where the child is at. For example, an IQ test could be part of the everyday enrollment procedure. This would be only one of many possibilities to recognize the gifted child and, therefore, avoid a misdiagnosed ADH (D). It could be that easy for the government to solve this problem. However, parents could find out much earlier. One way would be to do an intelligence test with your own child. Another way would be careful observation. To do the latter, it would be helpful to know about the signs of a talented child.

One sign could be: You compare your child objectively with his peers. If there is a greater than usual difference, that could be the first sign. Look for: Is it more developed as others? Could he walk before his first birthday? Does he speak quite well before 2 years of age? Does he have any special skills? Are there any such signs? If the child deviates widely from the norm, an effort should be made to further explore the possibility of a gifted child. Other signs are such: Does your child prefer to play with older children? Does he read a lot? The books he is reading are they more appropriate for older children? Is he above average inquisitive? In general, it is important to watch if the child develops rapidly, absorbs quickly new knowledge or effortlessly learns new skills. If the parents, school or maybe already the kindergarten teacher realized the giftedness of your child, it is important that it is supported accordingly.

How to support highly gifted children

It is needless to mention this support starts with the parents. A school for profoundly gifted children would be recommended. Parents can encourage this by visiting museums frequently, providing access to as much as possible books and allow their child to quench their thirst for knowledge. Besides the support of the family, the government is also asked to make appropriate support for talented children available to train their talents and skills accordingly. Unfortunately, the government has not yet realized that we need special schools for the talented child as much as we provide them for children with disabilities. If particular schools are not an option, a special classroom for those children would be an alternative. Last but not least, we also need particularly trained teachers who know how to best support gifted children and how to let them live out their talents and skills.

Highly Gifted children : thirsty for knowledge
Highly Gifted children : thirsty for knowledge | ©: jogyx - Fotolia

Under no circumstances should such a talented child be held back. – Unfortunately in the current system this is often the reality. No longer can we accept that those children are bored and under-challenged at school. Even a lot has already changed, there is still much, which needs to be done in this field. Like a disabled child, the gifted child alike needs the appropriate school. It’s no longer on that we look the other way and send children with a high IQ to school only to be bored there. We need to recognize when kids are too smart for our normal schools. Likewise, we need to be careful not label those intelligent children as “sick” and try to “normalize” them with drugs. As long as we adhere to compulsory education, we also have a duty to provide suitable schools for our children.

Once again, something about the topic intelligence test:

It is unwise to assume that such a test always returns the necessary answers and knowledge. One thing, in particular, you have to take to heart and do not underestimate: If the test result is not as good as expected, the child is under no circumstances to know about that. Otherwise, it will suffer and assume to be “stupid”. This feeling “of being stupid” might be formative for the rest of his life. Generally, all children are from birth on intelligent and inquisitive, unless they are brain damaged. Only in the course of further development, are children set on a course, which either supports, diminish or even stops their thirst for knowledge and his ability to learn and develop to his full potential.

Gifted children in our youth groups

As mentioned above, gifted children are much more inclined to interact with older children, teenagers or even adults. That means that interaction with same age peers has less significance to them. We also see a slightly higher interest in discussions with them. On the other hand, they are not as sporty then other children in their age but might perform much better on a mental or spiritual level. However, it would be wrong to exclude them from physical activities or even draw the wrong conclusion. The youth worker is required to challenge those children according to their abilities. This can be done by giving them suitable tasks. For example, they could be the "team spokesman" or the "task controller" etc.

It would be wrong to label those children as unsportsmanlike or not capable of group work. From my experience, I know that this is not to be true. Even though the gifted child feels more at home in the mental field, with a little support in the sports or the physical area the child is definitely able to develop his team and social skills accordingly.

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