A GIFTED child is priceless, a miracle unfolding. “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” as a Nigerian adage puts an array of tasks it takes to bring up even an ordinary child—and such tasks become more challenging, even daunting in order to rear a gifted child. Because that gift often comes with a curse— an author calls it “severe asynchronous development syndrome.”
“Usually the greater the giftedness, the greater the asynchrony or discrepancy,” cites Leslie S. Graves of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children she currently serves as acting President. She thinks of these children “in the context of a piece of beautiful music… the sounds of their individual instruments (abilities and disabilities) adjusted by a stereo receiver.”
For these children in the upper 2-5 percent of the population or those with IQ starting at 128 and higher, “for one reason or another, have some instruments working at maximum (far too loud), and others at minimum (need work) or not at all. They may have one instrument, or several that are beautifully in tune, and on the other hand, one more or the rest of their orchestra at various stages of disharmony,” she explains.
These children “assuredly benefit from advanced work or placement within their educational environments (and are usually) good candidates for straightforward programs of acceleration, and generally, with few adjustments, settle in well with a new group of children. If you turned up the volume with these children, they would resonate beautifully, all instruments working in unison towards a deeply satisfying finale, that is, if the auditorium within which they are being play has the right kind of acoustics (or attitude),” Graves elaborates.
“It is through… their areas of strength and talent where the key lies to help them bring their own special harmony together into a unique piece of music all their own.
“Failure to value and provide opportunities for these children to work at a level that keeps their spark alive and interested, may result in the symphony that is that child, slowly becoming less and less audible until it is buried under the buried under the burden of mediocrity,” she warns.
The gifted can be bedeviled by certain complexities that, Graves notes, include:
- “Dysgraphia or difficulties with writing, the written work is nowhere near reflecting depth of thought;
- “ADHD/Sensory Integration. This child’s body follows its must to stay on an even keel and attempts to contain this boundless energy may cause a buildup of explosive energy that may be quite volatile in nature;
- “Asperger’s Syndrome/Non-verbal learning disorders. High verbal skill, motor clumsiness, and social inattention from the AS side, combined with independent thinking, heightened intensity and emotional sensitivity, and an acute awareness of their social isolation without the ability to understand why can often lead to deep confusion, sadness, or depression;
- “Dyslexia/Thinking in pictures. It means struggling every day of their lives, relearning to spell words over and over again, not getting home work done, and having their knowledge go unrecognized or unacknowledged because they are unable to demonstrate their talent on paper;
- “Sensitivities/Intensity/Sensory Issues. They feel so deeply, both physically and mentally that it takes over their lives. Living with them is like living with raw, exposed nerve endings, an experience which may range from being exquisitely pleasurable to extremely painful.”
Graves points out that “superior intelligence does not make a child immune to a learning disability… Without accommodation, for many asynchronous children, this disability can cripple their attempts to function in a learning environment. It can mean the difference between never having your true potential realized, or going on to a fruitful and satisfying life, and possibly greatness. Leonardo Da Vinci had issues of this nature.”
She reiterates that provision for the gifted should include:
- “Adequate funding for resources and training being made available to all schools;
- “Availability of an occupational therapist for physical problems;
- “One-on-one instruction in behavioral and organizational skills groupings to include other gifted individuals;
- “Access to advice from professionals at the time it is needed;
- “Short school day and light homework load to allow decompression time outside school.”
All told, “all gifted children respond more positively when approached through their relative strengths, rather than their weaknesses when trying to address imbalances. In the end, we want each child to be the best symphony he can be.”
– DONG AMPIL-DELOS REYES, Medical Observer