"Giftedness" - Myths & Misconceptions
The biggest myth about intellectually able kids is that they need no help what so ever in school! As they already seem to know it all, it's only their own laziness that stops them from achieving. Everything comes easier to them; they're assured a place of the top of the class. Their future is bright with no trouble sitting exams; they sail through both primary and secondary school and are assured a place at a top university doing the course of their choice! If only. School is a veritable mindfield for gifted kids and their parents. These children often struggle to fit in with both teachers and other pupils. Their abstract and often complex way of thinking makes it often difficult for them to study or to sit exams. Repetitiion, necessary for a lot of revision work, is anathema to them. Some gifted children's handwriting (vital for a lot of exam and homework) is appalling as their hand tries desperately to keep up with the fast pace of the brain. The reality is that sometimes instead of finding themselves at the top of the class these children are in fact left languishing unchallenged in remedial classes!
The Top Ten Myths about Gifted Kids
- Everything comes easier to a gifted child - they need no additional help or support. Gifted kids are highly sensitive children who need a lot of support from both their family and teachers. A lot of the time they find that they're out of step with their peer group which can lead to isolation. Sometimes their talents go unrecognised and they find themselves viewed as disruptive rather than excellent students.
- It's just because" they can't be bothered" to apply themselves that holds them back in school. Imagine that you're not being challenged at school, that everything seems boring and repetitive. You could say that's true for a lot of children whether they're gifted or not; but add in the gifted factor and that frustration is multiplied. If your talents are not being recognised and nurtured how difficult it must be to make an effort.
- They need very little attention from teachers because they learn quickly and without direction. In fact, teachers play a key supportive role in helping talented children realise their potential. If left to their own devices, they can get despondent, bored and frustrated. The problem is that very few teachers have received training in how to deal with and develop programmes for gifted children within the classroom; even though the Department of Education recognises that these children need to be taught in a different way.
- Gifted kids are high achievers who do really well at exams. Exams can present difficulties for these children. Their handwriting for instance may be difficult to read and they may have developed poor study practices.
- Gifted kids are always top of the class and are "teachers' pets"; their gift is highly prized by their school and as such is rewarded. Sometimes highly intelligent kids are seen as the disruptive smart kids who constantly challenge the teacher. Without an understanding of and training in gifted education teachers can struggle to recognise the talents of these children and develop appropriate strategies for dealing with them.
- They don't need any help with homework or study as they can be left to it. Although gifted children love discovery learning they also need to be directed otherwise this can lead to bad work practices.
- All families of gifted children love to "brag" about their "genius" kids. In fact, a lot of parents would rather keep quiet about it; as despite the label the child may not be doing that great in school. Also, the gifted label comes with a lot of baggage.
- All gifted kids come from the middle to upper classes - so it's an elitist label with no real meaning. It's simply untrue to make this statement; gifted children come from all socio economic backgrounds and are found in all sorts of schools and areas. However, gifted children from poorer backgrounds may find it more difficult to access resources. This is why it's absolutely vital that the Department of Education not only recognise that gifted children require a special needs status but also properly fund any gifted children programmes within schools so that all children, regardless of background, can access differentiated education appropriate to their needs.
- All children are gifted; again it's an elitist label. Not all children are gifted although all children are special. If your child was an amazing athlete wouldn't you want the best coach available? Intellectual ability is as much a talent as a sports or musical ability. It's just that we seem to prize the latter over the former.
- Children who do badly in school and fail exams cannot be gifted. Gifted kids find it difficult to cope with the often repetitive nature of study as they think in an abstract and complex way. Exams can be extremely difficult as a consequence.
- Kids with learning difficulties cannot be gifted. In fact, there is a growing population in Ireland of children presenting with dual exceptionality, i.e. on the one hand they show gifted characteristics but, on the other, have mild to severe learning difficulties or disabilities.
“I remember my son was finding it really difficult when he first started school. He was so bored and found it very difficult to make friends. His teacher called me in several l times to tell me he was disruptive in class. She knew he was bright because he was able to read the notes she was sending home to me. It was like he was a problem - the school never once said that he could be academically talented. He could read at the age of 3 and at 5 he was reading encyclopedias - everything he could get his hands on about dinosaurs. Looking back it must have been a pretty miserable time for him because he found it so hard to make friends as his vocabulary and the things he was interested in just seemed to set him apart from his schoolmates. It just looked like being clever was a "bad" thing. Even now we're still trying to undo the damage this negative experience caused."
“I actually learned about CYTI from another parent in the school. She'd seen a newspaper article on it and gave it to me. I rang and spoke to Dr. Sheila Gilheany who was the director at the time and as we spoke it seemed like I finally understood where my son was coming from. I learned that he wasn't alone that there were lots of kids out there like him. His years at the CYTI have been a fantastically positive experience for him and if I'm honest it's been the social aspect that's probably had the most positive effect. The courses are great, but learning to make friends with kids that are like you is fantastic."