Square pegGifted kids can feel like misfits. They can feel as though they are not accepted by others and may feel disconnected. Why is that? I recently had a discussion with my son, who provided me with some insight. The problem, as he saw it, is the result of achievement being confused with ability. That was no surprise to me, as I’ve written before about why achievement should not be used as a measure of ability. It’s what he said about the effect this confusion can have on a gifted child that I found enlightening.

Achievement as a Qualification for a Gifted Program

To identify children for a gifted program, many schools will look at achievement. Regardless of IQ tests or other signs of giftedness, if a child doesn’t have high grades, he is unlikely to be selected for participation in a school’s gifted program. That’s because so many gifted programs are programs for high achievers. Some gifted kids are high achievers and some high achievers are gifted. However, not all gifted kids are high achievers and not all high achievers are gifted.

Programs for high achievers are great for high achievers, but they do little for those gifted kids who are underachievers. And it is the underachievers who are in greatest need of special programming. What can be done to motivate them to achieve? Of course, it would be better if schools provided these kids with sufficient challenge to prevent the onset of underachievement, but that’s a topic for another day.

The point is that there are gifted kids who are left out. They are not included in the gifted program. Kids who know they are gifted can be consumed with self-doubt when they don’t get into the gifted program. Maybe they really aren’t gifted after all.

Forget the word “gifted” for a moment. Whether a gifted child knows he’s gifted or not, he does sense that he’s not like the other kids. He’s different. That alone can make him feel like a misfit. Sometimes a gifted child interprets that being different to mean that there is something wrong with him. Why isn’t he like the other kids?

That gifted child might find a connection with one or two other gifted kids in his class. They are alike. They are all quick witted. They “get” each other’s jokes. They may even share similar interests – like discussing the various theories on the extinction of the dinosaurs or the pros and cons of the Big Bang Theory. But those other kids are high achievers and end up in the gifted program. The underachiever is left out.

That gifted underachiever ends up feeling excluded. It can leave him feeling like he doesn’t even fit in with the very kids he feels most connected to. It doesn’t matter that he knows he’s gifted. He just knew he had a connection to those other kids and those kids got into the gifted program, leaving him behind.

What Can Be Done?

Certainly no one is suggesting that we stop providing more work and challenge for high achievers. However, we do need to do more for our gifted underachievers who can feel more left out and disconnected than other gifted kids. And we can do more for all gifted kids so that they don’t feel rejected and disconnected. So what exactly can be done?

  1. Schools can stop confusing achievement with ability when considering which children require special programming.
  2. Gifted programs can provide a curriculum that benefits all gifted children, including the underachievers.
  3. Gifted programs can include a component which helps gifted children understand gifted traits and how they are affected by those traits. In other words, gifted programs can address the whole child, not just the intellectual part.

We want our gifted children to know who they are, to feel accepted, to be included, and to feel connected. With better gifted programming, we can start to make that happen.

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Carol BainbridgeAbout GiftednessEducationGifted Programs,Identification,Underachievement
Gifted kids can feel like misfits. They can feel as though they are not accepted by others and may feel disconnected. Why is that? I recently had a discussion with my son, who provided me with some insight. The problem, as he saw it, is the result of achievement...