Federal reports approximate 3-5% of the school population can be considered gifted or talented. Giftedness refers to children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others their age, experience or environment.
Talented learners are those who have particular abilities in sport, music, design or creative and performing arts. There are many myths and misconceptions of advanced youth. Some feel all children and people are gifted but, in this case, the definition of advanced focuses on a child with an outstanding talent. Others believe gifted students must be high achievers; however, not all gifts are academic. A child can be gifted musically or artistically and still struggle to understand math. Along these lines, it’s possible that a child can be advanced or gifted in one specific area and at the same time have a disability in another area. Another misconception is that gifted students only come from advantaged homes.
Identifying a gifted or talented child begins by looking for the characteristics and traits that many gifted or talented children exhibit. These include an unusual emotional depth and intensity for their age, a large vocabulary, the ability to think critically, persistence, independence, frustration or boredom, possible volatile temper (especially when they fail to accomplish a task), and non-stop talking. Of course, not every gifted or talented child will exhibit all these traits.
There are tests designed to identify giftedness with respect to academic endeavors including verbal comprehension, general reasoning, numerical operations, and mechanical knowledge to name a few. Artistic giftedness and other talents are often identified by teachers and childcare providers.
When a child is identified as gifted or talented, they may need additional support if they require services that are not ordinarily provided in the public school system. Parents, teachers, and caregivers are the most important influential elements in the child’s development and function as mentors, disciplinarians, and educators. Special care is needed as advanced children may struggle with perfection as they seek to be the best. This self-imposed expectation may generate stress, so the child must learn to adjust their expectations and manage their emotions.
The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented shares helpful strategies when working with advanced and gifted children. An important strategy is for parents and caregivers to evaluate their parenting style and align it with the child’s needs. Efforts should focus on the positive aspects of the child’s behavior, not the progress towards perfection. Advanced children should also be allowed unstructured time and provided with an enriched environment that has lots of materials and opportunities for exploration in areas that differ from their talent. Creativity requires a nurturing and expressive environment, so allow for regression, solitude, and divergent thinking. Finally, use everyday tasks to help with decision making and make learning fun. A child’s motivation and interest will increase if pressure is taken off homework and other academic material.
To learn more, an Advanced Children’s course is available with enrollment in the Professional Childcare program.
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