10 Social & Emotional Needs of the Gifted

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While gifted students look perfect on paper, their teachers know that in the classroom they are not all the academic angels and stellar scholars that people assume they are. Successful teachers of the gifted require a special understanding of their students’ social and emotional needs. Here’s a sampling of these needs and links to further reading and research.

  1. Be aware that strengths and potential problems can be flip sides of the same coin.
    Strength: diverse interests and abilities; versatility Potential Problem: may appear disorganized or scattered; frustrated over lack of time… (read more)
  2. Gifted students’ physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth is often uneven.
    Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm… (read more) [links updated 10/2/2011]
  3. Gifted students may doubt that they are actually gifted.
    “Am I really that good?” crops up as a constant refrain. Some gifted kids deny their talents, burying them under a guise of “goof” or “know-it-all”; many of these kids have trouble with self-acceptance… (read more)
    This is known as “impostor syndrome” and I wrote about my own experiences here.
  4. Gifted students may face social challenges not just from peers, but parents and teachers as well.
    Teachers in secondary schools, in particular, have tried to disprove the talents of individual students, saying, in effect, “Prove to me you are as gifted as you think you are.” (read more)
  5. As they get older, gifted students may take fewer risks.
    Highly gifted children may tend to focus on what they can already do well because their only standard of acceptability is perfection. To some gifted children, a “B” is tantamount to failure, which limits your risk taking/making behavior to the ol’ stand bys: areas in which you have excelled in the past. (read more)
  6. Gifted students can have surprisingly heightened emotionally sensitivity (pdf).
    One aspect of the “down side” of this sensitivity is a child’s feelings being easily hurt. This includes a low or no tolerance for perceived criticism from others. The operative word here is “perceived” since actual criticism is not necessary to upset a child who is highly sensitive… (read more… sorry, this pdf was removed)
  7. Gifted students are often shy, know they’re shy, and know that shyness is often looked down upon.
    Americans believe that introversion, sensitivity, and childhood shyness are problems that need to be fixed…yet research on gifted children shows that the majority of them are introverted, and many are sensitive due to their heightened awareness of self and others… (read more) [link updated 10/2/2011]
  8. Gifted students’ abstract intuition may conflict with teachers’ desire for concrete thinking.
    As teachers understand these differences between the insight-driven N students and their own preference for the concrete S activity, they can then begin to plan and implement the mode of instruction that will produce the highest results for each type’s learning preference… (read more)
  9. Gifted students needs cannot be met by one style of learning.
    There is a common belief about the preference of gifted students for individual learning. Interestingly, in this study, both types are distributed almost equally in gifted adolescents. Therefore, it is likely that gifted students can benefit from both group projects and individual projects to a maximum extent provided that teachers have the flexibility to teach to different styles of thinking… (read more)
  10. Gifted adults wish they were better informed about giftedness as children.
    My highly gifted adult subjects wrote about many of the changes they would make in their childhoods. They wanted more information and confirmation of their intellectual differences… (read more)