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Failure of School to Identify Giftedness

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have recently begun to understand that my 7 year old son is a gifted child. His teachers speak of his intelligence in hushed tones but in the classroom he is failing. They believe that it is only a problem of discipline i.e. an exceptionally intelligent child must ipso facto mean a good student. whereas I believe that the system is failing him.

At the moment I can identify him as a type 2 gifted child. What can I do personally in the absence of understanding at school (we live in Italy) to help my son literally not to get lost in this scholastic environment? Thank you!

A: I am so sorry that the system is failing your son, something that happens a lot when people are unaware of the different types of giftedness that exist. The typical Type 1 gifted is accounts for over 80% of gifted individuals as it is the most easily identifiable – good scores, hardworking, perfectionist, loved by teachers and other adults, etc.

Unfortunately, the Type 2 gifted is, more often than not, viewed as disruptive. Also called the challenging type, among the distinct traits of these students are creativity, defensive, questions rules, honest, direct, may have mood swings, inconsistent work habits, poor self control, impatient, stands up for convictions, competitive, bored, frustrated with heightened sensitivity. Some of these traits make them quite unpopular with teachers although they can be quite liked by their peers.

Basically for this type, the best support that would work is acceptance and understanding by adults (especially parents and teachers). He is probably bored in the classroom, hence the disruption to satisfy and stimulate him cognitively. These children would need to be allowed to pursue their interest to fight boredom and frustration. On the behavioral side, perhaps modeling of appropriate behavior would help them appear less disruptive in the classroom. As for home support, they can benefit from family projects that are stimulating.

At his age, if there are not options for differential education to cater for his needs, you may need to support him at home. There are many activities that can help him fight boredom (please refer to the advise on previous newsletters). He would require activities that are stimulating, allows for the flow of creativity, and involves leadership and control. Perhaps you may also want to help the school and especially his teachers to understand and be aware of the different types of gifted students that exist. To pinpoint his cognitive strengths and weaknesses, you may want to consider an IQ test. Also try looking up for some online support in your area – it is very helpful to be in touch with another parent with similar concerns even if it’s of a different profile of giftedness.

Here’s wishing you the very best of luck.


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