There has been much discussion on the difficult child. Let's look at the gifted child. Not to imply that gifted children aren't difficult... as a matter of fact, I hold the belief that most difficult children are probably gifted and therein lies a part of their social problem. For clarity, let's refer to the gifted child in this article as the one who excels at academics and extra curricular activities of an extraordinary nature.
My older daughter has a friend, Megan, who is highly gifted... highly gifted being a step grander than gifted in the public school system. In her special class, she has massive amounts of homework, incredibly difficult assignments and a rigorous school schedule, including mandatory extra hours. Her after school activities include piano lessons, singing lessons (she's great!) and any other challenging activity she can persuade her parents to pay for. Megan is an incredible child... sweet, personable and kindhearted. We rally round her with each new accomplishment. This is a child who clearly shines in her highly gifted classes and is happy to be there.
My older daughter is very bright, too. OK, bragging but she really is! ;-) She was pegged by her preschool teachers as destined for the gifted groups in elementary school. Well, turns out she was never tested, which, in California, must be done only on the request of her teachers. She graduates with honors each year but her social life is much too important to her and she has never shown the focus or passion for learning that other gifted and highly gifted children we know have demonstrated.
I've come to the conclusion that gifted children have a burning desire to achieve academic excellence, whether in a competitive atmosphere or not. One gifted child we know had taught himself to read at two years of age, learned a foreign language (French) by age 4 and loved nothing more than to read historical novels and advanced math books. By age 11, he had acquired an amount of knowledge that most of us would be happy to acquire in a lifetime.
Highly gifted children can be found in all walks of life, in any economic class and from parents who are themselves high achievers or not. These are children who are born to learn, excel and accomplish. There is also the consideration of the child who is gifted in more subjective or artistic talents, not necessarily academic, but gifted nonetheless. These children are not as often identified but need as much stimulation and advanced learning as academic achievers.
For parents or caretakers, there is a responsibility that goes with the nurturing of such a personality. These children need to be intellectually stimulated more than average and need greater outlets for their mental creativity. Sometimes, parents of these kids are hard-pressed to keep up, either financially or intellectually. The more parents and caretakers can offer these remarkable young ones, the greater their chance of reaching their potential as outstanding individuals in our society.l
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