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SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL

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Teachers often argue against acceleration on the grounds that children should stay with their "developmental peers". We need to look at this recommendation.

Almost invariably, when teachers or schools use the word "peers" they are talking about children of the same chronological age. In teacher-speak, "I don't believe in acceleration - children should be educated with their peers" usually means "I believe that children should be educated only with children who are of the same chronological age." Similarly: "He needs to learn to get on with his peers" usually means "He doesn't seem to socialize very well with other children of his own chronological age."

However, there are other, sometimes more important, forms of "peerdom". For example, one's mental age-peers are children of the same mental age. A moderately gifted child of 10 with a mental age of 13 will find mental age-peers among other children with a mental age of 13, regardless of how old she is - although she is more likely to relate to other 10, 11 or 12 year olds with a mental age of 13 than she will to a 16, 15, or 14 year old with a mental age of 13.

Then there is emotional development - emotional maturity. That seems to be somewhat more closely linked to mental age than to chronological age. The emotional maturity of a 10 year old with a mental age of 13 will be somewhat closer to 13 than to 10 - perhaps 12, almost certainly 11½ (I'm not talking about emotional behaviour which can sometimes seem immature if the child is angry, frustrated, lonely or bored - anyone can look immature when they are distressed - but underlying emotional development.).

So the "developmental peers" of a gifted child are likely to be people at similar stages of intellectual and emotional development - either chronological peers who are gifted (which is why ability grouping is so successful) or older students (which is why acceleration is so successful).

http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10424.aspx  Tips for Parents: What we Know from Longitudinal Studies of E/PG Children (2006)