“The popular perception is that profoundly gifted children, because of their high
level of intelligence, should be able to fend for themselves. However, research findings
show that this is not the case..... All children should be nurtured and supported
to reach their full potential, including those with the highest potential. To discriminate
against children because of their intelligence level is as wrong as discriminating
against them because of their race or religion.”
The fact that the exceptionally and profoundly gifted are at serious risk of NOT
being able to fulfil their potential if they are refused an education appropriate
to their abilities has been comprehensively and repeatedly demonstrated by decades
of high quality research (see, for instance, the Templeton Report and “What we Know
from Longitudinal Studies of E/PG Children (2006)”). Worse, it has also been shown
that if they are refused an appropriate education they are at risk of developing
anxiety, depression and social and emotional difficulties. If they are not correctly
identified (see Identification) and educated (see Education) they may be wrongly
diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome or emotional and behavioural difficulties
(see Twice Exceptional, Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis), may be labelled ‘problem children’
in the classroom, and ultimately may drop out of education all together.
However, few parents or educationalists realise how radically different from the
norm is an education which allows the profoundly or exceptionally gifted child to
fulfil their potential. Such is their speed and depth of learning that this education
is often very different to the standard progression through school, and usually entails
permitting the child to move ahead at the speed he or she needs in individual subjects,
or by skipping years (see Acceleration). This makes some people very uncomfortable
because it is not ‘normal’ and is outside their experience. However, the research
is unequivocal: these are not ‘normal’ children, or even ‘normal’ gifted children,
and their needs are not ‘normal’ either. (We use ‘normal’ to mean ‘typical of most
children’. When compared to other profoundly and exceptionally gifted children, they
are absolutely ‘normal’!)
An appropriate education does not necessarily need to cost the school more money.
On the contrary, many children who are permitted to move ahead at the speed they
need are likely to require less funding of school-based education.
If we care about the future of medical science, the environment, sustainable living
and the prosperity of this country, in other words, if we care about our own future,
then we need to make sure that these children are offered an appropriate education
so that they have the best chance of making the contributions to these fields that
their abilities fit them for.
If, as the government has said, EVERY child matters, then we will not deny profoundly
and exceptionally gifted children the education they so desperately need.
Why does it matter?
“Giftedness is not elitist. It cuts across all socio-economic, ethnic and national
groups....In every culture, there are developmentally advanced children who have
greater abstract reasoning and develop at a faster rate than their age peers....when
provisions are denied to the gifted on the basis that they are "elitist," it is the
poor who suffer the most.”Linda Silverman
“How can children learn to persevere through challenge, difficulty and boredom if
boredom is the only obstacle they are given to overcome? Unless they can also experience
excitement, thought-provoking complexity and interesting difficulty, they can be
overwhelmed by the boredom. They will lose interest in both product and process.
We adults are told that if we don't regularly exercise our bodies we will grow sedentary,
unhealthy, and flabby. Yet the exceptionally gifted mind is expected to stay fit
without being used at all.” from “Stuck in another dimension: the exceptionally gifted
child in school”
Linda Silverman of the Gifted Development Center writes of asynchrony that...
“...gifted children develop in an uneven manner, that they are more complex and intense
than their agemates, that they feel out-of-sync with age peers and 'age appropriate
curriculum,' that the internal and external discrepancies increase with IQ, and that
these differences make them extremely vulnerable. Their greatest need is each other
in an environment in which it is safe to be different. IQ tests may not predict who
will become famous, but they do give at least a minimal estimate of the degree of
the child’s asynchrony, and, therefore, vulnerability.”
“For a society concerned about survival, no issue is more important than the cultivation
of its talented young, no outcome more devastating than the loss of talented individuals.”
Howard Gardner, Harvard University, reviewing “Talented Teenagers: The Roots of Success
and Failure” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
There are two prevalent myths about profoundly and exceptionally gifted children
with which people comfort themselves when they ignore their educational needs. These
are firstly that above a certain threshold, more ability doesn’t make any difference
to adult achievements, and secondly, that highly intelligent people tend not to be
creative, they are merely good at learning.
However, the research results explode both these myths.
“…there is a long-standing and widely held supposition of an ‘‘ability threshold’’
in the scientific literature (i.e., an assumption that beyond a certain point, more
ability does not matter; Getzels & Jackson, 1962; Howe, 2001; Renzulli, 1986)…. let
us take IQ as a reference point. IQs in the top 1% begin at approximately 137 and
extend beyond 200 (an IQ range of more than 63 points is thus found in the top 1%).
(The same phenomenon occurs in physical measurements such as height and weight.)
The important psychological question is, do ability differences within the top 1%
make a difference in life?...”
After 35 years of research tracking 5000 high ability individuals at SMPY, Benbow
and Lubinski have conclusively demonstrated firstly that:
“To be sure, factors other than ability level are important, … Nevertheless, other
things being equal, more ability is always better.”. (PEGY’s emphasis)
However, it must be noted that this ‘highest ability’ group of individuals tracked
in the SMPY study were given opportunities to accelerate their education.
Benbow and Lubinsky write:
“The exceptionally able certainly require different opportunities for optimal development
than the able (Lubinski, Webb, Morelock, & Benbow, 2001; Muratori et al., 2006),
the former needing a more abstract, deeper, and faster-paced curriculum to avoid
boredom. Furthermore, individual differences in learning rates between the able and
the exceptionally able portend commensurate differences in occupational accomplishments
many years later. Like their earlier academic accomplishments, the occupational accomplishments
of the profoundly gifted tend to develop at an accelerated pace and with greater
depth. The profoundly gifted simply have greater capacity for accomplishment and
creative contributions.” (PEGY’s emphasis)
Moreover, if we are serious about meeting the nation’s needs for more highly qualified
and able people to undertake science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers,
then we should note that the research also tells us:
Benbow, Lubinski, and Sanjani write of further results from the SMPY longitudinal
“world-class achievement is most likely to develop when gifted individuals are allowed
to pursue what they love at their desired pace..... This speaks to the importance
of providing in our schools those opportunities needed by students who are actively
developing their potential into exceptional performances at an accelerated rate.
They cannot fully develop their talents without the availability of such fast-paced
experiences.” from “Our future leaders in science: Who are they? Can we identify
This nation needs all the gifted scientists, engineers, mathematicians and doctors
it can develop, together with gifted diplomats, writers, social workers, teachers,
and all the other occupations to which exceptionally and profoundly gifted youth
may be attracted. To squander this pool of ability by failing to identify and allow
it to develop is to cut ourselves off from a powerful resource as a developed nation,
as well as failing in our duty of care to the children. We cannot expect cures for
malaria and cancer, global warming and pollution from any one individual, but as
a group we know they are capable of making significant contributions to resolving
these problems, and to building a sustainable future for our country. It is in our
own best interests to try to ensure the exceptionally and profoundly gifted fulfil
their potential, and we must not ignore decades of research which tells us how best
to do this.