the UK based support organisation for those
 involved with parenting and teaching 

Profoundly & Exceptionally Gifted Youth
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“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.”

Pursuing profound possibilities  




“We want every child to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background or circumstances” HM Government, (2004)  Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools.



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















“It is difficult to maintain the belief that one can meet and overcome challenges if one never has the opportunity to test oneself.” from “Exceptionally Gifted Children: Long-Term Outcomes of Academic

Acceleration and Nonacceleration






“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.”


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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.


For example, from “Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth After 35 Years: Uncovering Antecedents for the Development of Math-Science Expertise”  (Note that, despite the title, this study is not of just the mathematically gifted. Benbow and Lubinski wrote ““Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth’” has become a bit of a misnomer, however, because many of our participants are more verbally than mathematically talented, and the participants are now all adults. Nevertheless, to maintain consistency, we have chosen not to rename the study.”)  Benbow and Lubinski write:


“…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)


and secondly, that the highest ability group in the study were also the most creative, as measured by the number of patents granted. (Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth After 35 Years: Uncovering Antecedents for the Development of Math-Science Expertise” by Benbow and Lubinski)


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:


“…being challenged by intellectually rigorous math-science educational opportunities that are responsive to one’s learning needs increases the likelihood of being in a STEM career 20 years later.” (STEM = science, technology, engineering, mathematics)  (“Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth After 35 Years: Uncovering Antecedents for the Development of Math-Science Expertise” by Benbow and Lubinski)


Benbow,  Lubinski, and Sanjani write of further results from the SMPY longitudinal study:



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 them early?”



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.


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