Fortunately, today educators are more aware of the needs of talented students with high and gifted ability. Identification of such students is still an issue though, and while identifying students who have barriers to their learning because of difficulties is important, finding and supporting students who are gifted academically, is just as critical. Assessment and testing can help discover the abilities of these highly able children.
Who are these gifted students?
Academically gifted and highly able students generally show the potential for advanced development, and may progress with their learning faster than others. Their thinking may appear different to their peers (deeper and broader), and they may be achieving at a very high standard. Having said that there is a greater awareness of the gifted students, this does not infer that all of these students are being supported in the kinds of programs that they need.
As with students with difficulties in learning, gifted and highly able students who are not identified and provided with extension, enrichment and in many cases opportunities for acceleration, may be “at risk” of not achieving to the level that they should.
Gifted students can be “at risk” of underachieving if they are not given programs that challenge them or provide opportunities to demonstrate and build on their ability. Much of the literature on gifted students, in fact, focuses on underachievement and the failure to identify. Many are still not being catered for appropriately.
If you feel that your child may be presenting as a gifted or highly able student, and this has not been recognised or assessed at school, Young Advantage is able to assist you.
Some students present as twice exceptional. This means that a student may not only have high ability and be capable of achieving at a very high level, but that they can also have a learning difficulty of some kind which gets in the way of their achievement. This can often mask the fact that they are actually gifted. For example, a student may be able to discuss concepts and perform well above their peers at the oral language level. However, they might also have some specific difficulty with literacy, at the written or decoding level, as an example. Thus they may not be able to demonstrate their gifted ability in writing as well, and at school, that can be devastating. The life of a twice exceptional student can be extremely difficult if they are not identified and supported.
Gifted ability is generally recognisable very early if one knows what to look for.
Some of the characteristics of these students include:
- High curiosity
- Intense interests
- Excellent memory
- Quick to see relationships
- Flexible thinking
- Vivid imagination
- Long attention span
- Elaborate and original thinking
- May be very sensitive
- Learns quickly, requiring less practice than others
- Often very active and superior language including vocabulary
- Early readers
- Well-developed sense of humour
- May also be perfectionistic
- May relate better to adults
- Emotional development might not be at the same level as their other abilities
This is not an exhaustive list of course, and not all children will present with all of these attributes. Gifted children need consideration from many perspectives such as academic, social and emotional. There are a number of supports out there, but the first important step is to accurately identify that the child is gifted and in what ways.
Marg Young has postgraduate qualifications in education of the gifted, as well as extensive experience in provision of support for these students. Having had a daughter who presented as twice exceptional, she knows the importance and urgency around identification, recognition and support.