Understanding the peer relationships of academically gifted students continues to be a concern of both researchers and practitioners in the field of gifted education. On one hand, the literature suggests that in most situations, being intellectually gifted is generally an asset socially and emotionally (Robinson, 2008) and gifted students tend to be well-received by peers (Neihart, 2007). On the other hand, some evidence reveals that many gifted students express that they do not “fit the mold” and “feel different”, and this sense of difference may, in turn, lead to general feelings of unease or lack of competence in social situations and difficulties creating and maintaining relationships with other people, including peers of the same age (Gross, 2015).
Common social and emotional experiences for gifted children can reflect:
- differences in their abilities compared to same-age peers
- tendencies toward introversion and perceived issues with social acceptance
- conflicts or anxieties associated with their inner experiences of giftedness
- a critical and self-critical nature, often resulting in perfectionism or low self-worth
It is clear that there is no single manner in which a child can be gifted. Emotional and social difficulties vary, also, from one gifted child to another. These difficulties have their roots in asynchronous development. Gifted children have emotional, physical, and intellectual development that are not equal; not in ‘sync’ according to Miraca Gross, director of GERRIC (Gross, 2001).
Academically gifted children have an intellect above their emotional and physical age-level. An intellectually gifted 5-year-old may have the intellect similar to that of an 8-year-old, emotional development similar to a 3-year-old, and physical development on par with a 6-year-old. The higher the intellect, the more out-of-sync with emotional and physical development they may be.
A gifted child understands concepts that he is not able to deal with emotionally. Death, the future, or world hunger may become overwhelming concerns. Situations like this can create frustration and distress.
What can you do to support your gifted child emotionally ?
- You can support your child to:
- Make time for friends.
- Be open to new friendships.
- Practise being a good host.
- Practise friendship skills by role-playing situations.
- Be a good listener, use eye contact to show interest and caring for others.
- Avoid bragging, while still being sincere about their own abilities.
- Participate in a variety of group activities, to create different friendship opportunities.
- Accept those who think and act differently from you.
- Enroll in a Comprehensive Social and Emotional Learning Program
- Spending time with like-minded peers can provide your child with opportunities for engaging with those who think and learn in similar ways. They can share their values and interests, and challenge one another. This is likely to result in improved chances of being understood, with better prospects of forming stable and supportive friendships, and the comfort of feeling accepted.
- Remember your child’s emotional needs may be at a different age-level to their intellectual ability. Recognise your child’s chronological age and comfort them according to their needs. A 6-year-old with the maths skills of a 10-year-old will still likely require the emotional support appropriate for a 6-year-old.
Some of the issues described throughout this article may be addressed by providing appropriate educational and counselling interventions. For example, The Best of Friends program has been carefully designed to meet the social and emotional needs of gifted students. You can find our more about the program by visiting http://bof.quirkykid.com.au or https://childpsychologist.com.au/workshops/
For more information about how to support the social and emotional needs of your child, contact us with any questions.
Adams-Byers, J., Squiller Whitsell, S., & Moon, S. (2004). Gifted students’ perceptions of the academic and social/emotional effects of homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping. Gifted Child Quarterly, 48(1), 7–20
Gross, M. U. M., (2001) From “play partner” to “sure shelter”: What do gifted children seek from friendship? GERRIC News, 4-5
Gross, M. U. (2015). Characteristics of Able Gifted Highly Gifted Exceptionally Gifted and Profoundly Gifted Learners. In Applied Practice for Educators of Gifted and Able Learners (pp. 3-23). SensePublishers.
Neihart, M. (2007). The Socioaffective Impact of Acceleration and Ability Grouping Recommendations for Best Practice. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 330-341.
Robinson, N. M. (2008). The social world of gifted children and youth. In Handbook of giftedness in children (pp. 33-51). Springer US.
Gifted and talented students are those with exceptional abilities and qualities in areas such as academics, culture, leadership, arts, creativity, and sport. Gifted and talented children are found in every cultural, social, ethnic and socioeconomic group. However, it is relatively uncommon, and is recognized only in children whose IQ is at or above 130. Exceptionally gifted students, usually have pronounced talents in one specific field of interest – for example, music or mathematics – and are even less common.
Due to a gifted child’s rapidly developing cognitive abilities, often there is a large difference between their chronological age, intellectual maturity, and emotional maturity, causing some gifted children to experience an intensity or sensitivity of feelings and emotions.
This sensitivity or intensity of emotions may be displayed in a range of behaviours which may leave the gifted child open to teasing and social isolation at school.
Identifying a Gifted Child
Gifted children often display some of the following traits.
- Extremely Curious
- Excellent memory
- Fluent and flexible thinking
- Excellent problem solving skills
- Learns quickly and with less practice and repetition
- Unusual and/or vivid imagination
- Very sensitive, emotionally and even physically
- Concerned about fairness and injustice
- Relates well to adults
- Extensive Vocabulary
- Reads Rapidly and Widely
- Enjoys learning new things
A video about Gifted children and Quirky Kid
How are gifted children assessed?
Giftedness is accurately identified through a psychometric assessment. Psychometric assessments including the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children- Fourth Edition and the Stanford Binet 5 are used to assess the general thinking and reasoning skills of children. There are also other kinds of assessments focusing more on Nonverbal Tests of Ability. Assessments should always be administered by a specialist Educational and Developmental Psychologist or a Registered Psychologist with specialist skills.
How can I help my gifted child make the most of his abilities?
Communicate with your child’s teachers. Ask about what accommodations can be provided for your child to help keep him stimulated and learning at a challenging pace. You may also want to ask about accelerated or advanced classes, or special programs for the Gifted and Talented.
Consider enrolling your child to programs like ‘The Power Up!’ program by Quirky Kid
Provide learning opportunities for your child outside the classroom. Gifted children excel when they are given the chance to keep learning and developing their talents. He may excel in academically-themed camps, weekend classes in drama, music, languages, sports, or writing.
Trips to museums, science centres, and other cultural events may also be fun and a great way to bond with your child. The University of NSW (UNSW) offers school holiday programs for Gifted and Talented students through GERRIC. Programs like ‘The Power Up!’ program by Quirky Kid are also a great idea.
Introduce your child to other gifted or talented children. Research shows that gifted children experience less stress and negative emotions when they have the opportunity to discuss their social and emotional concerns with others of high ability. A Gifted and Talented program, either as part of school curricula or as an extracurricular pursuit, can help your child meet and interact with other gifted students.
Affirm your child as a whole being, not just as a ‘high achiever’.
Qualities such as kindness, tolerance, and fairness – not just intelligence or achievement – are important. Recognition as a ‘all-rounder’ will help reduce the pressure many gifted children feel.
Talk to an experienced Psychologist. Gifted and talented children are often at risk of serious under achievement, social isolation, poor concentration and mood swings associated with frustration. Psychological intervention can assist with motivation, organizational skills, social issues and study schedules and many other related concerns.
Recommendations for teachers and parents
- Gifted students love the idea of learning something new and they will enjoy being provided with additional, more challenging work. By accelerating a gifted child’s work, grades or by attending opportunity classes, it will help feed the child’s need to learn and help to keep their behaviour under control.
- Gifted students should be provided with opportunities to socialise with peers of similar abilities. This may be possible by attending a selective High School, or participating in Gifted and Talented programs.
- Gifted children may benefit from being provided with independent study or research projects, particularly in their area of interest.
- Extra curricular activities, such as drama, music, languages, sports, gymnastics, dancing, or creative writing, should be encouraged.
- Highly gifted children are often at risk of serious under achievement, social isolation, concentration or behavioural symptoms and may benefit from receiving counselling.
What are the challenges associated with giftedness?
While giftedness is generally considered an asset, many gifted children experience challenges that their non-gifted peers will not.Due to a gifted child’s advanced cognitive abilities, they may find it difficult to relate to, and from satisfying bonds with other children in their peer group. This can lead to social isolation from same-aged peers, identification with adult or elder peers and frustration in class.Gifted children process information more rapidly than others in their age group, which can make them highly sensitive to their environments. This sensitivity can lead to moodiness, irritability, or anxiousness in gifted children.Giftedness is often associated with perfectionism, which can lead to procrastination and, paradoxically, under achievement in school.
Quirky Kid published a range a resources to support the emotional and social development of children and adolescents. Parents can greatly benefit from some of this resources available on the Quirky Kid Shoppe. Below you can see the Face it cards, The Just like when cards and the Likes of youth
The Quirky Kid Clinic offers a range of services to assist gifted children. Please contact us to make an appointment or visit our assessment page for further assessment information.
Purchasing Power up
This article was also published at the Essential Kids Website.
First posted on October 2011. Revised September 2012
Information for this fact sheet was taken from an interview with Child Psychologist Kimberley O’Brien, and the following article.
Dabrowski, K., & Piechowski, M. M. (1977). Theory of levels of emotional development. Oceanside, NY: Dabor.