Social-Emotional Needs of the Gifted
The very intelligent child,
perceiving the illogical and unjust conduct of elders in charge of
affairs, may learn to hate all authority, and become incapable of
taking a cooperative attitude towards commands. The great problem of
learning to suffer fools gladly is one which many gifted persons
never solve, as long as they live.
Leta Stetter Hollingworth
Looking at the social-emotional needs of
the gifted it is worth remembering that despite their above average
abilities in one or more domain they are foremost human beings,
sharing the same needs everybody does. But there are also some special
needs the gifted develop because of their giftedness.
social-emotional needs of the gifted can be put into two categories:
The needs everybody has got and special needs. Research dating back to
Lewis M. Terman's long-term study and the writings of Leta Stetter
Hollingworth suggest, that gifted children and teenagers face on
average less problems than their age-peers. However, this doesn't mean
they don't have any problems.
anybody else, they can suffer from depression, mobbing in school,
inadequate reactions to their own feelings, and many other problems.
But, if they are less prone to those ailments, there are quite a few
problems they face, exactly because they are gifted. The most common
Challenge: Because the gifted possess above average abilities in some
domains, the challenges the face in school or in the interaction with
their peers can be inadequate in the sense that they can't learn from a
schooling situation any more, because they have already mastered, what
they are supposed to learn or because their concerns and actions are so
far of from the norm, that other people don't really understand them.
Because the gifted are so good at doing certain things, other people
expect them to be good at everything. Once the gifted adopt such
experiences, they start believing they always have to bring top
results. When they don't manage to do so, they rather abstain from
action than to be content with nearly perfect results.
When the gifted are not challenged, they sometimes live under the
illusion, that to be gifted means, they don't have to put an effort
into their actions. If this behaviour becomes a habit, and through the
progression of classes tasks get more demanding, they find themselves
suddenly in a situation, where they can't cope with demands any more. Their
performance stands in negative contrast to their cognitive ability.
Integration: If a child's cognitive powers are far ahead of the
development of the body, frustration can be the result. For instance if
a child knows how to write, but can't, because the motoric skills
aren't yet developed enough. Also, a perception of the big problems in
the world combined with less developed emotional maturity can be a
cause of personal crisis.
Involvement: Many gifted are highly involved with at least one topic of
interest. Because they hold this topic in such high esteem, they
sometime appear weird to other people. If their interest leads to a
particular success, they might also need to cope with the envy of others.
the gifted have special needs as a result of their giftedness, they
sometimes need special attention. If society manages to educate the
gifted into adults who can make a positive contribution, everybody is
to gain from it.
- Delisle, Jim & Galbraith, Judy: When Gifted Kids
Don't Have all the Answers - How to Meet Their Social and Emotional
Needs; Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis 2002
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Giger, April 2006 (Update: 26-04-2006)