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Friday, October 21, 2011

Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Students

In anticipation of the November 16 community evening at Quest Academy featuring a presentation by renowned gifted education scholar and psychologist Dr. James T. Webb on the subject of “the social and emotional needs of gifted students,” I thought it wise to reflect on this topic. For ticket information, please click here.
“Students must be able to develop a healthy perspective about their own talents and limitations, and those of others; a positive self-image; a positive regard for the processes of learning and inquiry; and a commitment to a guiding set of moral and ethical values,” according to Drs. Dona J. Matthews and Joanne F. Foster, authors of Being Smart about Gifted Education.
Often we read of the hyphenated version of social-emotional needs. Clearly those two needs are interconnected in myriad complex ways, while sometimes it may behoove us to look at each issue as a separate need.
Having now worked as Head of School for almost five years at Quest Academy (www.questacademy.org), a school specializing in meeting the needs of gifted students, it is clearer than ever before that educating the “whole child” is, in my opinion, paramount in a school, where children have been identified and taught as gifted students. Dr. Webb would tell us that “cultivating courage, caring, and creativity are as important as academics and developing intellectual abilities.” Similarly, Dr. Kirk Erickson, who conducts testing for Quest Academy applicants, states:
"Having advanced intellectual and academic achievement skills are wonderful qualities, but they are not the only things that may predict success. Things like personal motivation, creativity, and work habits are but a few of the skills that are also important. One area that is just as vital, but often overlooked is social and emotional intelligence. The way we relate and interact with the world around us, and how we mange our internal sense of self is often the greatest measure of our potential as human beings."
So what is the “whole child?” Simply put, it is about addressing all the needs a child has – according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), this encompasses:
  •  a need for a healthy environment and learning about healthy lifestyle choices
  • a physically and emotionally safe environment
  • engagement in learning and connection to school and the larger community
  • access to personalized learning
  • a challenging environment shaped by a well-balanced curriculum
Maybe more to the point is the question what defines the “whole gifted child.” This is where it gets difficult as gifted students are not following generally agreed upon developmental milestones, particularly in their intellectual development. Gifted children just do not follow a predictable or “even” developmental pattern – they often follow an asynchronous pattern. In other words, a gifted child at age ten may have intellectual needs equivalent to a 15-year-old, social and emotional needs of a 13-year-old, and physical needs of a ten-year-old. Gifted children, in short, may find themselves at varying developmental levels and may experience polar emotional reactions such as excitement and anxiety or pride and self-doubt in almost one and the same moment. As a result of such asynchronous development, gifted children may be misdiagnosed – and indeed Dr. Webb frequently talks about gifted students being misdiagnosed in an environment, where the needs of gifted children are not recognized or validated.
Gifted children, in my opinion, deserve a different kind of education. This education must be shaped by teachers and parents who understand asynchronous patterns. It is in that spirit that I invite you to the November 16 evening (7 p.m.) with Dr. Webb here at Quest Academy. Dr. Webb will present to our faculty in the afternoon – in the evening, he will address parenting issues such as:
·         motivation and underachievement
·         discipline, power struggles, and self-management
·         intensity, stress and perfectionism
·         acquaintances, friends, and peers
·         complexities of modern parenting
·         misdiagnosis
·         finding a good educational fit.

We hope to see you there!

1 comment:

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