Being labeled as Gifted is typically viewed by our culture as a valuable and desireable commodity. Having a High IQ is often equated with success and wealth. We encourage higher education and increased intelligence to our children. What we do not expect is for those who have these natural gifts to resent them. We certainly do not expect for gifted children to view their intelligence as a burden. But for many, this is the case. Being gifted is not always viewed as a gift.
More often than not, mental health professionals see gifted children in the clinical setting due to behavioral and/ or academic issues. Which is likely surprising to most. I personally was quite surprised at this, especially as it is not something that is spoken about a great deal professionally. One of the main issues is when the child is not diagnosed with a High IQ. And when a child with a High IQ is not being treated as such in the academic and home environment, acting out behaviors can certainly develop. Why? Quite simply, because the child is being under-challenged. Gifted children are frequently bored because they likely already know the information being taught. And on top of that they tend to learn information at a much faster pace.
So what symptoms do mental health professionals observe in children who are gifted? First a parent will likely bring the child in for counseling for one or more issues: defiance, aggression, bullying, low self esteem, academic failure, suspensions, acting out in the classroom setting, chronic boredom, low mood, anxiety, irritability, frustration, restlessness, refusal to complete homework, refusal of academic assignments, refusal to participate, and peer relationship issues (such as developing and maintaining friendships).
What are some observations made in gifted children? A large and extensive vocabulary. Reads over age level. Overly mature. Being interested in topics and play that are not “typical” for their age. Sometimes not understanding what the child is speaking about, as the content is “over your head.” Very observant and detail focused. Ability to recall large quantities of information easily. Personality observantions are often introverted, sensitive, kind, polite, and can maintain lengthy conversations with adults. Another interesting fact, is that High IQ’s tend to be genetic and run in families.
What can caregivers do to advocate for their child’s needs? IEP’s, or Individualized Educational Plans (per the IDEA act) should be in place for all children who are considered gifted. It will address the child’s areas of need, and how the school will make accommodations. It is encouraged that gifted children participate in “gifted classes.” It is a common concern for parents that if their child attends a gifted program that the child will become isolated. Which is a valid concern that should be discussed. However, gifted children should be with other gifted children. So that they can feel heard, understood, and accepted exactly the way they are. Also, it will give them an opportunity to make friends with a peer group who has similar interests.
These children need our support, understanding, and advocacy. Just as children who have other Disabilities require Special Education Services and Educational Advocacy. Gifted children require the same. In fact, they often require more advocacy. Because they can easily “slip through the cracks.” Gifted children who are not properly diagnosed and treated as such, often become the challenging children who do not thrive in the educational setting. They can become the “class clowns” the “behavior problems” and the “drop outs.” This is a severe disservice to these children.
If you believe that your child or student may be gifted, please request that they receive appropriately testing through the public school system. If this is not an option, psychologists are the best Professionals to test and assess for this. They also can make recommendations to your child’s school in regards to their academic needs. Being gifted is a wonderful strength to have. However it needs to be managed properly so that your child can be successful in school and at home.
Angie Simonton, LCSW
06/13/2018 Updated with new content.