As a whole, our society doesn’t like the term “gifted.” It’s condemned as elitist, and
many people who don’t understand intellectual giftedness proclaim that “all children are gifted.” While all children may show talents and gifts that make them unique, gifted students truly stand out. They possess a unique set of characteristics, and as a result they face challenges unlike any other learner group. Giftedness requires recognition as an exceptionality and gifted learners require special accommodation in order to meet their exceptional needs.

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According to the National Association for Gifted Children, the profile of a “typical” gifted learner is quite classic: gifted learners acquire academic material quickly, often connecting seemingly unrelated material at a faster rate than peers. They tend to think in deep, complex ways, and as a result display high levels of curiosity from an early age. Gifted children tend to have an advanced sense of justice, demonstrate early leadership skills, and prefer the company of older children or adults. They are often self-taught in high-interest subjects, and tend to have strong verbal skills, a broad range of academic knowledge, high levels of creativity, and active imaginations (Alsafwani).

Along with the many advantages of being intellectually gifted comes a fair share of challenges. Social interaction is a chore for many gifted learners; the more extreme their IQs are on the bell curve, the more challenging social interaction can become. Many gifted learners struggle to work alongside chronological peers, and prefer the company of older children or adults. Naturally, this can leave to feelings of isolation and loneliness. In addition to difficulty with peers, asynchronous development between intellectual growth and social maturity, emotional maturity, and fine motor skills can cause uninformed teachers to question the child’s giftedness, and therefore not meet his or her needs.

Gifted learners can suffer from boredom in a regular classroom setting, which can often leave to behavior problems. Their natural verbal strength makes many young gifted children very talkative, which is discouraged in many regular classroom settings. Their tendency to hyper-focus on areas of interest can be detrimental to their ability to transition in the classroom as well as to be willing to embark on other areas of coursework. Perfectionism plagues gifted learners, and can lead to tears, frustration, giving up, and reduced self-esteem. While many gifted learners grow to become happy professionals with advanced degrees, those with unmet needs run the risk of wasted potential, never self-actualizing, low self-esteem, frustration, depression, drug use, and suicide (NAGC, 2014).

Unlike most exceptionalities, where mainstreaming is shown to yield improved test scores, gifted students do not benefit from full-time placement in a regular education setting. The most ideal way to deal with them is to provide a specialized setting in which they can interact with their intellectual peers and have the opportunity to pursue their own unique intellectual needs: academic study of areas of personal interest, exercises in problem solving and higher-level thinking, brainteasers and logic puzzles, or coursework acceleration if that is a goal established by the student.

Addressing the needs of a gifted learner in the regular classroom setting requires a two-fold approach. A teacher must consider their academic needs as well as their affective needs. Gifted students require compacted pacing and assignments, meaning that they will not get as much repetition in the coursework, because upon demonstrating mastery they should receive enrichment instead. They should not be consistently relegated to the role of teacher’s helper or peer tutor. When a gifted specialist is available, he or she may be able to collaborate with the classroom teacher to provide appropriate enrichment for the classroom (Alsafwani). However, when a gifted specialist is unavailable, classroom teachers may turn to brainteaser books, technology, and project-based learning to help him or her meet the needs of a gifted student.

High achievement, creativity, and intellectual functioning are the defining characteristics of giftedness. Although their processing speed, motivation, and talents can be seen as an advantage, gifted learners struggle from a variety of academic, emotional, and social struggles as a result of their condition. Sensitivity to their needs and consideration while lesson planning and building the classroom climate can help gifted students to overcome the challenges they face.