Counseling Gifted Students - An Overview


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An overview of what school counselors need to know to most effectively serve the social and emotional needs of gifted students in their schools.

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Counseling Gifted Students - An Overview

  1. 1. Social & Emotional Needs of Gifted Students What School Counselors Need to Know to Most Effectively Serve This Diverse Student Population
  2. 2. What does the term “gifted” mean to you? What are your experiences working with gifted clients?
  3. 3. Rationale… • Peterson (2006) highlights the limited attention given to the unique social & emotional needs of gifted students in many school counseling training programs • The American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 2005) advocates that school counselors should proactively serve all students – to best meet the needs of all students, counselors must be aware of the strengths and challenges inherent to a variety of student populations • This presentation was initially developed to serve as an introduction to the needs of gifted students for school counselors in training • The material is also applicable for professional development workshops geared toward current practicing school counselors and other school personnel
  4. 4. What is a “Gifted Student?” • No Universal Definition – Having superior mental ability or intelligence – A label of potential – Based upon achievement • NCLB Definition: “The term “gifted and talented,” when used with respect to students, children, or youth, means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.” (Title IX, Part A, Section 9101(22), p.544)
  5. 5. Why are their needs any different from other students? • Recognized definition from field of gifted education: “Giftedness in asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” The Columbus Group, 1991 Cited by Martha Morelock, “Giftedness: The View from Within”
  6. 6. Why might their developmental needs be different? • Gifted individuals experience the world from a different perspective, with qualitative differences: – intensities, sensitivities, idealism, perceptiveness, overexcitabilities, asynchrony, complexity, introversion, perfectionism, and moral concerns (Silverman, 2006). • Can render gifted children and adolescents particularly vulnerable along a number of social and emotional domains – Require attention from parents, teachers, and counselors for optimal development to occur.
  7. 7. Glossary of Gifted Education • Acceleration • Achievement • Aptitude • Asynchronous Development • Ceiling effect (Group IQ tests often have low ceilings) • Elitist • Enrichment • Grade skipping • Inclusion • Javits Act • Labeling theory • Multiple Intelligences (Musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical mathematical, linguistic, spatial, interpersonal & intrapersonal – naturalist) • Multipotentiality • Precocity • Tracking • Unschooling
  8. 8. Levels of Giftedness • According to IQ measurements, the following labels are generally accepted: • Bright 115 and above • Gifted 130 and above • Highly gifted 145 and above • Exceptionally gifted 160 and above • Profoundly gifted 175 and above
  9. 9. Characteristics of the Gifted ~ the following are common but not universal ~ • Superior abilities to reason, generalize or problem solve • Persistent intellectual curiosity • Wide range of interests; develop one or more interests to considerable depth • Superior written work &/or large vocabulary • Reads avidly • Learns quickly & retains what is learned • Grasps mathematical or scientific concepts readily • Creative ability or imaginative expression in the arts
  10. 10. Characteristics of the Gifted ~ the following are common but not universal ~ (continued…) • Sustains concentration for lengthy periods on topics of interest • Sets high standards for self • Shows initiative, originality, or flexibility in thinking; considers problems from a number of viewpoints • Observes keenly and is responsive to new ideas • Shows social poise or an ability to communicate with adults in a mature way • Enjoys intellectual challenge; shows an alert & subtle sense of humor
  11. 11. Can sometimes lead to conflicts in the classroom… • The gifted child may: – Get bored with routine tasks – Resist changing away from interesting topics or activities – Be overly critical of self or others, impatient with failure, perfectionistic – Disagree vocally with others, argue with the teacher – Make jokes or puns at times adults consider inappropriate – Be so emotionally sensitive and empathic that adults consider it over- reaction, may get angry, or cry things go wrong, get overwhelming or seem unfair – Ignore details, turn in messy work – Reject authority, be non-conforming, stubborn – Dominate or withdraw in cooperative learning situations – Be highly sensitive to environmental stimuli such as lights or noises • These same traits are sometimes used in labeling children ADD/ADHD or SED Nordby (2004)
  12. 12. Common Myths • Gifted students do not need help. If they are really gifted they can manage on their own. • Gifted students are a homogenous group, all high achievers. • Gifted students have fewer problems than others because their intelligence and abilities somehow exempt them from the hassles of daily life. • The future of the gifted student is assured: a world of opportunities awaits. • Gifted students are self-directed; they know where they are heading. • The social & emotional development of the gifted student is at the same level as his or her intellectual development. • Gifted students are nerds & social isolates.
  13. 13. Common Myths continued… • The primary value of the gifted student lies in his or her brain power. • The gifted student’s family always prizes his or her abilities. • Gifted students need to serve as examples to others and they should always assume extra responsibility. • Gifted students make everyone else smarter. • Gifted students can accomplish anything they put their minds to. All the have to do is apply themselves. • Gifted students are naturally creative and do not need encouragement. • Gifted children are easy to raise and a welcome addition to any classroom. Berger (2006)
  14. 14. Truths about Gifted Students • Are often perfectionistic and idealistic. • May experience heightened sensitivity to their own expectations and those of others, resulting in guilt over achievement or grades perceived to be low. • Asynchronous – chronological age, social, physical, emotional, and intellectual development may all be at different levels. • Some are “mappers” (sequential learners) while others are “leapers” (spatial learners). Leapers may not know how they got a “right answer,” Mappers may get lost in the steps leading to the right answer. • Are problem solvers – they benefit from working on open- ended, interdisciplinary problems.
  15. 15. More Truths… • May be so far ahead of their chronological age classmates that they know more than half of the curriculum before the school year begins. Their boredom can result in low achievement and grades. • Often think abstractly & with such complexity that they may need help with concrete study & test-taking skills. They may not be able to select one answer on a multiple choice question because they see possibilities in all choices. • Gifted students who do well in school may define success by their grades and failure as anything less than an “A.” By early adolescence they may be unwilling to try anything where they are not certain of guaranteed success. Berger (2006)
  16. 16. Types of Gifted Children • Usually discussed as an undifferentiated group. • Affected by environment, personality, community, education, relationships, personal development, etc. • Based upon research into the approaches gifted children use to cope with their emotions the following “types” were proposed. (Betts & Neihart, 1988; Roeper, 1982) • Theoretical construct that can provide insight, not a diagnostic model • Provides a framework for examining the cognitive, emotional & social needs of the gifted and talented.
  17. 17. Types of Gifted Children • The Successful – Up to 90% of identified gifted students in school programs are this type. • The Challenging – Divergently gifted, often not identified in schools. • The Underground – Want to hide their giftedness to better fit in with their peers (ex. Middle school girls) • The Dropouts – Angry, feel rejected, needs have not been met or have been ignored. May act out &/or be defensive, or may be depressed & withdrawn. • The Double-Labeled – Typically either ignored because perceived as average or referred for remedial assistance • The Autonomous Learner – Use the system to create new opportunities.
  18. 18. Some Common Issues & Concerns • Peer Pressures & Social Acceptance • Asynchronous Development • Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities – Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, Emotional • Need to Be Understood • Need for Mental Stimulation • Perfectionism • Need for Precision • Sense of Humor Sensitivity/Empathy • Intensity • Perseverance
  19. 19. Some Common Issues & Concerns • Acute Self-Awareness • Nonconformity • Questioning of Authority • Introversion • Existential Depression • Underachievement • Special Populations/Considerations – Males vs. Females, GLB, Minorities, SES, Twice- Exceptional (2e), Dual-Diagnosis, etc.
  20. 20. Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration 1. Levels of development 2. Overexcitabilities
  21. 21. Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration Levels of Development… “Advanced development requires a breakdown of existing psychological structures in order to form higher, more evolved structures. The emotional makeup and the intellectual capacity of the individual determine the extent of development possible.” Silverman, 2000, p. 11
  22. 22. Overexcitabilities • Psychomotor • Intellectual • Imaginational • Sensual • Emotional
  23. 23. Overexcitabilities • Higher than average responsiveness to stimuli, manifested by either psychomotor, sensual, emotional, imaginational, or intellectual excitability (Dabrowski, 1972) • Viewed by researchers in gifted education as a “multifaceted lens through which to view the intensities of gifted children” (Tieso, 2007) • A “mode of understanding and responding to the world” (Piechowski, 1979) – a critical component of the qualitatively different way that individuals experience the world
  24. 24. More About Overexcitabilities • The strength of an overexcitability affects the quality of the person’s experience… the intensity must be understood as a qualitatively distinct characteristic (Piechowski, 1992) • OEs contribute significantly to one’s drive, experience, power to envision possibilities, and the intensity & complexity of feeling involved in creative expression • OEs represent the “kind of endowment that feeds, nourishes, enriches, empowers, and amplifies talent” (Piechowski & Colangelo, 1984) • However – can often be viewed negatively, or pathologically, particularly in educational settings
  25. 25. Reflection Jot down a few thoughts on the following questions: • What do people say is your best quality? Your worst? • What is your biggest pet peeve at home? At school? • How can someone tell when you are bored? • What do you do when you are tense? • What does it mean to have a good friend? To be a • good friend? • Do you have any nervous habits? What are they? • What is your favorite game? • What does fear smell like? Think about students or clients who might resemble the following profiles…
  26. 26. PSYCHOMOTOR • Surplus energy due to enhanced excitability of the neuromuscular system • Manifestations: – Excess physical energy – Rapid speech and/or compulsive talking – Nervous habits – Impulsive actions – Marked competitiveness – “Workaholism” – Restlessness and/or constant fidgeting – Potential tendencies for self-mutilation • Psychomotor expression of emotional tension
  27. 27. SENSUAL • Heightened ability to experience sensory/ aesthetic pleasure • Manifestations: – Increased need to touch & be touched – Delight in beautiful objects – Overeating – Aesthetic interests, Drama – Sensitivity to sensory stimuli (i.e. tags, noises, lights) – Need for comfort and luxury – Varied sexual experiences – Need for attention and company – Dislike of loneliness – May have numerous, but superficial, relationships • Transfer of emotional tension to sensual forms
  28. 28. IMAGINATIONAL • Capacity to visualize events very well • Manifestations – Association of images and impressions – Inventiveness – Intuitive, heightened consciousness – Use of image and metaphor in verbal expression – Vivid and animated visualization – Less pure form: dreams, nightmares, mixing of truth & fiction, fears of unknown • Intense living in the world of fantasy • Transfer of emotional tension through imagination
  29. 29. INTELLECTUAL • Intensified activity of the mind • Manifestations: – Persistence to ask probing questions – Avidity for knowledge – Keen observation and analytical abilities – Capacity for intense concentration – Theoretical thinking and preoccupation with theoretical problems – Reverence for logic • Transfer of emotional tension through intellectual pursuits
  30. 30. EMOTIONAL • Function of experiencing emotional relationships • Manifestations: – Strong attachments to persons, living things, or places – Inhibition (Timidity and Shyness) – Excitation (Enthusiasm) – Strong affective memory – Concern with death – Fears, anxieties, and depressions – Feelings of loneliness – Need for security – Concern for others – Exclusive relationships – Difficulty adjusting to new environments • The basis for multilevel positive disintegration
  31. 31. More About Overexcitabilities • OEs appear early in life • Are innate strengths • Considered variables of temperament • Relate most closely to activity level, intensity of reaction, and threshold of responsiveness • Gifted children & adults tend to have significantly higher emotional, intellectual, and imaginational OEs than the average population – How might this impact their counseling needs?
  32. 32. Implications for Counseling • “OEs on the one side accelerate individual development, and on the other, is the initial phase of neuroses and psychoneuroses. Although the latter increase the developmental dynamics, they also bring dangers of tensions too great to absorb and negative disintegration as a result.” (Dabrowski, 1964) • “The challenge for researchers and practitioners is to examine these intensities and promote intervention strategies that will enhance students’ positive characteristics while teaching them to compensate for the negative.” (Tieso, 2007)
  33. 33. Counseling Individuals with Overexcitabilities • PSYCHOMOTOR – Help find appropriate outlets for release of energy – Teach relaxation techniques – Physical therapy & Sensory integration techniques – Medication to prevent exhaustion and to aid attention, concentration and development of self-control • SENSUAL – Help build self-control and self-reflection – Desensitization techniques for overwhelming stimuli (Mika, 2002)
  34. 34. Counseling Individuals with Overexcitabilities • IMAGINATIONAL – Creative or pathological? (illusions, confabulations, delusions…) – Teach differences between illusory and real – Steer imagination towards creativity rather than non-creative isolation • INTELLECTUAL – Help to create balance between intellectual and other Overexcitabilities – Attend to emotional and moral development as well to help counteract over-intellectualization – Encourage development of empathy and creativity (Mika, 2002)
  35. 35. Counseling Individuals with Overexcitabilities • EMOTIONAL – Validation – Teach relaxation techniques – Provide a supportive and understanding environment for the development of self-awareness and self-acceptance – Help support the development of talents and encourage creativity – Use of bibliotherapy/cinematherapy – Use of reframing techniques to help in realization of positive aspects of OEs – Medication, if necessary, to aid relaxation and ease anxiety (Mika, 2002)
  36. 36. More Implications for Counseling • Awareness and greater understanding • Consultation & Advocacy – Misdiagnosis/dual diagnosis in schools • Specific Counseling Approaches – Group Counseling Curriculum promoting self- awareness, self-understanding, and acceptance (Strickland, 2000) – Application of strengths based approach – Individual approaches
  37. 37. Thoughts & Ideas… • How does this fit with your understanding of other developmental theories? • How does this fit with your understanding of yourself or others? • How might you use this theory in working with your students/clients? • Potential for use within other frameworks? – Narrative therapies – Humanistic and person-centered approaches – Cognitive developmental framework • Multicultural implications? • My current research study… – Ego development, developmental potential, and behavioral characteristics of gifted adolescents
  38. 38. Other Challenges to Adjustment • Several dynamic of giftedness continually interfere with adjustment gains during adolescence, encountering several potential obstacles. (Buescher, 1986) • Ownership • “Use” of their gifts • Dissonance • Taking Risks • Competing Expectations • Impatience • Premature Identity
  39. 39. Roles of the School Counselor • Consultant to/with: – Teachers – Administrators – Parents • Identification • Advocate • Source of Information – Options – Opportunities • Counselor – Individual, Group & Family
  40. 40. Helping Gifted Students with Stress Management • Help each gifted student understand and cope with his or her intellectual, social, and emotional needs during each stage of development. • Help each gifted student develop a realistic and accurate self-concept. • Help each gifted student realize their whole person. • Show Patience
  41. 41. Helping Gifted Students with Stress Management (continued) • Show acceptance & encouragement • Encourage flexibility & appropriate behavior. • Understanding and following rules does not mean conforming to every situation. • Let students live their own lives. • Be available for guidance & advice (Kaplan, 1990)
  42. 42. Goals of Developmental Counseling for the Gifted • Moral courage • Compassion • Reflective judgment • Responsibility • Commitment to goals • Sense of wonder • Integrity • Ethical behavior • Creativity • Autonomy • Authenticity • Altruism • Strong sense of self-efficacy • Self-actualization • Contribution to society • Global awareness • Devotion to high ideals • High state of moral development • Advanced emotional development • Wisdom (Silverman, 2000) The focus of counseling is on growth towards high ideals (This need not be limited to gifted populations!)
  43. 43. The Counseling Process in Schools • Basic reflective listening techniques • Stress reduction techniques • Bibliotherapy • Group Counseling • Needs of Twice-Exceptional • Family Concerns • Consulting with teachers • Career & Academic Counseling
  44. 44. Some Areas For Further Study… • Integration of focus on counseling needs of exceptional students into traditional school counseling preparation programs • The unique counseling needs of twice-exceptional students • The counselor’s role in identification and advocacy for gifted and exceptional students • Specific implications of the many characteristics of gifted students and their effect on development across domains (social, emotional, cognitive, moral, ego, etc.) • Exploration of specific counseling approaches and their effectiveness in working with a gifted population • Impact of culture and socioeconomic status on the experiences of gifted students
  45. 45. Resources… … a few to start with: • National Association for Gifted Children – • Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted – • Hoagies Gifted Education Page – • The Center for Gifted Education –