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Managing And Challenging The Gifted Child

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  • 1. MANAGING AND CHALLENGING THE GIFTED CHILD Michael N. Nelson, Ph.D. Director, Section of Pediatric Psychology Rush Children’s Hospital 312-942-6656
  • 2. Can you tell by looking?
  • 3.  
  • 4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791)
  • 5.  
  • 6. Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882)
  • 7.  
  • 8. Winston Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965)
  • 9.  
  • 10. Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)
  • 11. Early Failure of the Famous Illingworth, R. Pediatrician , 1986, 13 , 70-73
  • 12. Strengths predict the future, not weaknesses Illingworth (1986)
  • 13.  
  • 14. Bill Gates (born October 28, 1955)
  • 15. “ When I was in the seventh grade, I was in an advanced math class. And in my math teacher's classroom at the junior high school I went to, they got the first teletype terminal at the school. And this was of course before personal computers, and basically you could like write a program and send it off to a big mainframe -- the answer would come back. And I became kind of, you know, fascinated with this idea of a computing machine. I thought that was pretty cool, so I would sort of program this teletype terminal and sort of learned all I could about computers.”
  • 16. (born February 23, 1965) at age 27, the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company in history
  • 17. Michael Dell (born February 23, 1965) at age 27, the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company in history
  • 18. "God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents." Shakespeare: Twelfth Night
  • 19. “ The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” Shakespeare: As You Like It
  • 20. Three types of gifted children
    • Globally talented, often with exceptional creativity
    • Talented in one or more specific areas, with or without creativity
    • Genius, often with uneven development or significant developmental deviations
  • 21. Can exceptional talents be recognized at school entry?
    • Remarkable attention span and self control
    • A “quick study”
    • A passion for learning
    • High sensitivity and a strong sense of justice
    • Excellent memory
    • Mature--seems older than his or her age (the immature “late bloomer” is a different story)
    (Many of these are gifts from parents)
  • 22. Families, the essential context for gifts and talents Freeman, J. (2000), in K.A. Heller, F.J. Monks, R. Sternberg & R. Subotnik, International Handbook of Research and Development of Giftedness and Talent . Oxford: Pergamon Press. (pp. 573-585)
  • 23. Freeman, J. (2000) The higher the children's IQ scores, especially over IQ 130, the better the quality of their educational support, measured in terms of reported verbal interactions and activities with parents, number of books and musical instruments in the home etc. In a detailed review of influences on the development of children’s IQ, Slater (1995) concluded that the best predictor of all is parents’ IQ, education and socioeconomic status.
  • 24. Individual differences in infancy and later IQ Slater, A. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry , 1995, 36 , 69-112 .
  • 25. Gifts from teachers—three R's
    • Recognition of high ability and the components of exceptional performance
    • Resolve to facilitate full expression of talents and abilities
    • Requirement of hard work to earn reward
  • 26. Reward Good Poor Effort Good Poor +++ --- + - + -
  • 27. Reward Good Poor Effort Good Poor +++ --- + - + - Too many gifted
  • 28. If the relationship between effort and reward is compromised, the result can be a reduction of motivation (the lazy gifted child)
  • 29. The challenge for educators and parents is to cooperatively ensure that realistic goals are set that are difficult, but within reach
  • 30. Educators will find a way to differentiate the curriculum effectively, but parents must struggle with unequal requirements for their uniquely different children (a lack of “fairness” that will be noticed)
  • 31. IQ of 156 IQ of ???
  • 32. The normal curve of ability
  • 33. The Statistics of Giftedness
    • An IQ of 120 scores in the top 10% (talented, but usually not labeled as gifted)
    • The child with an IQ of 130 (top 2%) is 5 times rarer than the child with an IQ of 120 and usually is considered gifted (Mensa eligible, but just a dozen per typical grade school)
    • The child with an IQ of 145 (top 1/10 of 1%) is 20 times rarer than the gifted child with an IQ of 130 (two grade schools combined yield just 1)
  • 34. Characteristics of the Gifted Learner
    • Passionate and intense, often with a high activity level
    • Highly sensitive and aware, often with major variations in performance (e.g., the visual thinker)
    • One trial learning
    • Excellent memory
    • An inquiring mind; often a profound skepticism
    • A creative urge to move in new directions, sometimes in many directions at once (multitasking)
    • Often very stubborn and perseverative toward a goal
    • An independent thinker, capable of working alone
  • 35. There is tremendous diversity within the gifted and talented population
  • 36. Why so much diversity?
    • Gifts and talents are not the norm, they are rare
    • To build a school body with remarkable talent requires drawing on all of the diversity of the human condition from diverse backgrounds, locations, and current living conditions
    • This diversity requires tolerance and respect for a wide variety of behaviors, families, and cultural traditions—gifts and talents are not guaranteed to a single subgroup and excellence in today’s complex world requires teamwork
  • 37. Gifted education requires differentiation of the curriculum just like regular education—individual differences must be respected and dealt with skillfully while maintaining the integrity of the overall curriculum
  • 38. “ Differentiation for Gifted Children: It’s All About Trust” (i.e., trustworthy behavior) Dorothy Knopper and Carol Fertig Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal , 2005, 6–8
  • 39. “ Because of the three different levels of ability within this high-level math class, Mr. Nelson needed to decide when he would include all of his students in instruction and how he would modify assignments to fit the variety of needs. He wanted to engage all the students in meaningful learning. He realized that everyone didn’t need to be doing the exact same thing at the same time. He saw that one possible option would be to include everyone in the general instruction piece, then split the class into three sections for the practice work. The majority of the students could do the standard practice work provided with the lesson. Those who already understand the concept could be given enrichment activities, preferably using that concept at a higher level…students who were struggling could meet with Mr. Nelson for reinforcement.”
  • 40. Essential Components of the Educational Process
    • Respect for high sensitivity; a high moral sense and a strong sense of justice and equity
    • A positive emotional climate for learning involving passionate interest of the instructor in the subject matter that infuses the students with similar passion
    • Consistency of behavior and curriculum goals in recognition of the students’ excellent memories
    • A fast pace of differentiated instruction to provide an engaging atmosphere of inquiry and progress
    • A questioning approach that acknowledges the limits of our present knowledge and permits ample questions
  • 41. Implication: Gifted education is not “easier” because the classroom is filled with good learners
  • 42. The first step on the educational ladder—school readiness
  • 43. School Readiness within the Context of Neurodevelopmental Stages
    • 6 wks-3 mo.--emerging cortical control
    • 6-8 mo.--constancies, imitation learning
    • 11-13 mo.--frontal lobe connections
    • 16-20 mo.--verbal thought, sentences
    • 25-30 mo.--verbal fluency, concepts
    • 4-7 years--school readiness, hemispheric dominance
    • 11-13 years--puberty, mature moral judgment
  • 44. School Readiness
    • Hemispheric dominance, usually of left-hemispheric verbal processes over right-hemispheric nonverbal processes
    • Prefrontal maturation--planning and sequencing of activities
    • Maturation of time perception (no more “Are we there yet?”)
    • Inhibitory self-control and the growing ability to remain still, attentive and motivated
    • Development of fears and embarrassment
  • 45. How do you know a child is not “school ready?”
  • 46. Boys are less likely to be “ready”
    • Testosterone slows development of the left side of the brain (Geshwind)
    • Boys may not be “school ready” until age 6 (girls may be ready as early as 4)
    • Puberty occurs at 10.8 yrs for girls and 12.8 years for boys
    • Marriage occurs at age 25 for women, and age 27 for men
  • 47. Characteristics of Immature Boys
    • Communication with emotion and movement, rather than words
    • Often left-handed or ambidextrous
    • Mixed or absent preferences (eye, ear, hand, foot)
    • Poor verbal comprehension, even if vocabulary is quite good
    • A “visual thinker”
  • 48. Characteristics of Immature Boys (continued)
    • Poor auditory short-term memory
    • Slow finger tapping speed
    • Failure to imitate 3-step hand gestures
    • Immature drawing, failure to integrate perceptions (e.g., Beery: 3 intersecting lines, “points” added to diagonal figures)
  • 49.  
  • 50.  
  • 51. Good News, Bad News
    • Signs of Readiness
      • Reduced impulsivity and increased self control if verbal mediation is dominant (a problem in left handers?)
      • Consistency of behavior (integrity) and trustworthiness
      • Logical thought processes and a maturing sense of humor
    • Emerging problems
      • Performance anxiety if large discrepancies exist between strengths and weaknesses
      • Embarrassment, fear(s) and self consciousness
      • Perfectionism when work ethic is strong but the work is not adequately challenging
      • Laziness and/or carelessness if the “everything comes too easily”
  • 52. The child is ready. Now What?
  • 53.  
  • 54. Avery Coonley School Mission The Avery Coonley School is an independent school whose mission is to provide a learning environment that is appropriate both for academically bright and gifted children who are motivated to learn and have demonstrated the potential for the scholastic achievement necessary to succeed in a challenging academic program, in order that they may become positive, productive, and respectful members of society
  • 55. Avery Coonley School Philosophy We believe that the joy and excitement of learning must begin early in life. We place a high premium on developing the desire in our students to become critical thinkers and independent, life-long learners. We assist our students in realizing their intellectual, emotional, social, creative, and physical potential by promoting academic achievement, character development, self-reliance, self-confidence, independent thought, and personal fitness.
  • 56. Avery Coonley School Philosophy We recognize and are sensitive to different learning styles of gifted children. Within a traditional structure, we provide acceleration and enrichment, and foster a supportive atmosphere that provides opportunities for creativity, problem-solving, and risk-taking. We believe that diversity is the foundation for a strong, competent, and compassionate community. Therefore, we seek racial, religious, economic, and cultural diversity in our student body, faculty, and staff.
  • 57. Avery Coonley School Philosophy We strive to build a community that encourages understanding and mutual respect and nurtures appreciation of the individual, civility, gratitude, honesty, kindness and consideration, responsibility, and volunteerism. (These must be the shared philosophy and goals of both educators and parents)
  • 58. Why is a selective magnet school superior to clustering in a mainstream school?
  • 59. Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Meet the Academic Needs of the Gifted and Talented Susan Winebrenner (edited by Pamela Espeland) Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 2001
  • 60. Disadvantages of Clustering
    • The children are treated differently than other children that they interact with every day--where is the fairness?
    • The children believe they are special, and develop a sense of entitlement or become arrogant
    • The “class sizes” are too small (typically 4-6 students), and opportunities for diversity of social learning experiences can be extremely limited
    • The academic environment can become unvarying and lose richness due to restriction of range
    • Opportunities for challenge and “failure” are limited
  • 61.
      • A loner, doesn’t get along well with “peers”
      • Chooses inappropriate friends or activities—what is s/he thinking?
      • Hyper, always on the go
      • Difficult, temperamental, always hard to please or settle down
      • Lazy and unmotivated—only works on what s/he wants to do
    Challenges to selective education
  • 62.
      • Sloppy and careless—can do higher quality work but doesn’t
      • Constantly frustrated and emotional
      • Obsessive and perfectionistic—good tendencies pursued to a fault
      • Questions everything, even common sense, to the point of being obnoxious
      • Arrogant and disrespectful of authority
    Challenges to selective education (continued)
  • 63. A loner, doesn’t get along well with “peers”
    • Some gifted children are 3-4 years advanced beyond their years—who will they talk to and play with?
    • The almost universal curse of the gifted is to lack companionship because there is no one else with the same aptitudes and/or interests
    • Many gifted children are extremely creative, and therefore always behave differently from others which reduces shared interests and experiences and causes them to behave very independently
    • A magnet school can lift this curse, as can involvement in activities/hobbies that include a broad range of ages, interests, and advanced capabilities
  • 64. Chooses inappropriate friends or activities—what is s/he thinking?
    • Older friends are common since they are more cognitively similar to the gifted child
    • Activities of older children are attractive
    • Exciting friends (e.g., ADHD, behavior disordered) are valued since they are both different from the norm and do unexpected things that excite the imagination of the creative gifted child
    • The gifted child is a questioner of authority
  • 65. Hyper, always on the go
    • The smarter a child is, the more busy s/he must be—it is the nature of intelligence
    • Smarter children and adults sleep less, and may have higher levels of stress hormones if sleep is inadequate
    • Inadequate fatigue causes restlessness—the gifted child must be “pushed” to the point of exhaustion
    • Puzzles, music, sports and hobbies help the child to slow down and concentrate intensive effort in pursuit of a consistent goal
  • 66. Difficult, temperamental, always hard to please or settle down
    • Gifted children are skeptical inquirers, and constantly ask questions
    • Gifted children are creative and often stubborn
    • If they constantly are reminded of the authority of their instructor (“it’s true because I said so”), rather than given logical answers, they will rebel
    • They will behave better in direct relationship to the number of questions and choices they have
  • 67. Lazy and unmotivated—only works on what s/he wants to do
    • Bad habits begin early—even the advanced preschooler learns that little effort is required to achieve good results, and begins to expect quick results (quick praise will make it worse)
    • If classwork can be completed in just a few minutes, the student fails to develop a work ethic
    • Teachers and parents must develop an atmosphere of passionate interest that excites the imagination
    • The student will work harder if s/he has choices to make that affect the task or assignment in question —s/he needs to feel that s/he is part of the process
  • 68. Sloppy and careless—can do higher quality work but doesn’t
    • Smart kids have such great ideas that adults tend to praise clever work without focusing on quality
    • Smart people work faster, and with a mind racing ahead of visual-motor skills, the quality of the work suffers and they begin to “write like doctors” (being smart doesn’t mean that the nervous system conducts electricity faster)
    • Smart kids learn that they work faster, and will begin to race to finish to prove how smart they are (especially competitive boys)
    • Tasks that require patiently slow and/or accurate work (e.g., model building, sewing, musical training, recitation of rhymes or jokes from memory, pottery making, etc.) will help
    • The child may be a visual thinker—always “multithreaded”
  • 69. Einstein’s office and desk at Princeton
  • 70. Linda Kreger Silverman , Ph.D. Director, Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, & the Gifted Development Center
    • A licensed psychologist in Denver and a noted author, editor, researcher, and international lecturer on all aspects of high ability
    • Books by Dr. Silverman
      • Raising topsy turvy kids: Successfully parenting your visual-spatial child, 2004
      • Upside down brilliance: The visual spatial learner, 2002
      • Counseling the gifted and talented, 1993
  • 71. Constantly frustrated and emotional
    • Gifted children often show high variance--the “math whizzes” often lag in verbal skills, and verbally eloquent children often lag significantly in math skills
    • Gifted children should not be judged solely on the basis of their strengths even if their strengths are the best long-term predictor of the future
    • Activities and roles must be selected that don’t “persecute” a child with lagging motor or verbal skills (e.g., the “mad minute in math,” or lengthy verbal exposition by the dysfluent dual language child—ask what the author meant, not what happened)
    • Accommodations may be necessary (e.g., more time)
  • 72. Arrogant and disrespectful of authority
    • Gifted children should not be told specifically how smart they are in relation to others
    • Gifted children must not believe that they are “special” or members of a chosen group (no humility, no wisdom)
    • Gifted children must not be surrounded by older children or adults who are “infatuated” with their intelligence and don’t hold them to the same standard
    • Gifted children need parents and teachers who earn respect through consistent efforts and even scholarship, and not merely positions of authority
    • Parents and teachers must be consistent--the superior memory of the gifted child permits immediate recognition of inconsistency which is perceived as a lack of integrity (everyone has to keep their word!)
  • 73. Questions everything, even common sense, to the point of being obnoxious
    • Gifted children are naturally inquisitive, and must have their questions heard and answered
    • Gifted children are creative and often left handed, and therefore tend to be iconoclasts
    • They become obnoxious when their questions are dismissed or never answered
    • Gifted children learn best in an atmosphere of inquiry that relies more on science or exploration of the truth (the process), and less on following orders or directions to the letter (the content)
  • 74. Obsessive and perfectionistic—good tendencies pursued to a fault
    • Often a consequence of “lowly goals” or an insufficiently challenging environment—e.g.,
    • for the developmentally advanced gifted girl
    • Such children need to compete with older
    • children or gain experience in mixed grades
    • Will worsen if the child is permitted to choose easy courses that produce “guaranteed” A’s
    • Parents can make it worse with excessive emphasis on grades, or comments of, “That’s perfect, ( name )!”
    • The “cure” is “raking leaves” metaphorically (taking on major tasks that simply cannot be accomplished with perfection (“the best is the enemy of the good” Voltaire )
  • 75. "The root of excellence is perfectionism. It is the driving force in the personality that propels the individual toward higher and higher goals. There is a strong correlation between perfectionism and giftedness. I have yet to meet a gifted person who wasn’t perfectionistic in some way." Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.
  • 76. Perfectionism in children: associations with depression, anxiety, and anger Paul L. Hewitt, Carmen F. Caeliana, Gordon L. Flett, Simon B. Sherry, Lois Collins and Carol A. Flynn, Personality and Individual Differences , 2002, 32 , 1049-1061
  • 77. Performance anxiety
    • Results from large discrepancies (e.g., 20 points) between strengths and weaknesses, including relative weaknesses that score in the average range but fall far below strengths
    • Usually doesn’t begin until school readiness is achieved since preschoolers can’t tell time and worry about future challenges unless reminded by elders
    • Can cause children to refuse to cooperate (e.g., the kindergartener who refuses to print his name)
    • Without treatment, will eventually generalize and cause the child to lose self confidence
    • Often hard to detect since the bright child can perform well with less information
  • 78. E. S. Gollin, Developmental studies of visual recognition of incomplete objects. Perceptual and Motor Skills , 1960, 11 , 289-298 “ The main objective of his study was to investigate the performance of humans in recognizing objects with incomplete contours as a function of developmental characteristics, such as mental and chronological age and intelligence quotient.” (Ghosh and Petkov, 2005)
  • 79. Incomplete Contour Representations and Shape Descriptors: ICR Test Studies Anarta Ghosh and Nicolai Petkov Institute of Mathematics and Computing Science, University of Groningen P.O.Box. 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands In M. De Gregorio et al. (Eds.): BVAI 2005, LNCS 3704, pp. 416–425, 2005 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005
  • 80. Perfectionism victimizes girls
    • Perfectionism is greater in gifted than in nongifted teens, and perfectionistic tendencies tend to be stronger in girls than boys
    • Perfectionism often increases in gifted girls as they progress from elementary to high school
    • These tendencies tend to increase as girls show increasing maturity compared to boys (Note: puberty beginning at 10.8 years for girls, 12.8 years for boys in the USA)
  • 81. Nurturing the Gifted School-Age Child
    • Provide strong emotional support
    • Promote involvement in a wide variety of activities, including charitable activities!
    • Support musical training
    • Cluster children based on abilities and interests, using complementary talents
    • Individuate the curriculum to permit children to pursue interests in depth
    • Provide needed technology and tools
  • 82. Nurturing the Gifted School-Age Child ( continued )
    • Recognize the child’s ability to think logically and well into the future
    • Provide an adequate rationale to support all choices (it isn’t true just because a person in authority said so)
    • Empower the child to take on major projects that require resources and collaboration of others (collections, hobbies, school plays, participation in band or orchestra, etc.)
  • 83. Nurturing the Gifted School-Age Child ( continued )
    • Support consistent work habits
    • Ensure projects are well organized and pursued to successful completion
    • Encourage difficult, major projects to discourage perfectionism
    • Try to produce actual products of effort (e.g., musical scores, bound “books,” completed soap box derby cars, etc.)
    • Maintain a collection of achievements
  • 84. Nurturing the Gifted School-Age Child ( continued )
    • Make sure a single responsible educator is available and consulted regularly
    • Follow the advice of your child’s teachers! They have worked with many children just like your child, while your experience may include just one unique child.
    • Encourage mentoring. Find teachers who have mastered the child’s interest(s).
  • 85. Four essentials
    • Passionate inquiry and questioning within the context of overarching principles of reason and moral sensibility
    • Mutual tolerance and respect for diversity
    • Emphasis on both methodological and conceptual mastery of bodies of knowledge that require memorization and insightful recall
    • Outcomes that require (cooperative) hard work, and therefore strong motivation, for the child or the team to be successful
  • 86.  
  • 87. Appendix
  • 88. Giftedness, Creativity and Genius
    • Bock, G.R. & Ackrill, K. (Eds.) The origins and development of high ability . NY: Wiley, 1993
    • Eysenck, H. Genius. The natural history of creativity . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995
    • Friedman, R.C., & Rogers, K.B. (Eds.) Talent in context. Historical and social perspectives on giftedness . Washington, D.C.: Amer. Psychological Assoc., 1998
    • Sternberg, R.J. Wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesized . N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2003
    • Sternberg, R.J., Kaufman, J.C. & Grigorenko, E.L. Applied Intelligence , Cambridge University Press, 2008
  • 89. Genius transforms the unique inspiration of the individual into common knowledge of humanity
  • 90. The first and last thing demanded of genius is the love of truth Goethe
  • 91. Wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesized (Cambridge University Press, 2003) Robert J. Sternberg Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology at Tufts University Author of over 1,100 articles, chapters, and books
  • 92. Creativity tied to mental illness William J. Cromie Harvard University Gazette October 23, 2003 Whether IQ tests are the best way to measure intelligence is debatable, but some studies do show a correlation between high IQ and creativity. Such studies conclude that the two increase together up to a score of 120. Beyond that level, little increase in creativity has been found. (The average IQ score of the general population is 100.) "We didn't find this…We saw creativity (and low levels of latent inhibition) increase as IQs climb to 130 (the average score of Harvard students), and even up to 150."
  • 93. Sex Differences in the Functional Organization of the Brain for Language Shaywitz, B.A., Shaywitz, S.E., Pugh, K.R., Constable, R.T., et al. Nature , 1995, 373 , 607-609
  • 94. Sex Differences in Language--PET Scans
  • 95. Brain Sex. The Real Difference Between Men and Women Moir, A., & Jessel, D. New York: Dell Publishing, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1991
  • 96. Coren, S. The Left-Hander Syndrome . New York: Vintage (Random House), 1993