Jean Sunde Peterson,   Ph.D., is an associate      professor with the        Department of   Educational Studies,Purdue Un...
entire nation (see Gross, 1993).                           needs regardless of culture or socioeconomic status.           ...
lems. In general, school counselors and other men-        youth is difficult to access for research, becausetal health pro...
gifted individuals used problem-solving strategies         2000b; Piechowski, 1997). High ability also has                ...
create confusion about the complex phenomenon.              ments become longer in the middle school years. InIn some stud...
supportive factors that school counselors can be alert    part of a continuing process of discovery about the             ...
School counselors also can collaboratively engage      cerns may contribute to gifted students’ discomfortother adults in ...
Cross, T. L., Gust-Brey, K., & Ball, P. B. (2002). A psychological       Ludwig, G., & Cullinan, D. (1984). Behavior probl...
Peterson, J. S. (2002). A longitudinal study of post-high-school       Reis, S. M., & Moon, S. M. (2002). Models and strat...
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Peterson - Addressing Counseling Needs of Gifted Students

  1. 1. Jean Sunde Peterson, Ph.D., is an associate professor with the Department of Educational Studies,Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. E-mail: Addressing Counseling Needs of Gifted Students Counseling concerns of highly able students may reflect adjusted to accommodate their abilities and needs, characteristics associated with giftedness. Yet school coun- both the proactive, developmentally oriented guid- selor training programs give scant attention to this phe- ance and the responsive services related to personal nomenon and to the social and emotional development of crises, as advocated by the American School these students. School counselors therefore may be unaware Counselor Association (ASCA, 2005) for all stu- of and unequipped to respond to these concerns. dents. Unfortunately, and perhaps most important- Referencing scholarly literature related to giftedness as ly, highly able students’ serious concerns may be both asset and burden, the author explores school coun- invisible, certainly not easily demonstrated when selors’ potential roles in responding to the needs of gifted arguing for services (Jackson & Peterson, 2003; students. Lovecky, 1994; Peterson, 2002). In general, their counseling needs may be outside of the awareness of A ccording to a recent unpublished study teachers and school counselors until one of the well (Peterson, 2005) of school counseling graduate endowed suddenly underachieves in middle school, programs (53% response rate) accredited by the drops out of college, develops an eating disorder, or Council for Accreditation of Counseling and commits suicide. Even then, those individuals may Related Educational Programs, preparatory curricu- be viewed simply as aberrations in a population per- la give little or no attention to the unique develop- ceived to be mentally healthy, self-directed, and basi- mental concerns and counseling issues related to cally self-sufficient. high ability. Only 62% of programs gave any atten- This article will offer pertinent information from tion at all in their entire preparatory program, and scholarly literature about social and emotional con- 47% devoted three or fewer contact hours. Such lit- cerns related to giftedness. Underachievement, a tle emphasis on the overlay of characteristics associ- common presenting issue, will be discussed at ated with giftedness on social and emotional devel- length. Finally, this discussion will focus on perti- opment, on both assets and burdens of high capa- nent counseling approaches presented in scholarly bility, and on the need for differential counseling literature and other recommendations for school responses suggests that school counselors may not counselors. understand or respond appropriately to counseling concerns of those students. Furthermore, like other HOW DIFFERENT ARE GIFTED educators who may be unaware of complex affective STUDENTS? concerns of gifted students, school counselors may have attitudes and biases that preclude trusting rela- Regardless of the level of their actual academic tionships, and therefore effective work, with them achievement, and regardless of cutoff scores for (Peterson, 2006b). identification in their particular school, gifted stu- Positive media stereotypes and school images of dents are at the upper end of the bell curve of school intellectually gifted students usually do not make a abilities. Important for teachers and counselors to compelling argument that there are, in fact, a multi- understand is that students so identified are as dif- tude of social and emotional concerns in this popu- ferent from their average-ability peers in intellectual lation. Associating the words disability or risk or processing as are the students in the same small per- needs with the idea of giftedness simply may not res- cent at the opposite end of the continuum. At the onate with educators, including school counselors. upper end, the “tail” can continue for a long dis- Yet pertinent research and clinical evidence support tance, representing increasingly extreme difference. the idea that counseling approaches, when working A profoundly gifted child is not likely to have intel- with gifted children and adolescents, should be lectual peers at school—and may have few in the 10:1 OCTOBER 2006 | ASCA 43
  2. 2. entire nation (see Gross, 1993). needs regardless of culture or socioeconomic status. At both ends of the school-ability continuum, stu- Among several issues related to educating and dents have a difficult time connecting to interaction counseling gifted students, it is important for school and instruction in a heterogeneous classroom unless counselors to be aware of identification practices, a high level of differentiated curricula is in place because problems inherent in these may be related (Tomlinson, 2004). Tempo, content, vocabulary to counseling concerns. Large numbers of bright, level, level of abstraction, encouragement of critical sensitive, creative, and insightful children and ado- thinking—these are among many aspects of class- lescents, representing the full range of cultural and room interaction that may be frustrating and socioeconomic contexts, may not be identified for uncomfortable for students with high ability, partic- programs for gifted and talented students (Birely & ularly at grade levels where honors, accelerated, or Genshaft, 1991; Ford, 1996). Yet these students college-preparatory classes are not yet available. might especially benefit from having their gifts Even in kindergarten, bright, capable children may affirmed and nurtured through participation in a find school unreceptive and unresponsive to their program (Peterson, 1997). knowledge and talents (Rimm, 2003). Discomfort A standardized test often serves as the gateway to related to poor fit may continue throughout the participation (Coleman, Gallagher, & Foster, 1994). school years. Consequent social and emotional diffi- However, classroom teachers may be asked to refer culties may arise. students for evaluation whose scores on the stan- dardized tests used for initial screening did not qual- COUNSELING ISSUES ify them. When teachers consider potential nomi- nees, cultural factors may then play a role, because Curricula, conceptions of intelligence, measure- cultural values have an impact on classroom behav- ment, and characteristics of giftedness have received ior, teacher-student relationships, students’ fit in the considerable focus in research related to education school environment, and identification of students of gifted students. Neihart, Reis, Robinson, and for special programs (Peterson, 1999). In one Moon’s (2002) compilation of research related to ethnographic study (Peterson & Margolin, 1997), social and emotional development of gifted individ- themes in the language of dominant-culture teach- uals attended to acceleration, attributions, gender ers, as they explained nominations of children in differences, cultural differences, creativity, learning their classrooms for a hypothetical gifted program, disabilities, deficits in attention, motivation, career reflected dominant-culture values. Their ad hoc cri- development, underachievement, and asynchronous teria (as reflected in the themes of good behavior, development (e.g., cognitive development outpac- verbal assertiveness, perceived work ethic, social sta- ing social and emotional development, Silverman, tus, and social skills) might preclude identification of 1997). Findings in these areas have implications for children from cultures that do not value verbal social and emotional development, of course. assertiveness and “standing out,” as well as students However, Moon (2003) noted the heavy empha- with low English proficiency, behavior problems, sis in the field on achievement outcomes, to the neg- low socioeconomic status, and poor social skills. lect of “other important outcomes, such as happi- Limiting participation to students who achieve ness, well-being, and life satisfaction” and “helping well on group tests and in the classroom also leaves students develop self-awareness and skills in decision out highly able students whose difficult life circum- making and self-regulation” (p. 16). Actually, school stances, skeptical attitudes about school, lack of counselors, gifted-education and classroom teachers parental support (Peterson, 1997), learning and (Peterson, 2003), and university-based counseling physical disabilities (Olenchak & Reis, 2002), centers serving gifted youth (Colangelo & depression (Jackson, 1998), behavior problems Assouline, 2000) can provide appropriate services, (Neihart, 2002a), and even temporary or chronic ill- and parent groups (Webb & DeVries, 1993) can ness might preclude optimal test performance. indirectly offer support. Private and agency coun- Regardless of whether their circumstances may selors (Mahoney, 1997; Mendaglio, 2005) also can change during or after the school years, opportuni- provide services for gifted individuals that are as tai- ties for crucial affirmation and support are lost. lored to individual needs and developmental levels as Teachers and even school counselors may not recog- are services for others. In this case, approaches are nize their ability, even if behavior problems and selected with exceptional ability and related charac- emotional distress bring these students to their teristics and concerns in mind. Yet counseling issues attention. and approaches generally have received little atten- Sensitivity, intensity, drivenness (Lovecky, 1992), tion in the scholarly literature related to giftedness and developmental asynchrony (Silverman, 1997), (Reis & Moon, 2002). Characteristics associated rather than disability or pathology or a “bad atti- with high capability may contribute to counseling tude,” may actually be at the root of behavior prob-44 ASCA | PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL COUNSELING
  3. 3. lems. In general, school counselors and other men- youth is difficult to access for research, becausetal health professionals may not recognize that these counseling centers serving exclusively high-abilitymay be related to giftedness (Webb et al., 2005). clientele appear to be in short supply, according to aSuch misinterpretation of behaviors can lead to former chair of the Counseling and Guidanceemotional distress (Moon, 2003), and stress can Division of the National Association for Giftedcontribute to depression and anxiety. Some troubled Children (E. Amend, personal communication,gifted students may self-medicate with substances December 10, 2005). Thus, it is difficult to ascertain(Peterson, 1998). what are common concerns of school-age gifted In summary, school counselors should be aware individuals and what counseling approaches arethat intellectually gifted and otherwise highly talent- effective. Not only have counseling needs anded nonmainstream students may not be identified approaches not been studied extensively, but, giveneither by standardized tests or by teacher nomina- the continuing problems with identification, it istions. It is important that school counselors be alert possible that research samples have not been inclu-to abilities that become evident through guidance- sive enough to attest to the breadth of counselingrelated contact or examination of school records concerns.over time. Gifted students may be at risk for poor There is a general lack of research consensusoutcomes for a variety of reasons (Peterson, 1997, regarding whether giftedness is related to greater or2002), and giftedness in itself can be a risk factor. fewer counseling needs than those who are not iden-Lack of affirmation from self and others regarding tified as gifted (Neihart, 1999). However, whetherhigh capability may actually be a presenting issue these differences exist, counselors should considerand can be addressed in counseling. the salience of giftedness to interpersonal difficulties, stress, depression, and career indecision, for exam- A profoundly giftedCOUNSELING NEEDS ple. Moon and Hall (1998) noted that “gifted chil- dren, especially the most highly talented, often need child is not likely toEducators, including school counselors, may not specialized counseling services to deal with psycho-have considered that highly able students have con- logical problems related to their giftedness and actu- have intellectualcerns related to social and emotional development, alize their potential” (p. 59). Moon, Kelly, andand that collectively they may experience develop- Feldhusen (1997) found that parents, educators, peers at school—ment in a qualitatively different way than do others and counseling professionals all believed that giftedtheir age. Important for school counselors to under- and talented youth need differentiated counseling and may have fewstand is that even during unsettling developmental services—that is, attuned to concerns related toexperiences, these students may not feel permission giftedness. in the entire nation.or inclination to express concerns (Peterson, 2002,2003). Students who excel academically and in Giftedness as Both Asset and Burdencocurricular activities, who appear socially and emo- As asset. Several studies have supported the percep-tionally well balanced, and whose families are edu- tion that giftedness is an asset socially and emotion-cated and economically comfortable may need no ally. Baker (1995) and Scholwinski and Reynoldsless counseling attention than those who do not (1985) are among those who have found positivehave socioeconomic advantages or who perform less associations between high intellect and ability towell in school. After all, gifted achievers are not cope with stressors. Researchers routinely note thatexempt from issues often associated with the school intelligence is a factor of resilience (e.g., Higgins,years: family conflict, parental separation and 1994), and Neihart’s (2002b) review of researchdivorce, blending and reblending of families, reloca- noted that other characteristics associated with gift-tion, altered economic circumstances, parental sub- edness also mitigate the negative effects of adversity:stance abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, for example. problem-solving abilities, a sense of humor, moralIn addition, stressful life events such as the death of regard, and involvement with a talent or hobby, forsomeone close, friends moving away, accidents, ill- example. Others have found positive associations innesses, and difficulties with peer relationships may regard to self-confidence (Ablard, 1997), behavioroccur. Characteristics associated with giftedness, problems (Ludwig & Cullinan, 1984), cooperativesuch as psychic overexcitabilities (Piechowski, play patterns (Lupkowski, 1989), anxiety1999), may in fact make these significant circum- (Scholwinski & Reynolds), and self-awarenessstances especially difficult to cope with (Piechowski, (Jacobs, 1971).1997). However, academic pressures and heavy Other studies have found no differences betweencommitment to activities may have equal or even gifted children and those not identified as gifted—greater impact on well-being (Peterson, Duncan, & for example, in self-concept (Tong & Yewchuck,Canady, 2006). 1996), distress and maladjustment (LoCicero & A broad clinical population of gifted school-age Ashby, 2000), and coping with stressors, although 10:1 OCTOBER 2006 | ASCA 45
  4. 4. gifted individuals used problem-solving strategies 2000b; Piechowski, 1997). High ability also has more often (Preuss & Dubow, 2003). Neihart been associated with active identity exploration (1999) reviewed studies of depression among gifted (Erikson, 1968), and the latter has been linked to children (e.g., Baker, 1995) and concluded that they conflict with parents and others in authority exhibited similar or lower levels of depression and (Kidwell, Dunham, Bacho, Pastorino, & Portes, similar levels of suicidal ideation when compared 1995). Behaviors reflecting characteristics of gifted- with children not identified as gifted. A study of gift- ness that are not understood by parents, educators, ed victims and perpetrators of bullying (Peterson & and counselors may be pathologized inappropriately Ray, 2006a, 2006b) found that prevalence was sim- (Webb et al., 2005). Because of asynchronous devel- ilar to that in studies of the general population. Most opment (Silverman, 1993), social justice issues, nat- important, these conclusions warn educators and ural disasters, and war may be particularly unsettling, counselors that gifted students are probably as likely just as great expectations from self and others may to need assistance in these areas as other students be. When puberty arrives, or perhaps long before are, certainly an important consideration that coun- that, gifted students may struggle with strange ters common assumptions. However, gifted individ- thoughts and feelings but fear that mentioning their uals may be reluctant to ask for help when they need concerns to someone would be “too much.” it (Peterson, 2002; Peterson & Rischar, 2000). Emotions may feel frighteningly uncontrollable, As burden. Until recently, the burdens of gifted- challenging the sense of environmental control that ness received little attention (Yoo & Moon, 2006), high verbal ability and intellect normally afford although numerous research studies have illuminat- (Peterson, 1998). Gifted youth may not have oppor- Even in ed non-asset aspects of giftedness. Comparative tunities for normalizing these thoughts and feelings studies have found higher levels of anxiety (Tong & (Delisle, 1992), and they may perceive, accurately, kindergarten, Yewchuk, 1996) and perfectionism (Schuler, 1997). that significant adults’ attention is riveted on their Noncomparative studies have noted heightened sen- performance (Peterson, 2003). bright, capable sitivity (Hébert, 2000), loneliness (Kaiser & Berndt, If many gifted youth are not inclined to ask for 1985), social isolation (Gross, 1993), suicide (Cross, help, perhaps it is because they are concerned with children may find Gust-Brey, & Ball, 2002), distress related to sexual protecting an image of excellence, do not want to orientation (Peterson & Rischar, 2000), vulnerabili- disappoint those who are highly invested in them, or school unreceptive ty related to creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996), and simply believe that they should be able to “figure it depression in profoundly gifted youth (Jackson & out”—even when experiencing significant depres- and unresponsive Peterson, 2003). In addition, a study of gifted col- sion (Peterson, 1998). Findings in Peterson and lege students with learning disabilities (Reis, Neu, & Rischar’s (2000) qualitative study of gifted young to their knowledge McGuire, 1997) revealed histories of painful school adults who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgen- experiences, including punishment for slow work, dered raised awareness that distress can be masked— and talents. grade retention, placement in special education even by hyperachievement. Also pertinent here is the classes with students identified as mentally retarded, finding in that study that only one-third of the 83% and negative responses by teachers and peers. of the subjects who had experienced significant Clinical reports have discussed a number of addi- depression told their parents about their distress, tional concerns for gifted students, many related to and none confided in teachers. Of the 72% who had development. Feelings of loss associated with family been suicidal, only 31% told their parents, and none changes (e.g., structure, location), altered friend- told teachers. However, of the 78% who had experi- ships, and even moving to a new developmental enced counseling, 79% perceived counselors as help- stage may be exacerbated by sensitivities (see ful, a finding especially important for school coun- Piechowski, 1997). Some gifted adolescents also selors to consider. may feel no permission to differentiate from family as they struggle with identity (Peterson, 2002). Underachievement High achievers may experience high levels of stress A complex population. Low academic achievement related to expectations of self and others, high levels is understandably a more common concern than is of involvement in activities, heavy academic loads, high achievement. In fact, underachievement was and decisions and anticipations related to entering the most common presenting issue at a university- postsecondary education (Peterson et al., 2006). based clinic geared to gifted youth and their families Because they are able to perceive the complexi- (Colangelo, 2003). In schools where strong aca- ty of situations, anticipate difficulties, and imagine demic performance is required to be eligible for par- the ideal, cognitively precocious young children may ticipation in programs for gifted students, gifted struggle with existential questions and theological underachiever might even be seen as an oxymoron. concerns and may feel overwhelmed and depressed In addition, contradictions and inconsistencies as they contemplate present and future (Peterson, regarding what characterizes gifted underachievers46 ASCA | PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL COUNSELING
  5. 5. create confusion about the complex phenomenon. ments become longer in the middle school years. InIn some studies, for example, underachievement has addition, the reality that gifted children usuallybeen associated with low self-concept (Van Boxtel & bring prior knowledge into most academic workMönks, 1992), but others have found that under- may mean that in foreign language and high-levelachievers do not have lower self-concepts than do math and science classes, for example, where symbolachievers. McCoach and Siegle (2003) found systems and sounds are new, gifted children andachiever-underachiever differences in motivation, adolescents may initially doubt their ability (seeself-regulation, goal valuation, and attitudes toward Dweck, 1986). Exceptional verbal ability in elemen-school and teachers, but not in academic self-con- tary school also may set the stage for later under-cept. Family environment and parental style (e.g., achievement, because the ability to engage a teacherBaker, Bridger, & Evans, 1998; Rimm, 2003) have during the early school years may diminish in thebeen discussed as contributing to underachieve- context of departmentalized instruction at the sec-ment, but one study (Green, Fine, & Tollefson, ondary level. Then, subjective attributes are likely to1988) found that families of underachievers were have less impact (Saunders, in press).not classified as dysfunctional any more often than In important contrast are positive attributes thatwere those with achievers. have been associated with underachievement (Reis What is it? According to Reis and McCoach & McCoach, 2000). Intense outside interests and(2000), labeling someone as an underachiever commitment to self-selected work (Baum, Renzulli,implies a value judgment as to the value of various & Hébert, 1995), creativity (Ford, 1996), and in- Several proactive,goals, priorities, and accomplishments. Under- tegrity related to rejecting unchallenging work (Reis,achievement is most commonly defined as discrep- 1998) are all aspects that can help school counselors school-based,ancy between potential and performance, although reframe what is otherwise seen as negative.simply failure to self-actualize also has been offered Prognosis. Adults who are highly invested in affective-curriculumas a definition. underachievers may despair that doors to a produc- Delisle (1992) differentiated between under- tive future will be closed for underachievers. Several approaches toachieving and nonproductive, noting that nonpro- studies have explored whether that is the case.ducers have confidence in their abilities, whereas McCall, Evahn, and Kratzer (1992) studied more developmentalunderachievers have low self-esteem and a depend- than 6,000 achievers and underachievers for 13 yearsent style of learning, with underachievers being at after high school and found comparatively poor out- guidance have beenmore psychological risk than nonproducers. Mandel comes in postsecondary education and in the workand Marcus (1995) discussed six typical under- world for underachievers, particularly those who developed forachiever styles, based on their clinical work: Coast- lacked high educational and occupational expectan-ers, Anxious Underachievers, Identity Searchers, cies and whose families were not highly educated. gifted students,Wheeler-Dealers, Sad Underachievers, and Defiant However, Peterson (2001b) found that someUnderachievers. Rimm (2003) differentiated extreme underachievers made significant positive though withoutbetween dependent and dominant underachievers. changes late in their 20s and even in their mid-30s.Reis and McCoach (2000) presented descriptive Studying high school underachievers, Peterson and empirical support.findings in a summary of underachievement Colangelo (1996) found both episodic and chronicresearch, including personality characteristics such as underachievement in a study of the school files ofalienation, withdrawal, distrust, pessimism, anxiety, gifted achievers and underachievers, with 20% ofimpulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity, distractibility, underachievers reversing academic underachieve-aggression, hostility, resentment, passive-aggression, ment before graduation. A follow-up study 4 yearsa social orientation, and social immaturity. Internal later (Peterson, 2000a) found that 87% of themediators included fear of failure, negative attitudes underachievers had indeed attended college, 52%toward school, antisocial attitudes, fear of success, had attended for 4 years, and 41% had improved aca-an external locus of control, perfectionism, and dif- demically after high school. However, school coun-ferential thinking skills and styles. Maladaptive selors should be aware that, though these findingsstrategies included a lack of goal-directed behavior; offer hope to underachievers and those who are con-poor coping skills, including focusing on reducing cerned about them, the phenomenon of under-short-term stress at the expense of long-term suc- achievement remains perplexing. The above studiescess; poor self-regulation; and defense mechanisms. also suggest that complex developmental and con- Numerous factors have been associated with textual factors might be involved in reversal.underachievement, with implications especially for A few studies of underachievers represent move-the middle school years. For example, Baum, Owen, ment toward “linkages and flow of causality amongand Dixon (1991) suggested that strong oral verbal these different characteristics and student achieve-skills may contribute to carelessness and a lack of ment” (Reis & McCoach, 2000, p. 205). Severalorganization in written work, especially when assign- developmental studies call attention to issues and 10:1 OCTOBER 2006 | ASCA 47
  6. 6. supportive factors that school counselors can be alert part of a continuing process of discovery about the to when working with gifted underachievers. For social and emotional development of gifted youth instance, out-of-school interests, personal changes, and about approaches to counseling them, including and being able to pursue topics of interest were across cultures and socioeconomic levels. Research- among factors associated with reversing under- ers who study giftedness generally have not explored achievement in one retrospective study of under- the prevalence of, factors associated with, and the achievement (Emerick, 1992). In another retrospec- subjective experience of, for example, eating disor- tive study (Peterson, 2001b), which focused on pro- ders, self-mutilation, substance abuse, sexual abuse, fessionally successful adults who once were adoles- obsessive-compulsive disorder, parent-child conflict, cent underachievers, having achieving mentors and arrested development, physical disability, and models was important, “feistiness” in response to response to life events (e.g., loss and grief, divorce, difficult family circumstances was an asset for serious illness, accident, relocation). However, females, and an achievement-oriented peer milieu school counselors should be alert to these phenom- also predicted later success. Counselors might keep ena when working with gifted students, even when these findings in mind when working with gifted focused on academic, life, and career planning. In underachievers, offer them as reason for optimism general, highly able students, though able to com- Probably most about the possibility of positive change, and offer pensate for or disguise many concerns, and though support for underachievers during personally chal- often wanting to solve their problems independent- critical is that lenging periods of development. ly, can be responsive clients (Thompson & Rudolph, Peterson’s follow-up study (2000a) and two qual- 1996). school counselors itative 4-year longitudinal studies (2001a, 2002) Rather than focusing on specific traditional coun- explored underachievement in terms of develop- seling approaches, the following suggests that gifted be part of a mental task accomplishments. In the longitudinal children and adolescents are well served when studies, convergence of developmental task accom- school counselors, perhaps collaboratively with gift- continuing process plishments was associated with motivation for aca- ed-education personnel, acknowledge potential con- demic achievement. Resolving family conflict, prob- cerns and provide opportunities to relate with peers of discovery about ably a common counseling issue in general, was noncompetitively, normalize developmental chal- always one of the accomplishments when develop- lenges, and gain communication skills. In that the social and mental successes converged. Peterson’s (2006a) 12- regard, a developmental template is an important year longitudinal study of a gifted survivor of multi- framework for school counselors when conceptualiz- emotional ple traumas found impact on both social and emo- ing concerns of gifted students. Significant adults in tional development and academic performance, but their lives may focus largely on academic or talent development of the subject’s intelligence and ability to engage sup- performance, but the students also face normal port from others, including counselors, were factors developmental challenges that deserve and warrant gifted youth and of resilience. Grobman’s (in press) recent study of attention. extraordinarily talented psychiatric patients who pre- Thus, the proactive approaches promoted by about approaches sented with significant depression and self-sabotag- ASCA (2005) are warranted and appropriate, ing behavior also underscores that developmental including large- and small-group guidance. Whento counseling them. tasks related to identity and relationships may be group membership is homogeneous in ability, gifted related to underachievement. Asynchronous devel- students at any age may be more inclined than oth- opment also might play a role, because socially and erwise to relax, remove a façade of invulnerability, emotionally the subjects may not be prepared to find developmental commonalities, make connec- cope with either intense adulation or their own sense tions with others who can relate to their feelings and of power (J. Grobman, personal communication, experiences, and gain skills and language related to November 12, 2005). expression of feelings and concerns. School coun- selors might facilitate or cofacilitate such group-ori- RESPONDING TO CONCERNS ented guidance with gifted-education personnel (Peterson, 2003). In addition, calling attention to There is little in the research literature, in terms of factors of resilience (see Higgins, 1994) may appeal approach, to guide the process of counseling for cognitively, affirm strengths in gifted children and gifted students, although advocates have argued for adolescents, and contribute to feelings of hope in differential counseling approaches (Colangelo, the midst of difficult personal situations. School 2003; Moon et al., 1997; Silverman, 1993), includ- counselors can help gifted students normalize and ing considering the overlay of giftedness in the areas make sense of feelings, thoughts, and struggles and of academic planning, life and career planning, and can encourage nonproducer underachievers to “be psychosocial counseling (VanTassel-Baska, 1998). selfish”—getting what they need from the school Probably most critical is that school counselors be system, rather than sacrificing themselves to it.48 ASCA | PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL COUNSELING
  7. 7. School counselors also can collaboratively engage cerns may contribute to gifted students’ discomfortother adults in non-school activities. Hébert and in the school environment, and their distress mayOlenchak (2000) and Ford (1996) found support not be apparent, because gifted students may befor male mentors for gifted males across cultural reluctant to ask for help. Not only can school coun-groups, and Hébert (1999) found that sensitive selors reflect on their own attitudes about giftedness,young men appreciated meaningful community be open to the possibility of somewhat unique con-service opportunities. Bibliotherapy (Hébert, 1991, cerns, and address related concerns appropriately,2000), biography (Hébert, 1995), and guided view- but they also might become part of much-neededing of films (Hébert & Neumeister, 2001) also have scholarly exploration of the affective concerns of gift-been effective in generating discussion of social and ed school-age individuals and of effective counselingemotional concerns. strategies. Group work, intentional focus on develop- Several proactive, school-based, affective-curricu- mental challenges, and focus on developing expres-lum approaches to developmental guidance have sive language related to social and emotional devel-been developed for gifted students, though without opment can help school counselors and gifted stu-empirical support. Two dimensions of the dents themselves access an inner world that parents,Autonomous Learner Model (Betts & Kercher, teachers, school counselors, and even the field of gift-1999) attend to affective concerns of gifted adoles- ed education may know little about. The referencescents. In Buescher’s (1987) two-tier model for at the end of this article offer pertinent literature tocounseling gifted adolescents, key developmental build a knowledge base about social and emotionalissues form a proactive curriculum for adolescents concerns of this special-needs population. ❚and their parents, teachers, and counselors. Thismodel purposefully increases knowledge about self- Referencesdevelopment, social realities, and the interaction of Ablard, K. E. (1997). Self-perceptions and needs as a function of type of academic ability and gender. Roeper Review, 20,conflict and intimacy. Peterson (2003) presented a 110–115.multifaceted affective curriculum for gifted adoles- American School Counselor Association. (2005). The ASCAcents, including weekly small-group discussion national model: A framework for school counseling pro-focusing on developmental tasks, guest lectures by grams (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: professionals on developmental con- Baker, J. A. (1995). Depression and suicidal ideation among academically gifted adolescents. Gifted Child Quarterly,cerns, and regularly encouraging self-reflection after 39, 218–223.special program and academic activities. In Baker, J. A., Bridger, R., & Evans, K. (1998). Models of under-Silverman’s (1993) Developmental Model for achievement among gifted preadolescents: The role ofCounseling the Gifted, career development, skills for personal, family, and school factors. Gifted Child Quarterly,conflict resolution, and realizing talent potential are 42, 5–14. Baum, S. M., Owen, S. V., & Dixon, J. (1991). To be gifted andpotential areas of focus. learning disabled: From identification to practical interven- Counseling should be part of interventions to tion strategies. Mansfield, CT: Creative Learning Press.reverse underachievement (Reis & McCoach, Baum, S. M., Renzulli, J. S., & Hébert, T. (1995). Reversing under-2000), although such counseling treatments have achievement: Creative productivity as a systematic inter-received scant research attention. Based on extensive vention. Gifted Child Quarterly, 39, 224–235. Betts, G., & Kercher, J. (1999). Autonomous learner model:clinical work, Mandel and Marcus’s (1995) concep- Optimizing ability. Greeley, CO: Autonomous Learningtion of underachievement, as mentioned earlier, Publications and Specialists.offers a helpful framework. Pirozzo (1982) viewed Birely, M., & Genshaft, J. (1991). Gifted adolescent: Under-underachievement as potentially related to personal standing the educational, developmental, and multiculturaladjustment difficulties as well as to limited academic issues. New York: Teachers College Press. Buescher, T. M. (1987). Counseling gifted adolescents: A cur-programming in school and recommended that riculum model for students, parents, and professionals.both sets of variables be considered in remediation. Gifted Child Quarterly, 31, 90–94.Rimm’s (2003) trifocal method for addressing Colangelo, N. (2003). Counseling gifted students. In N.underachievement, with collaboration between Colangelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted educa-teachers and parents, has some empirical support. tion (pp. 373–387). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Colangelo, N., & Assouline, S. G. (2000). Counseling gifted stu- dents. In K. A. Heller, F. J. Monks, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.),CONCLUSION International handbook of giftedness and talent (pp. 595–607). Amsterdam: Elsevier.According to scholars, highly able students poten- Coleman, M. R., Gallagher, J., & Foster, A. (1994). Updated reporttially have social and emotional concerns that may on state policies related to the identification of gifted stu- dents. Chapel Hill, NC: Gifted Education Policy Studiesbe related to characteristics associated with gifted- Program.ness, and which are best addressed with counselingresponses that consider the impact of giftedness.Lack of, or inappropriate, attention to affective con- 10:1 OCTOBER 2006 | ASCA 49
  8. 8. Cross, T. L., Gust-Brey, K., & Ball, P. B. (2002). A psychological Ludwig, G., & Cullinan, D. (1984). Behavior problems of gifted autopsy of the suicide of an academically gifted student: and nongifted elementary school girls and boys. Gifted Researchers’ and parents’ perspectives. Gifted Child Child Quarterly, 28, 37–39. Quarterly, 46, 247–264. Lupkowski, A. E. (1989). Social behaviors of gifted and typical Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology preschool children in laboratory school programs. Roeper of discovery and invention. New York: HarperCollins. Review, 11, 124–127. Delisle, J. R. (1992). Guiding the social and emotional develop- Mahoney, A. S. (1997). In search of gifted identity: From ment of gifted youth: A practical guide for educators and abstract concept to workable counseling constructs. counselors. New York: Longman. Roeper Review, 20, 222–227. Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. Mandel, H. P., & Marcus, S. I. (1995). Could do better. New York: American Psychologist, 41, 1040–1048. John Wiley and Sons. Emerick, L. J. (1992). Academic underachievement among the McCall, R. B., Evahn, C., & Kratzer, L. (1992). High school under- gifted: Students’ perceptions of factors that reverse the achievers: What do they achieve as adults? Newbury Park, pattern. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36, 140–146. CA: Sage. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton. McCoach, D. B., & Siegle, D. (2003). Factors that differentiate Ford, D. Y. (1996). Reversing underachievement among gifted underachieving gifted students from high-achieving Black students. New York: Teachers College Press. gifted students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 47, 144–154. Lack of, or Green, K., Fine, M. J., & Tollefson, N. (1988). Family systems char- Mendaglio, S. (2005). Counseling gifted persons: Taking gifted- acteristics and underachieving gifted males. Gifted Child ness into account. Gifted Education International, 19, Quarterly, 32, 267–272. 204–212. inappropriate, Grobman, J. (in press). The psychodynamics of underachieve- Moon, S. M. (2003). Personal talent. High Ability Studies, 14, ment and self-destructive behavior in a group of excep- 1–21. attention to tionally gifted adolescents and young adults: A psychia- Moon, S. M., & Hall, A. S. (1998). Family therapy with intellectu- trist’s view. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education. ally and creatively gifted children. Journal of Marital and Gross, M. U. M. (1993). Exceptionally gifted children. London: Family Therapy, 24, 59–80. affective concerns Routledge. Moon, S. M., Kelly, K. R., & Feldhusen, J. F. (1997). Specialized Hébert, T. P. (1991). Meeting the affective needs of bright boys counseling services for gifted youth and their families: A may contribute to through bibliotherapy. Roeper Review, 13, 207–212. needs assessment. Gifted Child Quarterly, 41, 16–25. Hébert, T. P. (1995). 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