How many parents of gifted children are told that their children have social skills deficits? I suggest, quite a few. But, do they really? Let’s put things in context here. The average child, by definition, has an IQ of one hundred. The IQ of ninety-five percent of children falls between seventy and one hundred and thirty. A child with an IQ of 70 or below is considered to have an intellectual disability. By the simplest and most common definition, a gifted child has an IQ of 130+.
Consider, for one moment, a school specially set up to teach children whose IQ falls below seventy. In a school for the intellectually disabled, everything would go at a pace to suit the slow learner and content would be kept relatively simple. Now imagine that an average child, with an IQ of one hundred, ends up in this school. They are eight years old, so they must join the class for eight year olds.
Would you expect this child to be a model student who would sit still and engage enthusiastically with the classwork and their classmates. Would you expect them to make lots of friends with whom they were keen to socialize outside school? If they showed signs of restlessness or inattention, would you immediately wonder about a diagnosis of ADHD? If they preferred to spend time alone reading books, building models or looking up things on the internet after school, would you be frantically trying to arrange playdates for them in an attempt to make them learn social skills and to integrate and be the same as everyone else in the class? Would you wonder about possible Autistic Spectrum Disorder?
On the contrary, I suggest that it would not be long before parents and teachers realized that the problem was simply a mismatch and that a more appropriate learning environment was the answer. Indeed, if a child with intellectual disability found themselves struggling in a mainstream classroom, the same conclusion would be reached and more appropriate arrangements sought.
Why are gifted children treated so differently? Why are they placed into mainstream classes designed for children of average ability and expected to just suck it up, behave and be happy? Why, when they struggle, are they told there is something wrong with them? Have you ever been told that your gifted child has a touch of several disorders but just not quite enough to actually attach the label? How come it is so rarely considered that the problem may be one of a mismatch and that a more appropriate learning environment is the answer?
Not alone is this potentially very damaging to the child’s self esteem and motivation to learn, it also deprives them of the opportunity to learn social skills. Other children mix every day with like-minded peers who have the same intellectual ability and the same interests. Through this interaction, they are constantly honing their social skills. Many gifted children never get this chance. They hover on the fringes, always aware that they don’t quite fit in.
Yes, everyone must learn how to get along in the real world. No, not all gifted children struggle socially. But at no other stage of our lives are we all grouped only according to age. At all other stages, interest and ability are taken into account and there is a degree of choice. During childhood and adolescence, given the opportunity, we all learn skills such as patience, tolerance, judgement and how to take different perspectives. So, judging an eight year old child based on their ability to integrate with other eight year olds in a classroom is hardly a fair assessment.
How many parents of gifted children with “social skills deficits” find that, when exposed to a group of like-minded peers for the first time, their child with the problems transforms into a perfectly happy, normal, interactive child? We owe it to our children to fight for opportunities like these. They deserve to have the same feeling of belonging and fitting in that so many other children experience on a daily basis and the same opportunities to develop their social skills in the company of peers. If exceptional ability was at least recognized as a special educational need and treated as seriously as the others, provision could be put in place to support these children appropriately instead of trying to attach disorder labels to them when they don’t fit conveniently into the box we want them in. Why do we insist on crushing our children in order to put them into this box instead of finding one that fits them?
Thank you. I am a mother of 9yo who is diagnosed with Asperger and ADHD. And yes, he doesn't fit well with his classmates. I am considering jumping him a grade, but find it hard to convince my husband and my son teachers that it is a good idea because of his lack of social skills. I love your explanation - it is what I intuitively believe in but I was not able to put it in words.ReplyDelete
Beautifully put.. thank you!ReplyDelete
So true when she was 4, 8, 10 and continues now that she is 12. Hoping latest box is a good fit. Intrinsic characteristics/motivation unchanged - she continues to love life with intensity.ReplyDelete
Great post, Frazzled. Our 6-year-old highly-gifted son has been labeled as Asperberger and ADHD, but I think he may just be bored with school. He was reading at age 24 months, and 3 years later he started Kindergarten, where they were learning the alphabet. This year we will try home schooling.ReplyDelete
Well put! In addition to the points you made is also the assumption by many teachers and other adults that advanced intellectual skills should mean advanced social skills! I have spent time over the last few years reminding people that they need to remember how the other children of the same age are acting. They are then sometimes realize they have unconsciously also upped the standards of behavior expected as well! (Posted by Bonnie N of Augusta Maine)ReplyDelete
That's very true, Bonnie. It's an easy trap to fall into...even for parents!ReplyDelete
Wow - that is such a great account of the reality of school life for so many gifted children. It reads like an account of my EA son's first year in secondary!!! Thankfully having spoken to his school, they have recognised the problem and are now developing a whole school policy for EA students. Good news story!ReplyDelete
Very well stated... Except for the part about a person with an IQ of 70 being learning disabled... An IQ of 70 is considered "cognitively impaired," or "retarded," though that word is offensive to many and has just recently been removed from Federal legislation. A learning disability on the other hand, is possible in anyone, whether they have an IQ of 75 or 150. There are many gifted people who also are learning disabled (termed twice-exceptional). For example, Albert Einstein was dyslexic, though obviously incredibly gifted as well.ReplyDelete
Thank you for you comment. I should possibly have used the term "intellectual disability" rather than "learning disability". I am only too aware of twice exceptionality. The fact that the high intellectual ability in those cases can mask the learning disability and vice versa, will be the subject of another blogpost...eventually!ReplyDelete
Every child are special and they all have ability to learn but some of them child catch it early or some take time but they both learn the thing's .mostly important is to learn,so give the time to child, who have the less ability to learn the thing's.ReplyDelete
talent is matter knowledge is matter but dont divide the child in the category
Thanks for providing information
I have to say, everything you say here is so true, my mum showed me this site and i've been reading through it for a while. I'm 14 and have been a ctyi student for 8 years now. Supposedly, they've never seen me as happy and interactive as i was when i first got to ctyi. It's not that gifted children don't want to be around other people, it's that we don't know how.ReplyDelete
I have two EA children. One is socially streets ahead of her peers, everyone loves her, gravitates towards her and she has always been loved by her teachers. My other daughter....all I have heard from her teachers is that her 'quietness' is a problem, that she needs to socialise more, that she 'flies beneath the radar'. I have seen my daughter in small groups where she participates fully and, on occasion, will lead the group. Her validation is intrinsic - she doesn't need the teacher to tell her she has the right answer, because she knows; she doesn't need the teacher to tell her.ReplyDelete
She is also incredibly sensitive to other people and their needs and much more socially aware than her peers. So the kids in her class don't 'get' that she feels for other to the extent she does.
Bottom line is, she's happy in her own company or talking to older people. It's not a problem. This post has given me 'permission' to write to her teacher explaining why K is so quiet. Thank you!
I loved your article. In so many articles/ websites it is written that gifted children are socially inept that it seems to be a proven fact. I believe that this is far from true.ReplyDelete
Gifted children/adults are exposed to additional challenges when socially interacting with others. They do not only have to use acceptable social behavior as any other individual, they also need to translate their train of thoughts into something that is understandable for others. To use your comparison: imagine that you have to explain a difficult math problem to someone with an IQ of 70. It is not only a difficult and slow process to explain everything; it has a high chance of failure. This failure is not due to the fact that the other is unwilling to listen, so you can't be mad at them for that, which leaves you frustrated and sad. On top of that, your knowledge of the math-answer may be received as "fantasies" because no-one else is able to perceive the same solution (if you would explain it to multiple IQ 70's). And what the majority percieves is most often called the truth.
To summirze: when a gifted person is conversing his/her ideas, they do not only have to translate them in easier phrasing, but they would also be required to be silent about the things that are too-far-above-average (guessing what other can/cannot understand). This would make social interaction a very difficult and tiresome event. If you take all these things into account, is it so strange that a gifted person would conclude that social interactions are not as fun as anyone claims and prefer to be alone with their thoughts (eg. autistic behavior)?
Hi. I'm writing from the USA. I never read an article with an analogy that puts an "average" kid in a below average environment and how the average child would end up looking. It is excellent. I will pass it on to the school. I think it might have a better chance of framing the discussion than continuously talking about a 140+ child in a majority average classroom of 25 with no robust plan. Thanks!ReplyDelete