“Children who are not challenged are cheated” goes a popular saying, this holds most true in the light of a gifted child. Parents of toddlers are simply amused by everything their child does, be it saying their first word or their curiosity to learn new things. They, however, rarely consider their child’s extraordinary development as signs of giftedness.
The very idea of children being born with such an innate capability to understand the world so well and so differently always made me wonder what life as a gifted child would be. Everytime my grades weren’t up to my expected mark, I would envy the gifted ones and how easily everything comes to them. That is when I took to research about gifted children and what makes them so special.
“I am having a hard time adjusting to earth”, said a young Sheldon Cooper, and that one statement of his resonates with most gifted children. They just don’t seem to understand why the people around them are So slow and need I say, ‘dumb’. Gifted children may or may not speak early. In fact, they might begin speaking later than most children, but when they do, they’re able to have high-level and philosophical conversations. That is the reason they would rather spend time with adults than children their age since they are on the constant lookout for an intellectual match. The very fact that kids their age speak to one another perplexes them. They see the world differently and have deeply rooted perceptions of the things around them and an unusual perspective of life itself. They learn to sense the situations around them much earlier than regular children and can think beyond the moment. They tend to demonstrate a sense of fairness and need for justice born out of a sense of compassion for others.
Gifted children dislike practicing something they already know. They focus their attention on something as they are learning it, however, when they are done, they don’t like to repeat it again. That is why gifted kindergarten children do not show a keen interest in their class since they would have already learnt the numbers and alphabets prior to joining their kindergarten.
When it comes to pursuing their passions, gifted children stick to it. They demonstrate a sustained passion to figure something out and to learn all they can in their area of interest. If they are building a Lego structure, they might build it and take it apart, build and take it apart again and again, a perseverance we don’t see very often in other children their age.
Gifted children are more emotionally sensitive than the average child, first about themselves and then others. This justifies why Sheldon was so compulsive about his PBJs. They are compassionate and can really read people’s behaviour. They view life with greater emotion than the average person. They tend to be very passionate about an area of interest to them and have the ability to sustain that passion for long periods of time. Sometimes their behavior can even seem obsessively compulsive. They are, obviously, quick learners and have an extraordinary memory!
Now, let us get back to the quote that I started off with. Challenges are not just something that gifted children like. It is something they need!
A research article on the neuroscience of giftedness by renowned neuroscientist Sharon Duncan states the importance of challenges in the life of a gifted child. “It’s often observed that gifted children benefit from a more accelerated pace of learning than most other children. Studies show that gifted individuals have increased bilateral brain activation, it is more pronounced when gifted individuals are provided with a challenge. When combined with greater regional brain volumes and increased white matter tracts, this increase inactivation may provide insight into commonly observed gifted behaviors.”
Parents and educators often limit the areas of exposure to gifted children due to the ambiguity of them losing interest in their field of study. However, this poses a tremendous problem to the children. The testing tools that begin with simpler questions and then build in complexity may be too basic for these kids, who then get antsy and make up or play around with their answers, get distracted, make actual mistakes, and end up getting cut off before reaching the “interesting” material. Now, this is where it gets really interesting. In classrooms, this need for increased brain activation can manifest into fidgeting or inattention. Their bored brain will naturally seek engagement elsewhere, often leading the child into trouble that spirals downwards in behavior and into self-doubt.
I am sure we all remember times when we submitted an assignment earlier than other students and the teachers told us to review it once more. When gifted children come across such instances, it brings them back to their ongoing cycle of self-doubt.
So, this is what I can decipher. Most gifted children do great in school but there are several kids whose talents aren’t recognised and if they are, they get subsidised with the entire educational concept of rote learning. This is where we come to question our educational methods and standards. There are so many beautiful minds out there that have subsided greatly due to the prevailing education systems. Is this really worth it?