5 Reasons Your Child Could Be Gifted and No One is Recognizing It
by Shawna Twist on 05/21/2018
- Gifted students aren’t atypical in their characteristics
Gifted students that also have learning disabilities are defined as twice exceptional. However, the defining word of “twice” is somewhat misleading in that these students are always more complex than implied by this classification. In fact, twice exceptional students are considered asynchronous. The National Association for Gifted Children defines this as the “mismatch between cognitive, emotional, and physical development of gifted individuals. Gifted children often have significant variations within themselves and develop unevenly across skill levels”. This creates a distinct confusion for educators in recognizing giftedness amongst the chaos. Gifted students at all levels can present at many levels in individual skills and subskills, behaviors and emotions that would normally create a distinct indication of talents in those areas.
- It has only recently been acknowledge that students with learning disabilities can be gifted.
In 2004 the Individuals with Disabilities Act brought recognition that students with gifted abilities can also have learning disabilities. However, a shift in the criteria for diagnosis where Asperger’s and Pervasive Developmental Disorder have been lumped into the category of Autism Spectrum has seemingly increased difficulties. Early studies have indicated an even greater chance of a missed diagnosis for a gifted child.
Furthermore, Research has indicated that 14% of students identified as gifted have learning disabilities. The general population indicates a 4% identification for learning disabilities. This indicates a higher probability that a student with giftedness will have a greater chance of having a learning disability than a student without.
- There are several myths about gifted students.
MYTH: Gifted students don’t need adult intervention in their learning.
It has been a long held assumption that gifted students will excel on their own, without any adult intervention. This is a great disservice to gifted students as they need guidance and direction just as any other student in their classroom needs. Gifted programs are designed to push the gifted student further than they would go when left to their own processes.
MYTH: Teachers are always differentiating learning so the gifted student will get what he needs within a normal classroom.
It is interesting that most of a teacher’s college education centers around teaching to the needs of those with learning disabilities. Rarely, if ever, does a student teacher learn about teaching gifted students and meeting their needs.
MYTH: Poor grades indicate that a student cannot be gifted.
Many gifted students who have learning disabilities often reflect poorly in the standard classroom assessments and assignments. We can ponder Albert Einstein’s educational experiences to see a classic case of the giftedness being missed because of underachievement in the classroom. There are multiple reason for a student to appear to be an underachiever, yet actually have unseen talents. Often students don’t want to stand out from their peers or boredom evolves into behavior problems.
- Gifted students with learning disabilities appear “average” within a classroom structure
Twice exceptional students often are difficult to identify in the standard classroom because they often “coast” at an average achievement level. This average status is created by hindrances caused by their learning disability which can disguise their gifted talents. Because of this, the strengths of these gifted students do not get acknowledged and therefore promoted and nurtured.
One group of researchers found an interesting outcome when they placed a gifted student in a mixed ability classroom. The teachers were only told that they had a twice exceptional student in their classroom. The teachers were unable to identify the gifted student and often disagreed with the researchers that had previously identified the student as twice exceptional. Because of the disguise the learning disability placed on the gifted student, the teachers were unable to identify the gifted student.
- Identifying gifted students who also have learning disabilities is not a simplistic process.
Identifying gifted and talented students is a dynamic process. One test does not give clear data required to determine student ability. The process occurs over time through observation and data. It is difficult to see a student with giftedness when learning disabilities disguise a students true abilities. Most schools seek to identify gifted students through a total composite score. This is a disservice to gifted students as evaluation of data lumped together can miss a specified area of talent. Data needs to be viewed in its separate components to reveal the area of talent.
The first part of the process includes a nomination from the student, parent, teacher or administrator that suspects their student might be gifted. Each school district has there own nomination forms, if you are curious, an example of a checklist can be accessed through the link. The student will be evaluated and screened to determine if they qualify. One common test given to students suspected of giftedness is an IQ test along with other achievement test. However, relying on these assessments alone can miss some gifted students. The students are screened and further assessed throughout a process of teacher observation using a Scales for Rating Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students checklist. Student portfolios and projects are also used in an ongoing evaluation for giftedness. The process is long and can only be truly evaluated over time and through many sources for data.
For these very reasons, Bolder Pathway School is dedicated to individualized learning models that allow students to progress at their level and processing speed. Students excel in their gifted areas while being supported in any areas they struggle. Small student to teacher ratios allow teachers more one-on-one time with students, to recognize the giftedness of each student and adjust the curriculum to meet those needs. Project based assessments further enable students to not only demonstrate their understanding of material, but use creative ways to show application of that material into their everyday life. With rich curriculum, high standards, and emphasis on basic skill development, BPS students are ready for a 21st century work environment that requires them to use critical thinking and technology.
Shawna Twist is a Language Arts teacher at Bolder Pathway School. She holds a dual BA in both Elementary Education and Language Arts. She taught Secondary Language Arts for 10 years, as well as Fine Arts for 1 year, prior to joining the BPS team. She also worked as a literacy and math interventionist for 3 years, and therefore has a strong commitment to student success. Over her 15+ years of teaching, she has worked with students with all different types of learning profiles and created curriculum to meet individual needs.