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Which Research-Supported Practices Best Address the Social and Emotional Differences in Gifted Children?

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Which Research-Supported Practices Best Address the Social and Emotional Differences in Gifted Children?. Karen B. Rogers, Ph.D. Gifted Education Research, Resource & Information Centre University of New South Wales Sydney, Australia First Things First….

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Which Research-Supported Practices Best Address the Social and Emotional Differences in Gifted Children?

Karen B. Rogers, Ph.D.

Gifted Education Research, Resource & Information Centre

University of New South Wales

Sydney, Australia

first things first
First Things First…
  • Are there social and emotional differences in these children?
  • YES… but there are many myths about these differences as well…
myths about the gifted
Myths About the Gifted
  • They have no practical knowledge, common sense
  • They have a hard time socializing
  • All they’re interested in is memorizing facts and details on a specific topic
  • They could be “normal” if they tried to be BUT…
  • They are more likely to suffer from depression, psychological disorders, and thoughts of suicide
  • They are difficult to raise
  • Their parents push them so that explains why they are so far ahead - this also puts loads of stress on them to achieve even when they don’t want to
reality one common sense
Reality One: Common Sense
  • Jorgen: on planning his own schooling
  • Brett: on planning his own schooling
  • Sarina: on planning her own schooling
  • Theresa: on planning her own schooling
  • GDC Sample: A significant percentage of the parents of those children described the practical problem solving skills of their children.
reality one as a part of common sense
Reality One: As a Part of Common Sense…
  • They show a preference for competitive games, situations
    • Attempt to be socially acceptable requires a compromise that many gifted children are unwilling to offer, so they become “loners,” competing against themselves (Gross)
  • They strive very hard to be independent
    • Intense drive in gifted individuals, but not necessarily accompanied by skills to act appropriately (Delisle)
    • Tend to be nonconformist in thought and action (Silverman, Albert, Roeper)
  • Their asynchrony pushes them to find “other” answers
    • Discrepancies between cognitive developmental level and physical, social, emotional development may cause internal conflicts (Silverman, Morelock)
  • They produce McGyver-like solutions to everyday events
  • They may take inordinate amounts of time, at times, to come up with what should be a “simple” solution or behavior
reality two social difficulties
Reality Two: Social Difficulties
  • Sarah, Ellie, Samantha, Natalie have large groups of friends at school, love school, and get along well with most teachers. Among my sample only 1 girl in 10 has any social or school “difficulties”.
  • Andrew, Ryan, Michael, David do not have many friends at school, and in fact are hazed or bullied by other boys. Approximately 1 boy in 2 has social or school “difficulties”
  • GDC Sample: Parents (85%) reported these children as having “very good” relations with older children, all small groups, and “good/very good” relations with same aged peers.
reality two socializing may be in the eye of the beholder
Reality Two: Socializing May Be in the Eye of the Beholder
  • Need for solitude
    • Time alone is needed to regroup thoughts and perceptions to avoid stress (Webb, Silverman)
    • Tend to more likely be introverted than extraverted (Silverman, Webb)
  • Conflict between social and achievement needs
    • Much of the emotional trauma of gifted individuals arises from the conflict between psycho-social needs for intimacy and achievement (Gross)
    • Tedium and repetition in learning lead to frustration, anxiety, less wilingness to cooperate with others (Czikszentmihalyi, Hoekman)
    • Their sensitivity to people’s ideas, emotions, to events (Overexcitabilies) can make for additional socialization issues (Piechowski, Dabrowski, Lind)
reality two socializing may be in the eye of the beholder8
Reality Two: Socializing May Be in the Eye of the Beholder
  • Level of psychosocial development is more highly correlated with mental age than with chronological age
    • Ability to think abstractly and reason conceptually leads to advanced development in social, emotional, and moral reasoning domains (Tannenbaum, Janos & Robinson, Karnes)
  • Need for intimacy, special interactive relationships
    • Important component for development of potential (Silverman) and life satisfaction (Sears)
    • Individuals seek their “like” (other gifted youngsters or older-aged children) for such relationships (Schunk, Hollingworth, O’Shea)
    • When not with intellectual peers, social self-concept declines, and negative self-criticism increases (Foster, Gross)
    • Gifted are often looking for a different kind of friendship -- the “sure shelter” rather than a “kid to hang out with…” (Gross)
reality three facts and details
Reality Three: Facts and Details
  • Sarah: Nursing Home songs
  • Natalie: Writing contests
  • Michael: Graphing equations
  • Ryan: Lego constructions
  • My sample: Two of every three children have a long standing interest in something that involves the learning of intricate facts and details, but most of these children “do something” with their learning: maps, stories, plays, etc.
reality three is there something wrong with lopsidedness
Reality Three: Is There Something Wrong With Lopsidedness?
  • It may be an intense need to be recognized that impels them toward single focused pursuits
    • Wish to be viewed as “good” at their area of expertise and to gain recognition for excellent work in that area --need to master content area (Coleman, Borland)
    • Possess entelechy (single minded motivation to pursue own goals, be best they can be) (Lovecky)
  • Or it may be their innate drive to excel that pushes them forward
    • Inborn trait (Galton) OR product of enriched home environment (Bloom) OR evolved developmental characteristic (Dabrowski)
    • May lead to perfectionism if external pressures are applied (Whitmore), if tasks given are too easy (Hoekman), or if individual is ego-involved, rather than task-involved (Dweck, Gross)
    • Is present in individuals with positive self-concept, inner locus of control (Foster)
reality four abnormal responses to normal events are rare
Reality Four: Abnormal Responses to Normal Events are Rare…
  • Less than 2% of the GDC Sample had issues with depression, trauma, night terrors, thoughts of suicide, despite the fact that the center is a counseling center for gifted children.
  • My sample -- no incidences of emotional disorders that require psychological counseling. About 1 in 15 needs organizational skills training/counseling or help with underachievement issues. Several have had to deal with the effects of hazing or bullying, but without lasting psychological damage at this point.
  • Yet research has suggested they show the same amount of interest and enjoyment at school as others (Gentry et al), experience fewer life-changing events which could cause stress (Metha), and their emotional adjustment scores are in the normative range (Zigler)
reality four even so abnormal responses can happen
Reality Four: Even So, Abnormal Responses Can Happen…
  • Gifted children may be “at risk” for internalizing disorders (Robinson et al)
    • When forced into isolation and loneliness by the rejection of peers, this can lead to depression and anxiety reactions (Jackson)
    • Overt pressure by teachers and parents to achieve can lead to fear of failure and dysfunctional perfectionism (Weisse)
    • Intensities, sensitivities and emotionality can lead to anxiety, phobias, and interpersonal problems (Fiedler)
  • But they appear to be less “at risk” for externalizing disorders (Fiedler)
    • Are less physically aggressive, less restless, more respectful (Ludwig et al)
    • Research suggests they are no more likely to be referred for discipline problems that other students (Brody & Benbow)
    • Tend to be no different in adolescence from their age peer in feeling different, being bored or being perfectionistic (Ford, Baker), perhaps because they have greater resilience (Bland et al), coping strategies, (Tomchin et al) and self-efficacy (Merrill et al) which buffer tendencies toward acting out, oppositional-defiant behavior, conduct disorder, or violence (Neihart).
reality five difficult to raise
Reality Five: Difficult to Raise
  • GDC sample: 20% of the parents reported their children as “difficult to raise”, which means 80% were “sometimes difficult” or “easy.”
  • My sample: None of the parents have reported their children as “difficult” although there are reports of a difficulty here or there, usually involving others tolerating their own child. Two children were reported as beginning to “act out” at school because of their treatment there, but at home issues are fairly mild.
  • Again, is difficulty to raise in the eye of the beholder and reflect just as strongly on parenting style as on something internal that might be connected with being gifted?
reality six parents are pushers
Reality Six: Parents are Pushers
  • Among my sample, I had two parents (out of 250) who tended to “push” their children, but certainly not beyond what the child is capable of accomplishing. Neither of these children is unhappy with themselves or with their parents. The remainder of the parents tended to “break down” when they found out they had a gifted child, more out of panic that ego tripping.
  • In a follow up of the parents of my 250 children who were given IEPs to take to the schools, fewer than 20% did take the plans or advocated beyond a single discussion with the school. Parents were more often likely to change schools or home school than to advocate strongly for change even with the evidence in front of them!
  • Grost is probably representative of how parents of gifted children “relate” to their children. These parents don’t push, they marshal resources as their children indicate willingness or interest.
second things second
Second Things Second…
  • What can educators do to address the social and emotional issues that crop up for these learners as a result of their giftedness?
when the curriculum is not challenging
When the Curriculum is not Challenging...
  • Frustration and anxiety
  • Perfectionism
  • Lowered academic self-concept
  • Underachievement or Non-production
when not allowed to work with others of like ability
When Not Allowed to Work With Others of Like Ability ...
  • Lack of psycho-social intimacy
  • Unrealistic academic self-concept
  • Lower social self-concept, self-worth
  • Increased self-criticism
  • Alienation
when there is no perceived progress in learning
When There is No Perceived Progress in Learning...
  • Decline in social, emotional, and moral development
  • Existential depression
  • Frustration, stress
  • Non-production, underachievement
when the work is too slow and repetitive
When the Work is Too Slow and Repetitive...
  • Loss of motivation, willingness to concentrate
  • Sloppiness, lack of caring about performance or product
  • Dislike of learning and school
  • Acting out, behavior disruptions
educational applications of the social emotional research and giftedness
Educational Applications of the Social & Emotional Research and Giftedness
  • Appropriately challenging curriculum
  • Placement with others of like ability when the learning is serious and in-depth
  • Exposure to progressively more complex tasks in a pre-structured continuum of learning experiences based on mastery and readiness
  • Flexible progression at appropriately rapid pace (accelerative component)
  • Placement in a like ability social group to deal with social and affective issues that crop up in their lives (use of bibliotherapy, small group projects, discussion, etc.)
last words
Last Words...

It’s a daunting task, being an educator, bearing the responsibility for shaping both academics and attitudes… No computer-scanned bubble sheet measures how our students feel about learning or their biases toward self and others. These indexes, the true value of learning and education, elude detection and measurement, sometimes for years…So, the brave educator wishing to enhance both students’ self-concepts and their achievements must be content with not knowing the immediate or long-term impacts of their actions.