Gifted kids have special needs, too

The March 13, 2005 issue of the Appleton Post Crescent had the following column by Jennifer Edmondson. She writes:
Before I began researching the topic of �intellectual giftedness,� I thought it was a bunch of trendy education baloney.
During the past four years, my thinking has changed radically. I have read books, called organizations for gifted kids, talked to teachers and parents of gifted kids, and I have attended seminars.
Gifted kids really do exist. More importantly, gifted kids have special needs. If those needs aren�t met, not only is that child doomed, but so is our society.

Let me share a tiny bit of what I have learned about the importance of meeting those needs.
Intellectually gifted is:
An unfortunate term: Every person has a special gift/ability. I wish there were a different term � �intellectually advanced� perhaps.
Being born with a very high IQ: Generally, a 130-135 IQ is considered moderately gifted, 160-plus is exceptionally gifted and 170-plus is extraordinarily gifted.
Usually a hard road: Gifted children tend to be extra sensitive to their environment � sight, sound, touch and smell. The small amount of violence depicted in films such as �Bambi� or �Dumbo� deeply affects some gifted children.
Many feel out of sync with same-aged kids. While they�re the same biological age as their classmates, their thinking processes aren�t. Their thought processes are more complex. They experience things more intensely. They often times are lonely because they don�t fit in.
Parents have the difficult task of trying to make sure their kids are being challenged appropriately. The average child generally is challenged in school. Most times, gifted kids aren�t being challenged. They�re in danger of tuning out and failing, or becoming behavior problems in the classroom.
Having needs similar to those of cognitively disabled kids. Strange but true. Consider a 17-year-old student with the intellect of a 9-year-old. Special educational accommodations are made for him. He needs to learn at his own pace. Any teaching beyond that student�s level is lost.
Now consider a 9-year-old child (in fourth grade) with the intellect of a 17-year-old. Does it make any sense to expect that 9-year-old to survive in fourth grade where she�s taught at a level eight years below her level and pace? We wouldn�t teach the cognitively disabled child at a level eight years above his actual level and pace.
How much would adults learn if they were forced to sit at training sessions taught at the level and pace of kindergarten?
Gifted is not:
The ability to fend for oneself: Gifted children are still children. They�re not born with the knowledge we adults accumulate during a lifetime. They need adults to teach and guide them.
Needing less teaching: Like their cognitively disabled counterparts, gifted kids need more attention, not less. They need instruction at their actual learning level and pace, which usually is not the same as kids their age. This makes more work for teachers, not less.
An elitist category: Some think that �gifted� is an elitist term, that all kids should be treated the same. Many parents and teachers of gifted kids feel that gifted kids are treated the way Cinderella was treated by her evil stepmother and stepsisters.
Consider this: A school forms a Gifted Kids Club. Participants get special outfits identifying them as members of this club. School funds help to pay for their expenses to academic tournaments around the Wisconsin and the U.S. They get paid advisors.
Is this club elitist? Objectionable? Unfair?
Now replace the terms �Gifted Kids Club� with �cheerleading squad,� �athletic team� or �marching band.� Replace �special outfits� with �uniforms.� Replace �advisors� with �coaches.�
Providing adequate programs and staff for cognitively disabled kids is considered necessary and good. Providing adequate programs and staff for sports or other extracurricular activities is considered necessary and good.
Providing adequate programs and staff for gifted kids must be included in what we consider necessary and good.
Jennifer Edmondson is an Appleton resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. She can be reached by e-mail at pcletters at