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Social / Emotional Issues with Gifted Learners

Presentation to parents or teachers regarding social-emotional issues based off Barbara Clark's book Growing Up Gifted (2008) and other sources.
by

steph brown

on 2 November 2012

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Transcript of Social / Emotional Issues with Gifted Learners

Social-Emotional Development
of Gifted Children Stephanie Tuinstra Brown Characteristics Well-Being Based off of Growing Up Gifted (Barbara Clark, 2008) and other sources Children who develop high levels of cognitive potential seem to experience a different set of social and emotional consequences than do more typical children. Therefore, their social-emotional development must be understood
(Clark, 2008). Gifted children need help in learning to accept themselves as they are and to appreciate the ways in which they are both similar and different from others. (Clark, 2008). Social-Emotional Development for Gifted Children Internal vs External Controls It has been established that the more the environment, either home or school, provides external controls, the greater will be the loss of an internal locus of control and intrinsic motivation....external rewards are highly problematic in developing or maintaining intrinsic motivation
(Clark, 2008). Locus of Control Locus of control is used to express the idea that a child's perceived control can be located internally or externally. Gifted children have more of an internal locus of control at a younger age that average children. This means they do things for the pure pleasure of it (Clark, 2008) otherwise known as intrinsic motivation. Competition Competition may serve as an incentive for some students to achieve immediate classroom goals; however, the long-term goal of education--to foster the will to learn for the love of learning--cannot be nurtured in this way. If it is used, use task-oriented competition to improve performance in order to avoid classmates viewing others as aggressive or having students exploit gifted students' ability for the short time they are competing. It is recommended to avoid contests and competitions that "bring out the worst in everyone" (Clark, 2008, p 131). Perfectionism "Pressing oneself to do better is healthy" (Clark, 2008, p 131). This can be done through healthy and unhealthy aspects. The negatives of perfectionism (unhealthy) are that it can inhibit a person from trying new experiences for "fear" of failing or feeling worthless. This could also interfere with the student's relationships with others. Their acceptance of others is often based on being able to meet high standards. Perfectionism Negatives: student may show depression and anxiety
student may develop avoidance, passive aggressive tendencies and learned helplessness
student imposes excessively high standards on themselves or others in his/her life, etc. (Clark, 2008) Perfectionism Tip For Parents: Studies show that unhealthy perfectionism may be related to authoritarian parenting, defined as focused on controlling the behaviors and attitudes of their children, emphasizing unquestioning obedience, and resorting to punitive measures for discipline. This environment reflects non approval or inconsistency, with attempts to win approval through perfectionism. Conversely authoritative parenting, defined as focused on guiding and speaking from experience, had high levels of demand and responsiveness, with rules set and enforced with non punitive forms of discipline (Clark, 2008, p 132-3). Parent modeling of appropriate perfectionism is needed. It is difficult to generalize the social-emotional characteristics of gifted individuals as it is their other characteristics. The following characteristics are what appear to be most common in the gifted population, but for the most part, gifted children tend to experience easier adjustment than the more typical population (Clark, 2008). Tip to Parents and Teachers: Who takes priority in a young person's life? Young children may start out becoming what their parents value. Then when they begin school, they must shift to their teacher's values. How closely are these two aligned? Then eventually, they discover their peers' values which can reorder the importance of the parent and teacher values. Who takes priority? (Clark, 2008). Coping Mechanisms Withdraw or isolate themselves from the group (usually when there is no more challenge involved)
They may become the class clown, showing off in an effort to be accepted and to gain favorable attention (which makes the child at times viewed as a nuisance)
They may seek conformity by hiding their superior intellect, by pretending not to know the answers in an effort to seem like everyone else (which can result in a loss of function and growth cannot be nurtured). The following coping mechanisms may make a gifted students find themselves in the category of "underachievers" within our educational system (Clark, 2008). Reason for Alert Blending in and underachieving are common and problematic.

Gifted students now account for as much as 20% of high school drop outs

Suicide is another coping strategy, growing in incidence, and causing great concern

(Clark, 2008) Positives for Coping Ways to cope in a healthy manner include participation in extracurricular activities, hobbies, and physical activities.

These reduce stress, allow learning of useful life skills, and offer opportunities to meet people who have similar interests. Tip for Parents and Educators Teachers, parents, and counselors must create opportunities for gifted students to experience themselves positively and value themselves as unique persons. Teachers, parents, and counselors should teach coping strategies through modeling. It is also important to create opportunities for gifted students to spend time together, recognizing they are not alone and serving aas catalysts for their future academic careers (Clark, 2008). Teachers and parents can aid students' growth when they are aware of the following: Belonging and safety needs- speed of thought and high-leveled questions and comments may cause rejection by others
Mature and immature actions simultaneously-responses occurring in close time proximity can cause frustration for all
lack of real and meaningful intellectual and academic challenges- unchallenging curriculum is often the culprit of underachievement and little growth
use of intellectual power- use guidance to prevent overwhelmed, confused or frightened feelings as well as help make decisions and set appropriate limits Self Actualization Two categories of self-concept have been identified (Clark, 2008): The academic self-concept is that which gifted students most often rate high. The social self-concept is an area that may receive a very low rating among some gifted students. Maslow's Hierarchy In his study, Maslow conceptualized a hierarchy of human needs and used it to explain how emotional development is facilitated or inhibited. There are six levels. Maslow suggests the following actions be taken to facilitate self-actualization: Experience each moment fully, vividly, and with total concentration
Think of life as a process of choices, your choices
Take responsibility for yourself
Dare to be different, nonconforming, real
Do what you do with joy, and do it well
Set up conditions that will allow more peak expereinces; perceive the world and life positively
Open up to yourself, identify your defenses, and find the courage to give them up
Be the most of who you can be (Clark, 2008, p 141) Tips for the Educator: A classroom that values those things as well as the following will nurture self-actualization: Develop student's potential at all levels of functioning, allowing them to integrate ways of knowing
Encourage them to take risks of unknown and unpopular stands
Implement the insights their expanding beliefs made possible
Value, encourage, and provide opportunities for diversity, self exploration, introspection, interaction, and quiet contemplation Self-Esteem Many intellectually gifted learners have no major deficits in self-esteem; however, there are vast numbers of studies of problems in this area. The quality of our lives depends on our level of self-esteem. It gives children messages about their ideas, their competence and their image of who they are very early in life
(Clark, 2008). Tip to Parents: The family is the incubator of self-esteem and the most crucial social unit in a child's life and development. The early months and years of a child's life are the most decisive for the solid base.
The parents' self esteem is vital to their ability to provide a healthy environment for the child.
Parents need to accept their children as individuals, set clear limits, liberal and flexible, aware of the environment, and lead active lives outside of the family.
Use language suggesting an alternative choice, such as "You can't do ______, but you can do _____ or ____________" directing the child to begin alternative thinking skills (Clark, 2008). Tip to Educators:
In addition, because of the amount of time spent of school, the environment of the school plays a major role in the development of self-esteem.
Set up situations where the child can be invited to explore and test hypotheses. Ask, "How can we do that?" or if they are scared, say, "I'll do it with you this time and then you can do it yourself next time if you want to."
Be sure to use lots of verbal reminders of the child's worth because of who the child is, not because they have done something well (Clark, 2008). Labels Affect the Child Labeling children results in a change in parent and teacher expectations and well as the self-concept of the child. Labels create expectations.


Tips to Educators:
Arrange a meeting with the parents to explain the concept of giftedness and answer questions about its development at home and at school.
The gifted student also needs to know what the label "gifted" means.
In-service training for the entire faculty and staff regarding the meaning of giftedness and the importance of the program.
Everyone must work as a unit (Clark, 2008). Moral Development of the Gifted Child Gifted children often show signs of moral concerns from an early age (empathy, compassion, idealism, global concern, and advanced understanding and judgement or moral issues).
Highly gifted children are reported as being far beyond their age-peers in understanding fairness, justice, and responsibility for self and others.
The establishment of a moral climate or environment could be the most critical factor to the child in the home and in school (Clark, 2008). Attitudes of Society, Teachers and Other School Personnel Teacher's perceptions of their own ability and worth are more significant in the success of their students than the students' concepts of themselves.
Numerous studies over time have shown that the attitudes held by the majority of school personnel toward gifted individuals are not positive.
Attitudes of teachers and school psychologists who work with the gifted are more favorable than the attitudes of those who do not.
In-service opportunities in gifted education need to be made available for all school personnel because of attitudes of teachers, principals, and counselors toward gifted students clearly affect not only the performance, but the acceptance and effectiveness (Clark, 2008). Now What? At times, gifted students may become so frustrated that they lose sight early and replace it with a sense of being powerless. If gifted children are not provided opportunities for positive growth and participation in real-world and global issues where they believe that they can make a difference, then this very important and admirable quality of the highly intelligent can be reduced to cynicism and antisocial behavior. As parents and teachers, we must guide the idealism of gifted children (Clark, 2008, p 127). Research About Social-Emotional Developments of Gifted Children There is some empirical research in support for both views of whether gifted children are better or worse off than other children in terms of social-emotional needs, but these come from studies that looked at different kinds of populations. That's why it's so tough to get some resolution on the social-emotional or psychological functioning of gifted children (Maureen Neihart, Psy.D). Sidenote About Stress Stress is open to personal interpretation. What would be stressful for one person would not be for somebody else. So maybe whatever you perceive to be adversity might be a stressor, and that could vary widely among individuals. We also know that there are some people who thrive on stress (Maureen Neihart, Psy.D). Characteristics of Gifted Children You have some kids that have certain personal characteristics and whether they're gifted or not, they're going to have difficulties. It has nothing to do with being gifted. Their giftedness might exacerbate their difficulties (Maureen Neihart, Psy.D). Sidenote About Curriculum For all students, schools need to address social and emotional issues and support healthy social and emotional functioning for kids because it's tied to achievement. You can't separate the two and to try and do so would make you less effective in optimizing kids' achievement and development. But I also think that there are limits realistically on what schools can do. I do think that gifted children should receive differentiated curriculum, or different educational experiences in school, and we know that still doesn't happen for most kids. That's a big problem (Maureen Neihart, Psy.D). Tips for Parents One thing is that it's really important to get a good fit, a good educational fit or environmental fit for a gifted child.

Another thing really encouraged is for parents to pursue is supporting their kids in healthy risk taking. Parents need to model risk taking, which means getting outside your comfort zone and engaging in experiences where you're not guaranteed success and where you will have to tolerate not doing really well—where your performance will not meet your standards and may not for some time (Maureen Neihart, Psy.D). What Gifted Children Want They are sensitive, open, articulate, and blunt. While they are eager to talk about themselves, they are still learning to take others’ feelings into account. They are also self-contradictory, which suggests that parents need to be flexible in finding solutions. A sense of humor helps enormously. Several themes emerged in their writing.

1. When I get home from school, I need a break from “school thinking” before I tackle whatever is next.
2. I want to do my own work.
3. Respect me.
4. I am learning to manage my feelings.
5. I need to move.
6. I am aware of my overexcitabilities and you need to know them, too.
7. I need a bedtime routine that suits me.
8. I can’t always tell you what I’m thinking.
(Jane Hesslein, 2010) Be A Self-Advocate! In order to self-advocate, students must understand as much as possible about themselves as learners, becoming more keenly aware of their specific abilities and interests, strengths or weaknesses, and learning styles or habits. There are many fascinating ways for gifted students to examine their own tendencies and to understand better how they are different from others.

Educational Data: Give students important insights on test scores, grades, and teacher perceptions.

Student Interest: Most school guidance offices have computerized interest and career inventories for student use. Help them assess their interest and attitudes about specific subjects and school in general.

Personality: Understanding the ways in which each person is unique can shed light on student needs.

Learning Styles: There are several ways of categorizing learning styles: visual, spatial, kinesthetic, concrete, abstract, random, or sequential.
(Deborah Douglas, 2004)
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