Every time we have a parent meeting and I begin to talk about the social emotional needs of gifted students, I look around the room and I see heads nod and a flash of recognition as I discuss some of the ways these kids might see and interact with the world differently from their chronological peers. Often parents will stay and share stories about some of the wonderful unique ways their children approach the life and wonder about the ways they can support their children on their journey. Understanding what is meant by Asynchronous Development is a good place to start.
In 1991 the Columbus Group suggested a new definition of giftedness. “Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.”
While we ponder over what optimal development might mean for a child, often focusing on the academic achievement, it’s important to recognize that these students may be out of sync with their cognitive, social and emotional development as well. For example, a child who reads voraciously at a younger age will have a different “life experience” which may make it difficult for them to “fit in” with students of a similar age who have not been exposed to the same issues or ideas. In addition to this, their emotional reactions or expectations of themselves or others can add to the “difference” and create situations where they feel a lack of comfort with themselves and may not value the things about themselves that create the differences.
It’s very important as educators and parents that we support the social emotional needs as well as the academic. The relationship between intelligence and emotional intensity is well established and as such both need to be equally nurtured and supported. You can find out more about the social and emotional needs of gifted students here.