Early Childhood Intervention: Module Two – Special Needs & Conditions

Children who are Gifted

Children who are gifted have been the focus of many discussions among teachers and psychologists. These children follow the expected milestones in their early years of development.

Parents of children who end up identified as gifted have noticed differences since the very early years in the way their children learn.

For many years, the use of an IQ test was needed to identify a child as gifted.

More recently, the work of psychologists like Howard Gardner and Joseph Renzulli have provided other ways to define giftedness.

Gardner defines intelligence as “multiple,” in contrast to the traditional belief of “one” intelligence. As he describes it, an intelligence is a biological and psychological potential to solve problems and/or create products that are valued in one or more cultural contexts. With this definition and these criteria, Gardner identified seven relatively autonomous capacities that he named the multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. In more recent writings, Gardner added an eighth (naturalist) intelligence and continues to speculate about a possible ninth (existential) intelligence.

Renzulli looks at the connections between the learner, the teacher and the curriculum. After an extensive look at the  research studies of gifted individuals, Renzulli concluded that giftedness involves the interaction of three sets of characteristics: above average intellectual ability, creativity and task commitment. This interaction may result in giftedness in general performance areas such as mathematics, philosophy, religion or visual arts, or in the performance areas as specific as cartooning, map-making, play-writing, advertising or agricultural research.

The Many Dimensions of Giftedness

Description

“A gifted person is someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression.” (National Association for Gifted Children NAGC).

The term giftedness refers to the many abilities of a child, in one or more areas of development. This description does not depend on only one measure or index of intelligence. Approximately five percent of the student population (ages 5 – 18) has the potential to be identified as gifted.

Many people believe that gifted children develop “faster” or “differently.”  This is a mistaken idea, or a “misconception” (see full Glossary). However, what makes these children gifted is their ability to learn at accelerate faster rate. That is, they do learn new information faster than their peers, however, their developmental milestones occur in a similar way.

Intervention Options

Teachers trained in gifted education provide special support for children. Intervention options include using teaching models that value creative thinking, art, exploring nature, and using the child’s senses to learn. These models are a little bit different from the regular school models that concentrate on learning skills and drills, like reading, writing and mathematics. Examples include:

  • Using the Multiple Intelligence Model (Fig. 1)
  • Implementing the Three Ring Model
  • Mentoring by finding individuals in the child’s community with special talents who share with young children their passions and support them in their expanding their knowledge and individual talents.

Multiple Intelligence Model

Figure 1. Multiple Intelligence Model

Interventions for children who are gifted and with learning disabilities/ADHD.

Many children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder are also gifted. It is important to understand the characteristics and needs of these children, because their unique abilities may be disguised with mis-behaviour, difficulties with attention or lack of interest. Many of them do not achieve to their full potential, and they are at a higher risk to drop-out of school. Professionals use the term “gifted under achievement1” to refer to these specific characteristics.

Talent*

Talent is considered to be a personal gift. Few people have talents! Someone with talent has the natural ability, or aptitude, to do certain things; for example, a child with musical talent will learn to sing or play instruments at a very early age and with little and no training. Talent is not the same as a skill – like learning a certain musical piece after practicing for a while.

To learn more about children who gifted in the middle childhood years, please see the six to 12 part of this course.

1 Resource: Alina Morawska, Matthew R. Sanders (2008). Parenting gifted and talented children: What are the key child behaviour and parenting issues? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 42, 819_827.

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