Education News: Gifted children are failed by the system
By Deborah Orr
“It is an endemic misunderstanding, the assumption that people with IQs over 130 are likely to sail through life, effortlessly achieving “success”.
Even experienced psychologists, let alone “pop” ones, often fail to understand how high intelligence can isolate people, especially children. Yet, neuroscience tells us the difference between “normal” and “gifted” brains is significant. A 2006 study from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, found that more intelligent children “demonstrate a particularly plastic cortex, with an initial accelerated and prolonged phase of cortical increase, which yields to equally vigorous cortical thinning by early adolescence”. The study also demonstrated that maximum cortical thickness came at around five-and-a-half for its “average” group, eight-and-a-half for its “high” group and just past 11 for its “superior” group. The more intelligent a child is, the later their cortex will start thinning and the later it will become fully “sculpted”, as researcher Jay Giedd puts it. This all fits with previous psychological theories. Gifted children, it is accepted, exhibit “asynchronous development”, as described by the Columbus Group in 1991. This causes them all kinds of problems, not least because an 11-year-old can be one minute regaling captivated adults with their thoughts on the banking crisis, and the next throwing a tantrum because everyone else in the class can tie their shoelaces, while they can’t.
This theory incorporates an older theory, the Theory of Positive Disintegration, posited by the Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, Kazimierz Dabrowski, who suggested that gifted kids are prone to one or more of five “overexcitabilities”: psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual and imaginational.
Time and research has certainly borne him out on the first two. Gifted children are prone to learning disabilities – dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, all those conditions that cynics are prone to insist are manifestations of little Tarquin’s parents’ inability to accept that he isn’t as clever as they want him to be. But lot of the time little Tarquin’s parents are not deluded, not at all.
Gifted children tend to have particular problems with sensory processing, sensory modulation and dyspraxia. They are also more likely to be overwhelmed by their over- and sometimes underdeveloped senses, with their brain failing accurately to “read” what their bodies are telling them about their environment. This is not surprising, since they have so many neural pathways to choose from, in their big, messy cortices, and so much sculpting to do.
Sometimes these symptoms are merely a consequence of asynchronicity, and will sort themselves out. Dyslexia, for example, sometimes just disappears. But sometimes a gifted child with these deficits will become a gifted adult with these deficits. The cliches – absent-minded professor, computer genius who can’t drive a car, artistic giant with explosive temperament – chime with what neuroscience tells us.
Asynchronous development can also mean a child’s intellect is way ahead of his executive functions, the parts of the brain that manage cognitive processes. This will make him disorganised, unable to grasp spoken instructions or challenged by mental arithmetic. Even if his brain is generating ideas thick and fast, he may struggle to put them on paper.
In the US, it’s more common for a child to be recognised as being gifted and also learning-disabled. They call it being “twice exceptional” or “2e”. In Britain, however, virtually the only organisation that is really up on what they call “dual or multiple exceptionality” is the charity Potential Plus UK.”
Read the full article here: Education News: Gifted children are failed by the system