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The Two Sides of Giftedness

The old saying, “There are two sides to every coin” seems to be stating something quite obvious. If you pick up any kind of coin whether it’s legitimate currency from any country, or just the toy coins out of your child’s play cash register, there are indeed two sides to the coin. In fact there are two sides to many things in the world around us. The same can be said when considering individuals who are gifted. Of course there are actually many facets to human beings, gifted or not and we cannot simply quantify everything by saying it fits into one of two categories. But when reflecting on a list of some common characteristics of giftedness we begin to see that there are some obvious positive attributes to these qualities, as well as some challenges that can accompany them. Here is a non-inclusive list of some of these areas. Being aware of these variations can benefit the parents and teachers who live and work with gifted children on a daily basis.

1. Learns Quickly

Advantageous: Can move through material more rapidly; doesn’t require repetitive instruction; can master basic content quickly in order to go more in-depth
Disadvantageous: Is ready to move on before other students, possibly leading to idle time and boredom; if not challenged with new, deeper material, can act out or underachieve

2. Extensive Vocabulary/Advanced Language Skills

Advantageous: Can convey thoughts and feelings well; can comprehend others’ words well; understands written language quickly and easily
Disadvantageous: Talks “above” peers; gets frustrated with others who don’t communicate in similar ways; can get into intense verbal exchanges with teachers or adults

3. Voracious Reader

Advantageous: Learns easily in school; moves through material rapidly; continually acquires new vocabulary; often reads a variety of types of genres thereby applying acquired knowledge to new contexts
Disadvantageous: Difficult for teachers (and parents) to continue finding new reading material; challenging to meet child’s reading and comprehension levels while providing appropriate material; finishes reading assignments before others in class; can get off task by being engrossed in reading material of choice rather than what is assigned

4. Outstanding Memory

Advantageous: Retains new information easily; recalls information well for homework and tests; can be helpful to others when recalling details; performs well in academic competitions; excels in areas of performing arts (music, theater, etc.)
Disadvantageous: Likes to point out where others are forgetful; can be argumentative when recalling details that others don’t agree with

5. Extended Attention Span

Advantageous: Can stick with a project or task until complete; able to focus well

Disadvantageous: Can occur in areas of intense interest only; so persistent that it’s difficult to pull them away from a task

6. Asks Questions/Curious

Advantageous: Leads to deeper learning; discovery of new details and information; applies critical thinking skills
Disadvantageous: Can be seen as impertinent; may distract others; repetitive questioning can be tiresome to teachers and parents

7. Independent Worker

Advantageous: Helpful in the classroom when assigning special projects or extended activities; can allow individual to have input in choices; motivated to get work done
Disadvantageous: Prefers working alone so group or partner work may be difficult; controlling; feels his or her way is the “right” way to do things

8. Perceptive

Advantageous: Able to understand nuances and subtleties; capable of picking up on social cues well; can make connections easily in academic work
Disadvantageous: Sometimes reads too much into a situation; can interpret peers’ thoughts and actions well but peers are often not capable of the same in return; can be presumptuous or make unfounded assumptions

9. Perfectionistic

Advantageous: Double-checks work for quality; thorough; wants others around him to succeed as well; produces high-quality products; dependable
Disadvantageous: Unrealistically self-critical; lives in fear of rejection or disappointment from others; can inhibit normal day-to-day functioning; can lead to health issues

10. Sensitive

Advantageous: Empathetic and compassionate towards others; able to help relieve others’ distress; has a greater capacity for appreciating the people and world around them; experiences deeper and more meaningful joys and pleasures
Disadvantageous: Others’ distress is often internalized; frustration if unable to help someone; experiences deeper and more significant pains and sorrows

There are of course other qualities which affect gifted children. This listing is intended to begin to give guidance to those interacting with this population in hopes of making them aware of some of the ways in which these individuals function in and process the world around them.

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