Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Most gifted kids tend to be at least somewhat asynchronous. That is, they develop unevenly so that their social, emotional, and physical maturity is noticeably out of sync with their cognitive level. A gifted girl might have a chronological age of ten, and a mental age of twenty of more, yet still cry and have emotional outbursts when things don't go her way. A gifted boy at ten might be capable of reading and comprehending material at the college level, yet not be psychologically mature enough to handle the content. As a result, he may suffer from nightmares or show anxiety in other ways. All kinds of problems can occur when children are asynchronous and their unique needs are not considered. Kids who are intellectually advanced are often thought of as miniature adults, yet they are still children. They may get reprimanded for acting in a way that is actually typical for their age.
Generally, the more gifted a child is, the more discrepancy there will be between various areas of development. Asynchrony is a common complaint among parents of highly to profoundly gifted kids. What do you do with a child who is six year old and wants to read Dickens? Do you allow her to read “Oliver Twist” or “A Tale of Two Cities”, but hope that she'll gloss over the “bad” parts? Do you enact a ban on these books? Do you give her a watered down version, even if she is perfectly capable of reading the original tale? There are no easy answers here, and much depends upon your own values and views. It is also of paramount importance that the individual child's temperament and sensitivity be considered.
Gifted kids are no less likely to have irrational fears than any other children. In fact, many experience deep-seated fears related to circumstances that typical age-mates may be completely unaware of, such as global warming, overpopulation, or serious illness. One good way to combat these big fears in gifted young people is to encourage them to talk about it. Another is to find ways for them to help others, through volunteering, fund raising, and communicating with government officials. Telling a bright youngster that she shouldn't worry is not going to change her point of view, but doing something proactive might. Empowering gifted kids in this way will help them to balance their disparate selves.
Few gifted children are equally advanced in every subject area, so many have highs and lows in their academic achievement that stand out as well. A boy who is five years advanced in math might be “only” three years ahead in language arts. He'll need different levels of work to challenge him appropriately. This further complicates matters, when parents and teachers are trying to understand what “age” a gifted child is at a particular moment.
Twice exceptional kids who are both gifted and learning disabled can be the furthest out of whack. A child with Asperger's Syndrome will be far behind developmental norms in terms of social prowess, and may need a tremendous amount of support in that arena. But he may blow through the roof on standardized tests, even compared to kids many years his senior. An exceptionally gifted child who has dyslexia may be bored with the books that she can read independently, yet lack the ability to read the complicated texts with the degree of complexity she craves. Books on tape are one solution, but listening is not always as satisfying as reading for oneself.
Individualized education is the wave of the future, and what gifted and asynchronous kids need most. Parents and teachers who live and work with gifted children need to be flexible and understanding of their young enigmas, and strive to nurture each aspect of the child adequately. Try to remember that it's ok for a gifted kid to love Pokemon just as much as he loves math. Support his weaknesses and his gifts, allow him to play and have fun, and you'll have a happy and well balanced kid on your hands, asynchronous or not!