Characteristics of Gifted Children with Disabilities (page 2)
Silverman (1989) discovered that, when comparing lists of characteristics of underachieving gifted children and of gifted LD children, the key characteristics are identical, including evidence of lack of social skills, social isolation, unrealistic self-expectations, perfectionist tendencies, distractibility, frustration in response to school demands, low self-esteem, and failure to complete assignments. Both populations are usually identified by the discrepancy between aptitude and achievement. Silverman asked, “When we look at a student who won’t do the work, how do we know we aren’t actually seeing a child who can’t do the work?” (p. 37).
It seems increasingly possible that students who are LD and gifted either may be identified only for the LD class, with the giftedness masked by the learning disability, or may be using giftedness to compensate for the learning disability so successfully that both conditions go undetected and the student continues functioning at or near grade level.
The children within the group called gifted/learning disabled (GLD) show high verbal expressive ability and good conceptual understanding concurrently with significant academic underachievement, frustration, and lack of motivation (Crawford & Snart, 1994). Their metacognitive performance resembles that of gifted students more than that of LD students (Hannah & Shore, 1995), and fear of failure, inconsistent social skills, and fluctuating self-image are found to be other examples of the unique characteristics of this population (Vespi & Yewchuk, 1992). GLD students resemble gifted students in positive emotional characteristics and nongifted LD students in negative academic characteristics. They are primarily internally motivated, share gifted children’s trait of independence, and accurately interpret and use nonverbal communication. Like nongifted LD children, they show frustration and anxiety about academic tasks, avoid or hurry through such tasks, and have difficulty concentrating. However, they are not as rejected by their peers, nor have they learned helplessness.
Self-efficacy is a person’s perception of the ability of self to organize and complete an action. It is self-efficacy or belief in self that determines academic performance and career choice. It is this very quality that is found to be significantly lower in the GLD child. These children may fail easier items on a test and then pass far more difficult ones.
Twice-exceptional is a term used to identify students who are gifted and mildly to moderately disabled (LD, communication disordered, and/or behavior disordered). A project, jointly sponsored by the University of New Mexico, University’s Department of Special Education, and the Albuquerque Public Schools, was established to identify, serve, and evaluate the progress of twice-exceptional students (Nielsen, Higgins, Hammond, & Williams, 1993). The development of a detailed screening and identification model has led to high rates of referral and identification—over 80% of the children identified as exceptional were found to be gifted and learning disabled or communication disordered. The students attend general education, special education, and gifted education classes in a blended program design. Teachers are better prepared to meet the diverse needs of these children because of their ongoing training as part of the project.
Many classroom teachers, including teachers of gifted students, have stereotypical views of both students who are LD and students who are gifted. Because of this bias, they may not even consider children with learning disabilities to be eligible for placement in a program for gifted learners (Minner, 1990). LD students and emotionally disturbed students have diverse problems that reflect the wide array of characteristics under these designations. Problems of attention, perception, and ability to evaluate adequately are the most commonly found.
A subgroup of children with other health impairments that have characteristics in common with gifted students are those who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms begin before 7- years -of-age (Schlozman & Schlozman, 2000). Both gifted children and those with ADHD have high levels of energy; however, the energy of the gifted child is focused, directed, and intense, whereas the energy of the hyperactive child is diffuse, random, and erratic. Although both challenge authority, the challenge from gifted children may arise from the curiosity and questioning that is part of their nature, and the challenge from ADHD children has been observed to be more hostile and aggressive in manner. Similarly, both groups can disrupt the school environment, but again the causes are different. For gifted children, the cause is often boredom with an unchallenging curriculum, whereas for ADHD children, it could result from any or all of the ADHD core symptoms: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. When these symptoms are combined with understimulation, oppositional behaviors commonly result among these children. When these characteristics of giftedness and ADHD combine in one child, there is a heightened sense of alienation, sensitivity, and overreaction (Mendaglio, 1995).
A developmental disorder that has been increasingly found among the LD population is Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Deficits in social communication tend to be typical and are combined with repetitive patterns of behavior or interests. When combined with giftedness, both the disorder and the giftedness tend to be missed. Neihart (2000) identifies characteristics that have been found to be common between the two: verbal fluency or precocity; an excellent memory; a fascination with letters or numbers; an absorbing interest in specialized topics, acquiring significant amounts of factual information about them at an early age; limitless talk about topics of their interest; hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli; a wide range of abilities; average performance in subjects of little interest; and uneven development at a young age. There are, however, characteristics that differentiate AS children from ordinary gifted children. Among them are the following:
- Children who are gifted and have AS often show pedantic, seamless speech, while gifted children often have the normal, but advanced language of older children.
- Gifted AS children not only are resistant to routine, but also are rigid and have problems coping with change. They can panic or become aggressive.
- Both may be different from nongifted children: however, gifted AS children are unaware of how others see them and do not have a sense that they have done anything out of the ordinary.
- Both may exhibit distractibility; however, gifted children are distracted by external events, while gifted AS children have more internal distractions that impair their school performance.
Neihart suggests that a thorough developmental history be obtained and inquiry into the motivation behind unusual behaviors be made. It requires an experienced interdisciplinary team to make the accurate diagnosis that is necessary to obtain appropriate assistance.
Students who are blind or visually impaired seem to be capable of the same ability levels as the sighted, but they attain their maximum intellectual levels later. These students often show deficits in meaningful verbal memory.
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Problems With Standardized Testing
- The Homework Debate