A social stigma is a discrediting stereotype placed on individuals with attributes that deviates from norm; exactly what often happens to children identified as gifted. They figure out quite quickly that they will be treated differently by adults; sometimes with unfair expectations.
Gifted children may manipulate information about themselves to ensure they still have normal social relationships (Cross/Coleman 1993). The stigma can extend to parents of gifted children cutting them off from support offered other parents because their children are ‘different’.
Gifted students are known to employ strategies to avoid the stigma associated with giftedness. Invisible strategies include ‘not’ saying a test is easy; ‘not’ volunteering answers; asking questions when answer is known; or not telling their age when they’ve been accelerated. More visible strategies include being the class clown, obnoxious behavior, or dressing outside current styles. Disidentifying strategies include feigned interest in small talk; acting silly; asking absurd questions (Coffey). Past studies have shown gifted students becoming highly involved in extracurricular activities to ‘fit in’. (Coleman 1985)
There are potentially negative outcomes of avoidance behavior related to the stigma of giftedness. When kids feel different and don’t know why, it can lead to feelings of abnormality. A gifted child may hide their giftedness to ‘fit in’ socially with age-peers and this can lead to underachievement. Parents are affected, too. They tend to shy away from sharing about their child’s accomplishments.
What can parents do to help their child cope with the stigma associated with giftedness? Parents can explain what giftedness is and its characteristics so their child isn’t confused about feeling different. They should provide opportunities for children to associate with intellectual peers in an appropriate environment. Parents may also need to seek counseling or therapy if they believe their child’s well-being is adversely affected. A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at Noon (12.00) NZST/10.00 AEST/1.00 UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
Support for Parents of Gifted &Talented Children in Western Melbourne (Thesis p. 77 – pdf)
Photo courtesy of morgueFile. Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.