There is no doubt that building peer support networks for gifted kids is important to their well-being and development. True peers – those with whom a child can identify with intellectually without regard to age – can help a child build healthy self-esteem, social skills, and a positive attitude toward school. They can help a gifted kid reduce stress and anxiety; feelings of loneliness; and build resiliency. (Neihart)
Certain characteristics of gifted children make it difficult for some (not all) of them to find peers that they can relate to and build positive relationships. Gifted children often seek older friends or other gifted children. Due to asynchronicity, gifted kids expect different things from friends. They display moral integrity and seek intimacy at earlier ages. (Neihart) Gifted children can be conflicted between high achievement and fitting in with age-related social groups. Profoundly/Exceptionally gifted children pass through development stages more quickly; making it harder to find friends, leading to social isolation. (Gross)
Parents often find themselves the facilitators of finding peers for their gifted children. Dr. Dan Peters of the Summit Center suggests that parents try to find other children who share their child’s interests and passions regardless of age (older or younger). Parents can also seek out enrichment opportunities that may be of interest and a source of other kids with similar likes. They can engage in role-playing with their child to improve and teach social skills as well as encourage active listening.
Due to age differences, some guidelines may need to be established when dealing with older friends. Parents should set clear limits on appropriate entertainment use for such things as television, movies, and video games. They need to establish appropriate curfews depending on the age of their child. Parents should encourage open two-way conversation with their children and talk to them about how to deal with drugs, alcohol, and interpersonal relations at a much younger age than expected for any particular age group.
Poor peer relations can affect a gifted child’s self-esteem. Younger gifted children may not fully understand why they feel so different from age-mates. They may see themselves or their own feelings as the problem for not having friends. A full story 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 Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., Midnight in the UK and Saturdays 11 AM NZST/9 AM AEST 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 new Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
Finding True Peers from Duke TIP
Highly Gifted Children & Peer Relationships from Davidson Gifted
“Play Partner” or “Sure Shelter”? Why Gifted Children Prefer Older Friends via Hoagies Gifted
A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children (Amazon)
Peer Relationships (pdf)
Social-Emotional Adjustment & Peer Relations from Coppell Gifted Association
The Legend of the Pink Monkey via Hoagies Gifted
This week, Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented welcomes Dr. Donna Y. Ford to discuss Multicultural Gifted Education on Friday at 7/6 C.
Dr. Ford is Professor of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She is the former Betts Chair of Education and Human Development, and currently holds a joint appointment in the Department of Special Education and Department of Teaching and Learning. Dr. Ford has been a Professor of Special Education at the Ohio State University, an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Virginia, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky. A full bio may be found here.
Dr. Ford’s latest book is Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education from Prufrock Press. She was a 2014 NAACP Image Award Nominee for Literature-Instruction.
Below is an interview we recently conducted with Dr. Ford.
Moderator: How did experiences in your early life lead you to gifted education?
Dr. Ford: I was identified as gifted in elementary school. So I have always been interested in gifted education and students. I could share many reasons for my interest and passion, but will concentrate on one. My interestpeaked when my son was identified as gifted but started underachieving in the second grade. This was a terrible time for him — he and the teacher had a very poor relationship. He started hating school and doing poorly on assignments. This is when two areas of interest become a passion for me: (a) Black students’ under-representation in gifted education and (2) why gifted students in general, but gifted Black students in particular, underachieved. I decided to concentrate on gifted in my doctoral studies at this time. My dissertation in 1991 and first book (1996) focused on underachieving gifted Black students. Let me say that my work in gifted education is both personal and professional.
Moderator: How has your work in special education impacted your approach to gifted education?
Dr. Ford: I am convinced that many Black students in special education are gifted, and this is particularly so for our males. While I do not focus my work on twice exceptional students, I am pleased others are. This dual issue of over-representation in special education and under-representation in gifted education must be interrogated. Both result in lost potential. Both are a form of miseducation.
Moderator: What lessons have you learned from a mentor that you consider of greatest value?
Dr. Ford: Actually, I am often the mentor rather than mentee. This is not meant to be arrogant but to say that I learned early in life to be self-sufficient and make wise choices. This said, when mentoring, I stress the value of having a strong work ethic. Effort trumps ability in my experiences. Work hard and with integrity is a winning combination.
Moderator: Do you think gifted organizations could do more to promote diversity?
Dr. Ford: Absolutely!! Organizations have no choice but to be proactive and culturally responsive. To ignore or downplay culture and diversity is a disservice to children, students, families, and communities. At least half of students in P-12 settings are non-White. There is no rationale to ignore 50% of our students.
Thank you Dr. Ford for taking the time to talk with us! We look forward to discussing this critical issue with you.