Gifted And Disable Have you ever wanted to be smarter? Wished that you had all the gifts and abilities that are associated with being a “super human genius”? Coveted the inconceivable abilities of masterminds such as Galileo and Einstein? Throughout the history of man it has been these kinds of great minds that deviate from the current method of thinking, in turn creating new lines of reason and more holistic understandings of the world around us. We label them “gifted and talented” but they are truly our inventors, our leaders, our Mozarts and Michelangelos. In spite of this they are at risk for extinction. Presently, the sociocultural surrounding in which our children grow do not cater to the needs of these gifted. Their cognitive abilities deviate from norm just as the mentally retarded, yet they are rarely viewed as deviants who need special attention. More often, they are viewed as better off than the majority to begin with and, consequently, are expected to develop to their fullest potential without much help.
But just as athletes must constantly condition their muscles, so must the gifted condition their minds. Although all states are required to comply with the federal mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (1991), providing special education and services to the lower end deviants of the intelligence curve, no federal law protects the other end of the curve. The lack of a mandate, which would provide an appropriate, and nourishing learning environment for the gifted has severe implications on their cognitive and psychosocial development. Not once in the Individuals with Disabilities Act is the word “gifted” ever mentioned. Not one paragraph is dedicated to their benefit. Luckily, 33 states have opted on their own to require their school boards to create some form of gifted and talented programs.
The problem is that little over half of these state programs necessitate teacher endorsement. It is not uncommon that state legislatures separate reimbursement for gifted and talented programs from the broad and affluent category of special education. In addition, the overall state reimbursement to local school districts is on the decline. In 1994 a case debating this contradictory mode of reasoning arose in Connecticut, one of the 17 states that doesnt mandate any gifted and talented programs. In a battle more over the diction of the present statute than of its impartiality toward intelligence deviants, The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the state constitutional right to a free public education does not provide gifted children with a special education program. This case has the potential of making a major impact on the future of gifted education because it is only the second ruling of a state supreme to address gifted education. Finally the most recent and obvious sign that gifted education is being neglected was provided by the U.S.
Congress, when it cut the funding on the only federal act that allowed for research into the various domains of intellectual deviance, the Jacob Javits Act. Already 99.9% (literally not figuratively) of special education funding goes to the lower end. Without the Javits Act discovering reasons why this percentage should be more balanced, it may remain uneven. If these shaded views continue to be supported both by legislators and electorate there will be serious consequences on the development of gifted youth. Lacking appropriate and motivational stimuli, gifted students will inevitably become bored and listless. This is simply the first domino in a dangerous chain of cause and effect. Boredom in turn leads to frustration towards their school, their parents for forcing them to attend a place that makes the feel this way, their peers for being content with their surroundings, and even themselves for not being satisfied for what they are given.
These mixed up emotions are a lot for any child to handle, gifted or not. What is often negated from peoples mind when evaluating the abilities of the gifted is that their talents are not infinite. They are exceptionally smart but they are no more equipped to manage emotional stress than any one else. As the frustration builds so do feelings of helplessness in the ability to satisfy their need for creative stimuli. As a result anxiety attacks are not uncommon in these children and neither are episodes of depression. However, the most detrimental consequence of these unjust inadequacies is that the gifted youth of our nation will never reach their full potential. Already, studies have shown that 30%-40% of Americas gifted children are underachieving (National Commission for Excellence in Education). And at least 20% of the students who drop out of school are gifted.
Most gifted students also have difficulties in psychosocial development. One of the first problems to arise is labeled as social immaturity and is followed by difficulty in forming peer groups. Psychologists now think that this label is incorrect and that these children are simply very different from the average child. These undeniable differences, not immaturity, is what causes the kids to have such a hard time making friends. They just cant find anyone to relate to. And the society in which they grow up doesnt make it any easier for them.
Upper end intelligence deviants are labeled as brainiacs, geniuses, and masterminds, who are already viewed as having more than the average person to begin with. So when these children ask for special treatment they create for themselves an image of selfishness. They are often distrusted, envied, and feared. These powerful soiciocultural stigmas are a lot for a young child to handle despite his or her intelligence. When the same society that sparks these negative views also has high expectations of these children it will inevitably create more confusion and frustration in their young minds.
Consequently, they will be even more likely to feel like outsiders in their own society. Physical effects are rare, possibly because they are so difficult to detect. Poor posture and avoiding eye contact are the two primary problems. All physical developmental effects usually result from interactions between cognitive and psychosocial difficulties. The long term effects and ultimate cost of failing to provide a mandate with sufficient funding may exceed the expense of adequately educating the nations most intelligent students.
Who wants to be gifted in a world that refuses to help that gift grow? These children have vulnerabilities in addition to their gift that also need to be catered to. They need social skill training in addition to academic learning. They need guidance in finding a comfortable niche in society. But first they need to feel comfortable with themselves as deviants that the world looks after and nurtures. They should view themselves as an unusual and in expendable natural human resource. And they can only do that if we show them.
If our laws provide the funding and programs necessary for them to feel supported and looked after they will grow up to feel confident about themselves and their gift.