Four Myths about Gifted Children

If you think smart kids have it easy in school, it’s been way too long since you graduated. We challenge this and other myths about gifted children in this article.

One of the biggest myths about gifted children is that the term “gifted” is so broad as to be almost meaningless. But that’s not true; it’s actually an academic euphemism for “smart.” It’s a fact that smart kids generate their own collective myths, and those are what we’ll look at today.

Myth 1: Gifted kids don’t need special attention; they’ll thrive on their own.

A few might, but most gifted children certainly won’t. After all, a smart kid is still… well… a kid first. The academically gifted have their own special needs, and require the nurturing guidance of a good teacher to help develop their talents. As one commentator put it, would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach?

Myth 2: This topic smacks of elitism! All kids are gifted in their own way!

We’d all like to think that this is true — but deep in our hearts, we know it isn’t. This myth about gifted children hinges, again, on the use of the term “gifted.” In an academic sense, it means a child is really smart and requires a specialized curriculum and additional support in school. It doesn’t apply to other abilities.

Let’s face it. There are some kids who are just smarter than others — in the same way that some kids are taller than others, some kids are skinnier than others, and some can run faster than others. Recognizing this fact isn’t elitism; it’s reality, and we ignore it at our peril.

This myth about gifted children doesn’t have many equivalents outside the academic circle. No one would ever say that a kid who can’t run across a football field without wheezing is athletic in his own way; nor would a child who can’t draw be considered artistic in her own way.

This observation isn’t intended to be cruel, just practical. We’re all better at some things than others. Some kids can dunk a basketball with ease, while some can’t; some kids can write surprisingly well, while others cannot; some are more verbally articulate than their friends. That’s just how it is.

Myth 3: Academically gifted kids always make good grades.

This myth about gifted children may seem like a gimme, but it’s not. Ability doesn’t necessarily translate into grades. Some gifted kids get bored if school isn’t stimulating, so their attention drifts and their performance plummets. Or, it may just be that they’re disappointed with or don’t trust the school environment.

And it may shock you to learn that some kids learn the hard way not to shine too brightly. Not only does it attract the attention of bullies and earn them “nerd” designations, it’s easier to fit in with the crowd if you’re considered just one of the guys.

Myth 4: Gifted kids don’t suffer from learning disabilities.

If only this myth about gifted children were true! But there’s no law that says that a gifted child can’t suffer from dyslexia or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or even physical disorders like bad eyesight and poor hearing, which can also impede their learning efforts.

It’s not uncommon for smart kids to appear average because their problems cancel out their academic gifts. In some cases, their disabilities can even land them in Special Education classes. In extreme cases, attempts to treat those disabilities with medication (as with ADHD) can make things worse.

In such cases, you really can’t judge the book by the cover. It takes a truly dedicated and insightful teacher or counselor to get past this particular myth among many myths about gifted students, and provide a child with what he or she really needs.