A child who continually asks the questions, elaborates, expresses strong feelings and opinions, and diverts from the topic can be very challenging, and often challenging. The gifted child’s self-critical nature, and heightened intensities also make them demanding and often emotionally draining members of the class.
Understanding the complexities of the gifted or highly able child allows for some leniency and modification in the way in which these children learn and interact. Knowing that bright children thrive on challenge and complexity, they should be directed towards and encouraged to take up such opportunities. Highly able children can be very strong willed, or at least very concerned with fairness and justice. Interactions with other children, staff etc., need to be carefully monitored, to ensure that a sense of fairness always prevails. When discipline is required, highly able children need to ‘save face’, as they carry the continual burden of wanting to, or feeling that they should always do well and be ‘right’. Discipline them privately, and appeal to their sense of fairness and their intellectual understanding of the issues involved.
Not all bright children make themselves known. Many do not ask challenging questions, initiate projects or have wild, silly ideas. Some highly able children follow the crowd and fit nicely into what is expected of the class. These children, too, have specific needs.
There are various ‘types’ of gifted and highly able children, each with specific behaviors and needs. Understanding the various ways in which highly able children can present themselves can help to identify certain children in each class, and serve to explain some aspects of what may seem to be inappropriate or disruptive behavior.
Bearing in mind the complexities of the highly able child, it is understandable to see that certain characteristics of these children often manifest themselves in negative ways. With careful guidance and understanding, these characteristics can be turned around, so that a positive trait can be developed, instead of allowing the negative reaction to always show through.