By: Maggie Downs

There’s a tweet that went viral some years ago, which said: “Going as Former Gifted Child for Halloween, and the whole costume is just gonna be people asking, ‘What are you supposed to be?’ and me saying, ‘I was supposed to be a lot of things.’”

It’s a funny tweet, but it also points to the challenges of supporting intellectually advanced or academically talented students. Such kids possess unique abilities and potential — but there’s also a slew of misconceptions about who these students are in the classroom and beyond.

Giftedness is a complex and multifaceted concept, and understanding the realities of these children's lives is essential for their well-being and success. By dispelling these myths, we can better appreciate the unique challenges and potential of gifted children and provide them with the necessary resources and guidance to thrive in a balanced and healthy way.

Myth 1: Gifted Children Don't Need Help; They're Self-Sufficient

One of the most pervasive myths about gifted children is that they don't require any special assistance or support. It’s often assumed such students are inherently capable of excelling in all areas. The reality, however, is that gifted kids, like all children, benefit from appropriate guidance, mentorship, and resources to maximize their potential. Giftedness doesn't guarantee that a child will thrive without assistance. In fact, without proper support, they may become frustrated, unmotivated, or even underachieve.

“Research has shown that a major cause of underachievement of gifted students is the inadequacy of the school curriculum accompanied by a lack of cognitive challenge,” according to a 2019 piece on academic underachievement in gifted children, published in the International Journal of Online and Biomedical Engineering.

Myth 2: Gifted Kids Excel in All Areas

Another common myth suggests that gifted children excel in every subject or skill. While they may have exceptional aptitude for achievement in certain areas, like language arts, mathematics, or music, their talents are not evenly distributed across all subjects. Like anyone else, gifted students can have strengths and weaknesses. Recognize that each child possesses unique abilities, and it’s essential to nurture their interests without imposing unrealistic expectations.

Myth 3: Gifted Children Are Always Well-Behaved and Well-Adjusted

Gifted children face social and emotional challenges, just like their peers. Meanwhile, their advanced cognitive abilities can also lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and perfectionism. That’s why it’s crucial to support every child’s emotional development and provide them with a safe space to express their concerns.

Myth 4: Giftedness Equals High Achievement

“While educational attention has tended to respond to students who present learning difficulties due to their limitations, it has been observed that gifted students may also fail in their studies,” says a 2021 study from the University of Grenada, Analyzing Educational Interventions with Gifted Students.

External factors such as environment, motivation, and access to resources play a significant role in a child's success. Gifted students may struggle academically if their educational needs aren't met, or if they face a lack of challenge in the classroom.

Myth 5: Giftedness Is Static and Unchanging

Giftedness can evolve and change over time. A gifted child may exhibit exceptional abilities in one area but may not necessarily remain gifted in all areas throughout their life. Moreover, giftedness can be influenced by environmental factors, motivation, and learning opportunities. Recognizing that giftedness is a dynamic trait can lead to more effective support and development strategies.

Myth 6: Gifted Children Should Be Accelerated in School

There's a widespread misconception that the best way to support gifted children is to accelerate them through the educational system, skipping grades or taking on more advanced coursework. While acceleration can be beneficial in some cases, it's not the ideal solution for every child. It's essential to consider a wide range of educational options and customize the approach to the child's specific circumstances, interests, and goals.

Myth 7: All Gifted Children Will Achieve Success and Happiness

It's a common belief that gifted children will inevitably achieve success and happiness. However, like anyone else, their life outcomes depend on various factors, including their choices, circumstances, and support systems. It's important to guide and support them, but success and happiness are not guaranteed solely based on their talent in the classroom.