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The Highly Gifted (4)

by Kathi Kearney

The Highly Gifted columns appeared in Understanding Our Gifted from Volume 1, Issue 1, September 1988 through Volume 3, Issue 1, September-October, 1990.  These articles are divided across several web pages; click for specific topics:

bullet(first column) September 1988
bulletSchool Placement November 1988 - January 1989
bulletThe Early College Option March 1989 - September-October, 1989
bulletHighly Gifted Children And Their Families: Suggestions For Educators November-December, 1989 - January-February, 1990
bulletFinding Highly Gifted Children March-April, 1990 - July-August, 1990
bulletHighly Gifted Children and Changing Conceptions of Giftedness September-October, 1990
bullet[Cooperative Learning] November-December, 1990
bulletHighly Gifted and the Press March-April, 1991 - May-June, 1991
bulletHighly Gifted Children In Isolated Rural Areas July-August, 1991 - September-October, 1991
bulletA Quiet Crisis November-December, 1991 - January-February, 1992
bulletEducating Highly Gifted Children In an Age of Recession May-June, 1992 - July-August, 1992
bulletHomeschooling Highly Gifted Children September-October, 1992
bulletWhen Promising Practices Go Wrong November-December, 1992
bulletAdvocating for Highly Gifted Children January-February, 1993
bulletThe Highly Gifted Baby March-April, 1993
bulletThe Age-Grade Lockstep May-June, 1993 and September-October, 1993
bulletDiscrimination Against Excellence November-December, 1993
bulletNetworking: Essential Tools, Essential Skills January-February, 1994
bulletTalent Searches and the Highly Gifted March-April, 1994

January-February, 1993  Advocating for Highly Gifted Children

"We're not likely to see another child at this intellectual level for 20 years, Mrs. Parker.  I'm afraid there's not much we can do."

"Children this bright can make it on their own.  We have so many children who have trouble learning!  Our teachers have to spend their time with these children."

Parents of highly gifted children report hearing these kinds of comments over and over again, from school officials, psychologists, and the general public.  Often such comments come at an extremely difficult time, when the families are first beginning to deal with the extensive ramifications fo their child's extraordinary giftedness.  Nor are such comments unique to the 1990's; more than 50 years ago, Leta Hollingworth (1937) addressed these same misconceptions in her article, "Bright Students Take Care of Themselves."  The hard reality is that parents of highly gifted children are likely to be the primary advocates for their children, whether or not they want that role.  More often than we would wish, they are their children's only advocates.  It is essential, then, that parents play this role effectively and well.

Begin by obtaining an accurate assessment of your child's abilities.  This is absolutely essential.  An independent, objective assessment will be worth every penny of the substantial fee it usually costs.  The person who tests your child should be experienced in assessing gifted and highly gifted children.  At a minimum, the test battery should include an individual intelligence test and an achievement measure.  Children who obtain two or more subtest scores in the ceiling range of the IQ test should be retested iwth the Stanford-Binet (Form L-M), since more recent tests underestimate the full strength of their abilities (Silverman & Kearney, 1992).

Work hard to establish a good relationship with your child's school.  Know what you want from the school.  Find someone in the school--a teacher, principal, gifted coordinator, or guidance counselor--who will listen to your concerns and help you advocate for your child.  Be polite, tactful, respectful, but firm when an intervention is truly warranted.  Don't expect to find the perfect school--it probably doesn't exist--but work hard to make your child's school situation the best it can possibly be.

Provide the school, church or synagogue, and other community agencies, with information about highly gifted children.  Appropriate articles place in the right person's hands can go far in fostering a greater understanding of the needs of highly gifted children.

Remember that you are paving the way for other families.  Highly gifted children are more numerous in the population than commonly acknowledged (Silverman & Kearney, 1992).  Positive and compassionate advocacy for your child may help other families.

Gradually teach your child to advocate for himself or herself.  As a highly gifted child grows in independence, among the many skills that should be developed are the skills of self-advocacy.  Highly gifted children should learn positive strategies to use when they are bored in school, when others tease them, when they encounter bureaucratic hurdlers related to their extreme giftedness, or when they are pressured by other children or adults to hide their abilities.  As soon as they are able and wish to do so, they should have some input regarding the educational decisions that affect them directly.

Work with others to establish state and federal mandates guaranteeing the rights of gifted children to a free and appropriate public  education.  Other exceptional children already have this protection under the law. Until this protection is extended to gifted children, gifted programs will always be in jeopardy when budgets are tight or the political and social winds shift.

Finally, take care of yourself.  Advocacy often feels, and sometimes is, a full-time job.  Like parents of children with disabilities, sometimes you will resent the time and effort effective advocacy requires.  Build a support system of other families of highly gifted children who understand the needs, frustrations, and developmental issues involved in raising a highly gifted child.  Find a friend who will watch your children for an occasional afternoon so that you can have time for yourself.  If you are married, strengthen your marriage relationship.  Raising any exceptional child puts special stresses on the family.  Strong, solid relationships help families weather these stresses and discover the joy that such a child can bring to the family circle. Ω


Hollingworth, L. S. (1937).  Bright Students Take Care of Themselves.  North American Review, 243, 261-273.

Silverman, L. K. & Kearney, K. (1992).  The Case for the Stanford-Binet L-M as a Supplemental Test.  Roeper Review, 15(1), 34-37.

Kathi Kearney, M.A. Ed., is Founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children in South Casco, Maine, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and editor of Highly Gifted Children.

March-April, 1993  The Highly Gifted Baby

Just two weeks old, Daniel already was watching the faces of his parents intently when they spoke to him, trying to mimic the movement of their mouths.  On a lark, Daniel's father showed him a box of crayons, held up the blue one, and said "Blue."  To his utter astonishment, the baby clearly repeated, "Blue."  By 11 months, he learned the scientific names of 30 dinosaurs in a toy set he had been given.  At age two, his parents took him to an aquarium with a small pool where young children could touch marine animals.  Daniel reached out, grabbed another child's wrist, and gently removed it from the pool, giving the child a lecture about respecting animals and not hurting them.  Two years later, as he sat at the supper table eating a piece of chicken, he held up pieces of bone and tendon, asking his mother what they were for.  When he realized they were part of what made the animal move, he said, "I think I'm not going to teach this any more," and became a vegetarian.

Daniel's baby brother, only four hours old, responded to his mother's voice by lifting himself up off his chest and looking straight at her.  The hospital nurse said she had never seen a newborn respond that way.

Daniel's parents were not "hothouse parents" trying to create some sort of superbaby.  They were a young struggling couple.  His mother was a full-time homemaker; his father, a blue-collar worker.  Their children's advanced development was as much of a surprise to them as it was to others, and for a long time they did not fully understand what it meant.  Daniel's mother says, "It didn't really occur to us what was happening--we'd never had a child before.  We thought we were just a normal family."  Until Daniel's mother took a course in gifted education on her way to her bachelor's degree, and encountered a list of characteristics of gifted children, she had no idea Daniel was gifted.  By then he was 10 years old.  Scoring beyond the norms of standardized tests, he went on to produce original creative work in writing, visual arts, and the natural sciences, and as an adult retains his deep concern for moral and ethical issues.

Information about highly gifted infants is a often scattered, retrospective, and anecdotal, although Hollingworth (1926) provided detailed descriptions of the babyhood of five children above 180 IQ and Feldman (1986) explores the infant development of several prodigies.  We know relatively little about highly gifted babies because, unlike developmentally delayed or mentally handicapped children, gifted infants seldom have been studied.  We simply do not have adequate data about this population.

Despite the lack of research, parents, pediatricians, psychologists, and preschool teachers or babysitters already have access to important developmental information about highly gifted infants that will assist these children now and in the future.

Parents can keep detailed baby books, journals, audiotapes of early language development, and work samples for all of their children.  Families with older identified highly gifted siblings are especially encouraged to keep developmental records on a new baby.

Pediatricians can educate themselves on the characteristics of young, extremely gifted children, and provide early support and access to resources for their families.  Often the pediatrician is the first person to notice advanced development.

Psychologists who evaluate young, highly gifted children should consider administering the Stanford-Binet (From L-M).  [See UOG, 4(4), pp. 1, 8-10.]  In a study of 150 infants, Lewis and Michalson (1985) found that this measure administered at 36 months located many children later determined to be verbally and quantitatively gifted at the age of six.

Because they work with groups of infants and young children with a wide range of abilities, preschool teachers and babysitters sometimes notice advanced development before parents do.  More than one highly gifted toddler has been referred for testing by his or her daycare teacher or sitter.

Neither the political nor fiscal climate supports research on highly gifted infants or intervention for these children and their families.  Someday that priority may change.  And when it does, such humble materials as a baby book, an audiotape of early language development, or a two year old's work samples may provide essential information that will help many other families.  In the meantime, families like Daniel's will continue to nurture highly gifted babies, who grow to adulthood with unique abilities, experiences, and perspectives, the foundations of which were part of their development trajectory from the earliest moments of life. Ω


Feldman, D. H. (1986).  Nature's gambit: Child prodigies and the development of human potential.  New York: Basic Books.

Hollingworth, L. S. (1937).  Gifted children: Their nature and nurture. New York: Macmillan.

Lewis, M., & Michalson, L. (1985).  The gifted infant.  in J. Freeman (Ed.), The psychology of gifted children.  Chichester: John Wiley.

Kathi Kearney, M.A. Ed., is Founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children in South Casco, Maine, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and editor of Highly Gifted Children.

May - June, 1993  The Age-Grade Lockstep

Paul, even as a preschooler, had assessed an unusual amount of information about the flora and fauna in his isolated rural environment, which he delighted in sharing.  He drew detailed pictures of birds and animals, and voraciously read anything he could find about natural history.  But when he returned from the first day at kindergarten, he flung his papers onto the table.  "It's baby work there and I'm not going back!" he declared.

Cindy, whose reading taste at age four included the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Madeleine L'Engle, sat on the rug during circle time at her preschool with her mother, who was volunteering in the classroom that day.  The teacher began reading a familiar, beautifully illustrated alphabet book to the children, naming the letters as she read.  Cindy leaned over to her mother, realizing the full import of this familiar activity for the first time.  She whispered to her mother incredulously, "She's trying to teach them their letters, isn't she, Mom?"  They don't know their letters yet!"

Both Paul and Cindy were out of sync in school, although their school years had barely begun.  Despite a few pioneering attempts across the country to establish multi-age classrooms that foster continuous progress, most highly gifted children are caught in what Stanley (1978) calls the "age-grade lockstep."  Children proceed through school one grade per year, and their birthday--not their individual development, personal readiness, or academic progress--determines their grade placement.

The problem of the age-grade lockstep has been combined recently with a problem that should have been part of the solution for extremely gifted children.  Genuinely alarmed by the fact that the curriculum of the higher grades was increasingly being "shoved down" to the kindergarten and first grades, despite its inappropriateness for the developmental tasks of most 5 and 6 year olds, in recent years early childhood educators fought back.  They reclaimed the role of play, discovery, integrated curriculum units and the use of manipulative materials in primary grade classrooms.  This movement came to be known as "developmentally appropriate curricula" or "developmentally appropriate practices," and in some communities has transformed rigid classrooms into bustling centers of meaningful activity.

But what of the children like Paul and Cindy, whose intellectual development is extraordinarily advanced?  Because teacher training programs rarely address the needs of extremely gifted children, at best Paul and Cindy are likely to be accepted for who they are but viewed as anomalies, unusual children likely to come along only once in a lifetime.  At worst, their advanced intellectual development and the notion of "developmentally appropriate curriculum" may collide in the classroom, the teacher insisting what she sees the child doing with her own eyes, because it isn't "developmentally appropriate"!  Concerned about "hurried children" (Elkind, 1981) and the loss of childhood in contemporary society, some teachers perceive the advanced development of an extremely gifted child with alarm, as an indication that the child has been unduly "pushed."  But as one mother of a highly gifted child put it, "I am not a pushy parent, but I have a pushy kid!"

It is time to expand our understanding of developmentally appropriate practices to include those for children whose development is advanced and outside the norm.  Most highly gifted children do end up accelerating academically in some way at some point in their schooling.  Elkind (1988) insists that this is not opposed to the philosophy of developmentally appropriate education, and perhaps should not even be called "acceleration."

When an intellectually gifted child is promoted one or several grades, what has been accelerated?  Surely not the child's level of intellectual development--that, after all, is the reason for his or her promotion!  What has been accelerated is the child's progress through the school curriculum.  But this can be looked at a different way, not so much as acceleration as tailoring.  What promotion does for intellectually gifted children is to make a better fit between the child's level of intellectual development and the curriculum.

...Promotion of intellectually gifted children is simply another way of attempting to match the curriculum to the child's abilities, not to accelerate those abilities... Indeed the positive effects of promoting intellectually gifted children provide additional evidence for the benefits of developmentally appropriate curricula. (Elkind, 1988, p.2)

A greater understanding of general child development gradually led to recent changes in early childhood education.  As we continue to research and explore extreme giftedness as a developmental phenomenon, additional "developmentally appropriate practices" in education, parenting, and counseling for exceptionally gifted children will also emerge. Ω


Elkind, D. (1981).  The hurried child: Growing too fast too soon.  Newton, MA: Addison Wesley.

Elkind, D. (1988).  Acceleration Young Children, 43(4), 2.

Stanley, J.S. (1978).  Educational non-acceleration: An international tragedy Gifted Child Today, 1(3), 2-5, 53-57, 60-63.

Kathi Kearney, M.A. Ed., is Founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children in South Casco, Maine, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and editor of Highly Gifted Children.

July - August, 1993  The Age-Grade Lockstep, Part II

"I don't want to be a pushy parent...

This apologetic phrase has been the opening of thousands of phone calls I have received over the past 13 years from the parents of extremely gifted children.  Almost without exception, the parent was not pushy, but had real concerns about a child whose development was decidedly different.  These were ordinary families with extraordinary children, children whose needs could not or would not be met by the resources typically available to young families in their schools and communities.

Extreme giftedness may well be the most under-researched of all exceptionalities.  Without basic research and accompanying public awareness, the myths surrounding an exceptionality continue to proliferate.  Thus, what is sometimes perceived by educators and psychologists as "pushiness" is often simply a misunderstanding of the crucial roles parents play in the lives of their highly gifted children.  Those roles seem to cross both time and culture.  Their patterns can be discerned as clearly in the families of exceptionally gifted Australian children (Gross, 1993) and in the poignant letters of extremely gifted African-American children of the 1940's (Martin D. Jenkins Collection) as in the experience of families of highly gifted children today.  These parents become organizers of their children's education; educators of educators; organizers, managers, and manipulators of co-incidence; and balancers of asynchronous development in the child and in the family [see Kearney, 1992, in UOG, 4(2)].

Organizers of Education

Parents of highly gifted children must organize and orchestrate the education of these children to a degree that is simply not asked of the parents of other children.  This includes obtaining accurate information about the child's abilities and about educational options, and arranging, encouraging, and often financing the interventions.  Furthermore, our society commonly asks them to do this without public monies, without political support, without upsetting other parents, without making too much extra work for the school, without any legal protection for the child's education, and without seeming "pushy."  That is a tall order.

Educators of Educators

Most educators and genuinely concerned about the children they teach.  However, few teacher training courses prepare educators to deal with eight-year-olds who are ready for calculus or Shakespeare.  In addition, current trends in general education and child development downplay the needs of gifted children.  Thus, parents may need to educate the educators not only about the development of this particular child, but about the phenomenon of extreme giftedness itself and about appropriate educational provision.  This must be done with the greatest of tact and kindness.

Managers of Co-incidence

Feldman introduced the concept of co-incidence in the life of a child prodigy.

Child and domain must be brought together under circumstances advantageous for sustained engagement.  It may also be that certain kinds of prodigies will only appear and develop when a culture is itself organized t recognize and nurture excellence in that particular domain.  (Feldman, 1986, p.14)

Since prodigies and highly gifted children are still children, it is the responsibility of their parents and the larger society to help them harness the forces of co-incidence in their lives.  This sometimes means intervening when the culture is not "organized to recognize and nurture excellence" (Feldman, 1986, p. 14) or worse, is actually hostile to such an effort.  Organizing, managing and manipulating co-incidence is a major task of families of the highly gifted.

Consider how difficult it would be for a six-year-old child to break the lockstep of a  schooling geared to the ability of the average child; or to plan his own future in such a way as to insure higher education for himself.  Such superhuman accomplishments are out of the question, no matter how gifted child may be.  Gifted children are virtually as helpless as any other children, under authorities blind to their exceptionality.  (Hollingworth, 1937), p. 263)

These parental roles are complex in and of themselves.  They are complicated tremendously by our society's neglect of highly gifted children.  It is time to put aside the myth of the "pushy parent," and to demonstrate respect for the enormous work parents of the most highly gifted children to adulthood reasonably intact emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.  The work of that journey is never something to apologize for. Ω


Feldman, D. H. (1986).  Nature's gambit: Child prodigies and the development of human potential.  New York: Basic Books.

Gross, M. U. M. (1993).  Exceptionally Gifted Children.  London: Routledge.  (Now Exceptionally Gifted Children, 2nd edition)

Hollingworth, L. S. (1937).  Bright Students Take Care of Themselves.  North American Review, 243, 261-273.

Martin K. Jenkins Collection, Sooper Library Special Collections.  Baltimore, MD: Morgan Stanley University.

Kathi Kearney is Founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children in South Casco, Maine, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and editor of Highly Gifted Children.

November - December, 1993  Discrimination Against Excellence

The U. S. Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) recently issued the first national report on the education of gifted children since 1972.  The report is wide-ranging, with a focus on anti-intellectualism in American society, the needs of underserved gifted children, and a status report on gifted education in the 1990s.

Less than a week after the report was released, The New York Times interviewed the young mother of Jonathan Estrada, a highly gifted, bilingual four-year-old boy above 160 IQ.  He is reading at the fifth-grade level, and is a geography whiz.  The local public school recently made drastic cuts in it's gifted programming.  Jonathan's working-class parents own a deli, and can't afford private school tuition.  The boy's mother says, "I want to know what do we do with this boy?  He's dying to learn...  I'm not looking for handouts, I'm looking for some place to send my child" (Winerip, 1993, p. B19).

The new federal report has little good news for the Jonathans of this world.  Indeed, some of its findings, such as the sheer depth of the anti-intellectualism in American schools, are deeply troubling.  Taunts of gifted students, such as "nerd" or "dweeb," are common (p. 13).  Some gifted African American children who choose to achieve academically are accused of "acting white" (p. 13).

For years, educators of gifted children have been encouraged to cooperate with general education.  However, in the rhetoric of school reform, little has been written about the responsibilities of general education to its most gifted students.  They, too, are required by compulsory education laws to attend school.  Even the most profoundly gifted child is part of the community of "all children," mentioned so often in the literature of school reform.

Each time a taunt based on a child's exceptionality (such as "nerd" or "dweeb") is permitted in the classroom or on the playground, each time a highly gifted child is deliberately held back academically, each time a school policy prohibits academic acceleration or continuous progress, we need to ask, "What messages are we giving all children about developing talents, about the value of academic achievement, and about intellectual diversity?"  The school climate needs to support all students -- including the most gifted.  We would never allow racial or ethical slurs to go on unchecked in today's schools, nor would we deliberately thwart the intellectual growth of a  child with a disability.  Yet, profoundly gifted children (and their families) routinely must deal with these issues, based not on disability but on extreme developmental asynchrony.  General education has a fundamental responsibility to these children.

Education's Responsibility to the Highly Gifted

bulletIn Hippocrates words, "First, do no harm."  School personnel must read the literature on extreme giftedness, and take the time to understand the individual child.  Real damage has been done to these children by well-meaning professionals who insisted on maintaining institutional policies and philosophies at the expense of a child's development (Gross, 1993).
bulletThe school climate must be free from taunts, jeers based on race, sex, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or ability.  Every child not only has a right to be in school, but is required to be there by law.  It is the responsibility of the school to maintain a school climate that will not be hostile to any child.
bulletIntellectual diversity must be respected .
bulletStrategies that have proven effective for extremely gifted children -- acceleration, continuous progress, intensive enrichment, and access to academic opportunities without discrimination not he basis of chronological age -- must be regularly available.  For profoundly gifted children, access to such strategies is essential in order for them to learn, much as other strategies are essential for children with disabilities.
bulletExtremely gifted children must neither be ignored nor exploited in school.  Certain popular educational strategies such as cooperative learning, can exploit these children, especially if they are permitted no time with intellectual peers and no regular, daily access to curriculum at an appropriate level of difficulty.

School is a place for learning.  The message we give to all children about learning is linked in part to how we treat our most rapid learners.  If they are ignored, exploited, damaged, held back in their progress, or teased, the message we gave to al the children is that academic learning doesn't pay for anyone. Ω


Gross, M. U. M. (1993).  The early development of three profoundly gifted children of IQ 200.  In P.S. Klein & A. J. Tannenbaum, To be young and gifted (pp. 94-138).  Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Office of Educational Research and Improvement, (1993).  National excellence: A case for developing America's talent.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Winerip, M. (1993, November 10).  In school: Wondering where to turn when a 4-year-old son is a certified genius -- and a celebrity.  The New York Times, p. B19.

Kathi Kearney, M.A. Ed., is Founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children in South Casco, Maine, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and editor of Highly Gifted Children.

January - February, 1994  Networking: Essential Tools, Essential Skills

Where do you locate an expert in Cree Indian animals myths?  How does a rural school in an isolated island community provide enough math courses for the nine year old who has already completed Algebra I?  To whom can a family turn when they have just found out that their seven year old scored above 190 IQ on the Stanford-Binet L-M?

Networking is a critical component in parenting and educating highly gifted children.  Often, it is the only way the resources necessary for optimal development can be procured.  It is almost always necessary to reach beyond the standard resources available in most schools and communities in order to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of these children.

Even resources generally appropriate for gifted children may not be enough; Tolan (1985) notes, "I began going to conferences on giftedness where I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  Parents of exceptionally gifted children found the least help at conferences" (p. 23).  Schools, too, often find their resources (and their policies) taxed to the limit.  Both families and schools must approach networking in a systematic manner in order to marshal the resources highly gifted children will need as they grow up.  Parents and educators should plan at the outset to record information in a ring binder or on a computer database for future reference.  Networking has a "snowball" effect; one contact is likely to yield the names, addresses, and phone numbers of several other potential resources.  It is important to keep track of this information in such a way that it can be retrieved easily.

Networking Essentials for Parents

Establish connections with other families of highly gifted children.  Although the school may not be able to give you this information because of privacy laws, advocacy groups for the gifted usually know of other parents of highly gifted children who are willing to be contacted.  It is absolutely essential for these families to talk with each other.

Keep an ongoing list of resources.  Such a record should include the notebook or database described above; records of conversations with staff at your child's school; plus pertinent research, journal articles, books, and useful press clippings.

Get to know your local legislators and your U. S. Senators and Representatives.  If you are so inclined, help with their campaigns, and establish contacts in their offices.  Their assistance is not limited to favorable votes on gifted education legislation.  Politicians can also help you access information and make your way through difficult bureaucratic hurdles.  One U. S. Senator's office intervened when a ten year old who otherwise qualified academically was denied federal financial aid for college simply because she lacked a high school diploma and was not old enough to take the GED exam.  He introduced a bill in the legislature waiving the compulsory attendance law for full-time college studnets under the age of 17.

Read everything you can find about highly gifted children, and share these readings with your child's school if you think it will help.

Networking Essentials for Schools

Locate and access resources throughout the school district, at all grade levels.  Appropriate educational opportunities should be open to all students, regardless of chronological age.

Maintain and use a regional listing of resources for highly gifted students.  Resources include local colleges and universities; information about the national Talent Searches and the Advanced Placement exams; psychologists and counselors with expertise in assessing and counseling highly gifted students; mentors; books, journal articles, and research about this population; advanced academic courses on the Internet; and information available via computer networks.

Locate supportive individuals within the school community.  Highly gifted children sometimes experience unwarranted hostility in school from both peers and educators (Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1993), especially in the current political climate.  It is important to locate everyone within the school community who understands these children and can provide an occasional safe haven.  One school secretary in a rural district kept apprised of the day-to-day social progress of a profoundly gifted boy who was adjusting to a grade skip.

Provide an opportunity for highly gifted students to spend time together.  These children need time with others who share their speed and complexity of thinking.  Hollingworth (1942) observed the problem of play in profoundly gifted children.  She noted that these children ...always wanted to organize the play into a complicated pattern, with some remote and definite climax as the goal...  The playmates of ordinary intelligence naturally resented persistent efforts to reform them and to organize them for the attainment of remote goals (p. 274).

The result is that these children have fewer playmates because of their internal developmental asynchrony.  Providing opportunities for these children to be together is just as important for their social development as it is for academic challenge.

Networking is not difficult or expensive, but it is an ongoing process.  It is far better to have too many resources than too few.  Highly gifted children are often isolated from each other and from the resources that would help them , solely because those resources have not been scouted out.  In our information age, that tragedy is avoidable. Ω


Hollingworth, Leta S. (1942).  Children Above 180 IQ, Stanford Binet: Origin and Development.  Yonkers-on-Hudson, NY: World Book. Full text of Children Above 180 IQ is now available from Project Gutenberg in HTML, EPUB and Kindle formats.

Office of Educational Research and Improvement, (1993).  National excellence: A case for developing America's talent.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Tolan, S. S. (1985, November-December).  Stuck in another dimension: The exceptionally gifted child in school Gifted Child Today, Issue No. 41, 22 - 26.

Kathi Kearney is Founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children in South Casco, Maine, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and editor of Highly Gifted Children.

March - April, 1994  Talent Searches and the Highly Gifted

The national talent searches are an essential resource for highly gifted students.  Initiated by The Johns Hopkins University more than two decades ago and now administered by several centers nationwide, the talent searches constitute the largest research database in the world about highly gifted adolescents.  For many students, the test used in 7th grade Talent Search, the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT-1), is their first opportunity ever to be assessed on a test with a ceiling high enough to measure their abilities.  Furthermore, many of the sponsoring universities offer intense, academically rigorous, fast-paced residential summer courses for qualifying students, providing many highly gifted adolescents their first social and academic experiences with others as bright or brighter than they are.

The Talent Searches are an unqualified success.  Yet many young adolescents don't participate, especially those from working-class and lower-middle-class families.  These families are not poor enough to qualify for a fee waver, but not always wealthy enough to par with the $41 registration and SAT fees*, either -- especially when the choice is to pay for one child to take a test, or use the money to buy school shoes at a discount store for other children in the family.  Another major reason for nonparticipation among students of all socioeconomic levels is that they simply don't know about the talent searches.  Talent Search materials are generally mailed to the schools.  If the school doesn't have a gifted program, doesn't believe in acceleration, or doesn't offer students access to information about private educational opportunities, qualified students may never know that the talent searches exist.

Fortunately, there are many things that schools, families, communities, and the talent searches can do to insure greater participation -- thus ensuring that more highly gifted students will be identified and served.

What Schools Can Do

  1. Obtain and distribute information and application for the talent search serving students in your are (see page 14 in this issue for addresses).
  2. Administer a sample SAT to qualified students.  Multiple copies of are available free to every high school guidance office.  This will allow you to identify and encourage students who are likely to score well on the SAT, but are less likely to participate in the talent search without direct intervention.

What Families Can Do

  1. Check your child's school records to see if he or she qualifies to participate in the talent search.  most require achievement test scores in either math or reading or a composite score at the 97th, 98th, or 99th percentile on the most recent or next-most-recent achievement test.
  2. Obtain information about the talent search yourself (see page 14 for addresses)
  3. Administer sample SAT test at home, under standard test conditions.
  4. Don't miss talent search or SAT registration deadlines.
  5. When appropriate, share SAT results with your child's school.

What Community Organizations Can Do

  1. Provide funds for talent search entrance fees and scholarship for summer programs.
  2. Publicize talent search information in community publications.

What the Talent Searches Can Do

  1. Understand the economic realities of lower-middle-class and working-class families.  These students don't qualify for fee waivers, but the cost of participating in the talent search is often a real burden.  The talent searches need to make greater efforts to reach out to these families and to show them the long-term value fo participation.
  2. Issue more press releases nationwide, so families whose schools choose not to participate can contact the talent searches directly.
  3. Increase financial aide for summer programs, or help establish more community partnerships dedicates to doing this.

Many barriers to talent search participation disproportionately affect working-class and lower-middle-class youth, those from isolated rural areas, and students whose schools have eliminated gifted programs for economic and political reasons.  These are the students who often need the talent searches the most.  It is incumbent upon all of us to make this information available to them. Ω

*Combined 1993 fee for SAT and Talent Search registration through the Center for Advancement of Academically Talented Youth (CTY), The Johns Hopkins University.  Fees at other centers may vary.

Kathi Kearney is founder of the Hollingworth Center for Highly Gifted Children in South Casco, Maine, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and editor of Highly Gifted Children.

1988-1994 Kathi Kearney, reprinted with permission of the author.

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