On Giftedness and Underachievement

There are a lot of myths and misunderstanding about giftedness. What giftedness really is about, how to recognise it in your child and how to address the related issues?

In most cases, it is not necessary to find out if a child is gifted unless there are evidences in your interactions with the child that suggest the possibility.

What is more important for all parents to take active interest in is the related issue of underachievement. Just like giftedness, 'underachievement' is a term that is often misunderstood.

The term 'underachievement' refers to not achieving one's potential. It is not about setting goals like the number of As to achieve in exams or passing a Grade x piano exam at age 5 for instance.

It is not just gifted kids who will underachieve. High ability and talented kids may also underachieve. A motivated and fast learner now may not continue to be motivated to learn a few years later. The important question we should ask is, 'Why?'

Just because our kids are in day school, we cannot assume that all teachers know best about helping our child reach his potential. If our children's teachers are only concerned with the day-to-day tasks and completing the required curriculum, will he really take the time and effort to take note of a particular child's giftedness and underachievement?

Even if he notices, will he go beyond what is required of him to stretch the child and help him reach his potential?

The fact is to recognise giftedness and underachievement and to know how to handle the related challenges in a child requires more than just experience or passion in an educator. 

Parents are the ones with the power to decide on the learning environment that we place our child in. By taking charge and selecting an education option that best suits our child's learning abilities, we are indeed giving our child the best possible gift.

To learn in an environment that fails to recognise his learning potential may be more detrimental in the long run for a gifted or high ability child than it would be for an average learner. In the beginning, the gifted or high ability child may feel a huge boost of confidence and ego. However, over time, the desire to learn and learn fast may fade.

If schools are not meeting the child's needs and when our child slides through school with easily obtained As from teachers who do not know the extent of our child's abilities, we also need to ask ourselves 'Is this good enough?'. 

The reason underachievement exists in some gifted children is because we teach them to underachieve by asking for little more than blind devotion to a curriculum that is either too easy, or too irrelevant.

So what can parents do to address understimulation and underachievement:

- eliminate or reduce significantly any work that is already mastered;
- allow independent projects on topics of personal choice;
- place your child with teachers who understand and appreciate gifted kids' intelligence, humour, and sarcasm;
- incorporate problem-solving techniques instead of rote learning to learn or practise needed skills; and 
- whenever possible, combine typical school subjects of math, science, language arts etc so that students see the 'the big picture' of how these areas overlap in real-life situations.

Learning should be fun, interesting and meaningful, with a bigger purpose than just obtaining good grades in school. 

In all our programmes, our ultimate goal is to inculcate in students the desire to learn that is accompanied by a hunger for knowledge. Once we have inspired children to have a lasting curiosity and interest in the world they live in, and equip them with the skills to learn independently, we will not have to be concerned with the problem of underachievement anymore.

To learn more about our programmes, click HERE.