Category Archives: Research

Educators’ Guide to Gifted Children

GHF is a wonderful all-volunteer organization working hard to serve some of the same population the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund seeks to serve, by offering community and information resources both to gifted homeschoolers and to the broader population of families with gifted kids in general.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 3.33.26 PMAs an individual, I volunteer for GHF as part of their professional outreach team. They recently asked me to write another brochure for them following on the success of the Healthcare Professionals’ Guide to Gifted Children last year, and I was honored to help.

The Educators’ Guide to Gifted Children is now available on the GHF website free of charge. So many myths about gifted children and education exist. Unfortunately, even many educators buy into these myths (see link to Giftedness 101). Educators, like parents, want what’s best for kids.

This brochure aims to help provide accurate information about what gifted kids need in educational settings, whether in schools, at home, or out in communities. Please share it with the educators you know, and let GHF know how it helps. Better yet, support GHF in their work, and you’ll be helping thousands of kids and families worldwide.

– Marlow


Shifting the Paradigm: Asynchrony and the High-Potential Child

The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) created a kerfuffle in the gifted education community very recently by recommending that efforts to support gifted children be focused not on identification, but on talent development. We want to go on the record to say that the NAGC has done wonderful things in service to this population, but that they are missing the mark with their new recommendation. Allow me to elaborate:

1. The NAGC notes correctly that “programs… are driven by identification methods rather than service models and rightly criticized for focusing on too narrow a group of learners.” They’re partly right; the goal is to serve the population of children whose intellectual ability and promise is on the outlying end of the spectrum, children who are many ages at once (asynchronous). Focusing solely on identifying kids using the methods used particularly in the public school system has indeed partly failed. The system must include a focus on service models that work for each child.

But the NAGC has the emphasis wrong: The system is failing not because focusing on identification is wrong; but because the methods of identification are flawed:

    • Academic-based performance as a measure of identification of gifted and asynchronous children only identifies those who have managed to perform well in school. This tends to be those who fit in a particular segment, often between 130 and 145 IQ, and those without learning disabilities (those who are not twice exceptional).
    • IQ tests measure general intelligence (“g”), which is incredibly one-dimensional and thus may rarely, if ever, measure the true intelligence, capacity and promise of the most significantly asynchronous (“gifted”) children. (See Karl Bunday’s History of IQ Tests and the “Challenges to g” section of the Wikipedia entry on “g factor”, although I’d love a better link if anyone can offer one in the comments.)
    • Yet worse, every single IQ test in existence today has a ceiling effect that fails to take into account the most profoundly asynchronous children; testers run out of questions, even if extended norms are used; and the only non-ceilinged test (the Stanford Binet L-M) is so woefully out of date that it has substantial flaws in application as well.
    • Add to that the fact that anyone’s performance on a test like this is subject to the vicissitudes of their health and mood that day, their rapport with the tester, the tester’s skill and objectivity, the effectiveness of the individual test taken, etc., and you have a very imperfect measure.

What to do with these flawed methods? We shouldn’t discard them, but rather keep them (and their shortcomings) in perspective. We should educate ourselves using the many resources that exist about giftedness; the Gifted Homeschoolers’ Forum has one good list, but there are others. We should also supplement these methods with something that much of the education world ignores or discounts now: the observations of the child’s parents regarding the development and characteristics of their children.

More research can be done on this point. But the observations of parents regarding the giftedness of their children tends to be very accurate, according to the Gifted Development Center and as confirmed informally by a vast segment of participants in online communities for families of gifted children. Questionnaires for parents and families that assess measures like those described by the GDC should be developed and used by educators, healthcare professionals, and others. The results should be given substantial weight.

We agree with the NAGC that talent development in education is important. But a sole focus on talent development ignores development of the whole child, which for exceptionally and profoundly asynchronous children is at least as critical, if not more so. The social and emotional development of these children is the hardest area to address effectively, some say. Many specialists in the field of education and assessment of profoundly asynchronous children believe that when these kids are nurtured socially and emotionally, their educational development naturally follows on its own, unless it is actively hindered by the educational situation in which the children are located.

Kids like this need to feel emotionally safe; have social and emotional support in coping with their extreme asynchrony (having adult-level thoughts about death, life purpose, philosophy, morality, etc., with only 5 or 6 years of life experience and emotional resilience, e.g.).

Equally important, kids need to know there are other kids like them. They need to find them and spend time with them.

And lastly, we argue that it is absolutely critical that the damage that comes from the very word “gifted” needs to stop. The education world in particular needs to leave this word behind. These children are as different from typical kids as typical kids are from those who are profoundly developmentally challenged. Their needs are equally extremely different. We need a marketing miracle-worker to help us find a term that will work, apparently, but the fact remains that the change needs to happen.

We welcome your comments and suggestions!


The Critical Role of Identification

As we design our selection process and program to support asynchronous scholars, we have been thinking a great deal about how critical it is for these asynchronous kids to be identified as early as possible – not by the Fund, but by their families and schools.

Two recent articles reminded us that the most underserved of asynchronous kids are English language learners and those who come from underprivileged backgrounds. The current focus to narrow the achievement gap takes the approach of bringing the lower end of achievement up. This helps some kids reach their potential to be nearer to the middle of the heap, which is laudable. But kids already at the middle don’t benefit much, and those whose potential is higher – especially much higher – are left out in the cold.

And woe be unto those whose potential is very high, but who are misunderstood to have little potential, because they are English language learners; have learning disabilities despite high IQs; or suffer from low motivation, poor work skills, and corresponding poor performance in school, also despite high IQs. Some of these children may be assumed to be the beneficiaries of No Child Left Behind, because the approach may help bring their test scores closer to the norm. But what is still left behind is their critical need for intellectually challenging material, accelerated pace-of-learning, and assistance learning diligence and persistence.

Identifying children as being asynchronous – many ages at once, with the potential to work above their chronological age – is critical for several reasons. The first is that it brings the child one step closer to having his or her needs met. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has an excellent database of articles on identifying such children. Not only might identification gain access for a child to a GATE program or other learning opportunities better suited to his or her needs, but permits both educators and parents a much better understanding of the child. This makes a critical difference in a child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. For some, it’s life-saving.

The challenge is in identifying these children as belonging with other asynchronous scholars. Schools that use IQ scores alone as indicators of potential have larger disparities among minority and non-minority groups, according to a 1993 study on developing America’s talent. But other indicators can be taken into account to assess the whole child, and these factors become more important to include in assessments when the student in question comes from a minority group, an underprivileged background, or is an English language learner. These include how fast the student is learning a second (non-native) language; whether the child is street-smart; how well they get along with older children and adults; creativity and resourcefulness; and more. Both educators and parents should be familiar with the traits of asynchronous, advanced learners. We’ll be keeping them in mind as we begin to reach out to school districts, homeschool groups, communities, and elsewhere to identify children and families who need our assistance.