The social and emotional adjustment of gifted children who experience asynchronous development and unique educational needs

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Guidance and Counseling|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special




Gifted children are diverse individuals whose social and emotional needs are similar to and different from chronological peers. Academic needs not recognized or met can have a negative affect on establishing friendships, maintaining positive attitudes and protecting heightened sensitivities. ^ This multiple-case study explores the social and emotional adjustment of 12 gifted children, ages 5 to 16. In-depth interviews examined; children's characteristics and abilities; patterns of adjustment; and home, school, and counseling supports and interventions. Findings include information about adjustment issues and patterns, coping strategies, and supports and interventions implemented by parents and educators. While individual patterns are unique and fluctuate, commonalities emerge across cases. The children share six intellectual (strong verbal expression, desire to learn, avid interests, awareness of abilities, quick understanding of new topics, and ability to grasp deeper meanings) and four personality (emotional intensity, high levels of sensitivity, strong will, and a tendency toward introversion) traits. They experience difficulties resulting from uneven development, social deficiencies, strong internal drive, emotional vulnerability, heightened sensitivity, and their perceptions of the expectations of others. Five coping strategies utilized to survive in academic settings include: (a) making choices, (b) using withdrawal, (c) creating challenge and stimulation, (d) giving and receiving selective support, and (e) interacting with others. ^ A number of supports and interventions were found to be key in assisting the children with adjustment. They included: the positive use of IQ and achievement testing, recognition of abilities and social/emotional needs, time with others of similar abilities and interests, adult advocacy, assistance in making transitions, alternative ways to demonstrate learning, involvement in decision-making, collaboration between parents and school personnel, open communication, child-centered home environment, family social activity, provision of a safe haven, and counseling. ^ This study points out that some gifted children have the ability to adjust but not without the support of others. The efforts of school personnel, administrators, teachers, and counselors may fail to provide for academic and affective needs. Without the strong support demonstrated by parents, some of these children may not have been successful in school, felt accepted by others, or maintained a sense of well being. ^