Friday, December 22, 2017

Gifted education 2017: My top picks for interesting, controversial, and thought-provoking articles from the past year

Here are my top ten 2017 picks for articles reflecting trends and findings related to giftedness. They include opinion pieces and research on gifted education, STEM, psychological factors and work life. There were many great articles to choose from, but these stood out as diverse examples from what this past year had to offer.

Connecting psychology research to gifted education practice

"How do students think and learn? What motivates students? Why are social context, interpersonal relationships, and emotional well-being important to student learning?"

Ability grouping and acceleration can help teachers and school leaders

"Our review of published research results found that most forms of ability grouping and academic acceleration succeed in addressing the needs of advanced learners without harming (and even helping) learning in other students."

High intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities

"Preliminary findings strongly support a hyper brain/hyper body association which may have substantial individual and societal implications and warrants further investigation..."

Spatial skills: A neglected dimension of early STEM education

"The importance of spatial skills is often overlooked as a key feature of STEM education. The frequent neglect of spatial development creates an additional barrier to children's STEM learning."

Why educators trained in neuroscience continue to believe in neuromyths

"Researchers found that most of us still believe long-debunked myths such as the left-brained paradigm and learning styles theory. What's more troubling is that having a background in neuroscience doesn't appear to reduce these beliefs..."

The lay of the gifted land

"You can see that gifted across the nation is like the wild west. There is no law controlling entity so many states and districts decide what they will and will not do. Some have a sheriff who keeps the order and makes sure the gifted community is being protected. Others have no one looking out for gifted and so it gets pushed aside."


"Anti-intellectualism and the accompanying disinterest in educational pursuits is a nationwide epidemic and that the number of students who simply do not care about what is being taught has never been higher."

Why female students leave STEM

"Georgetown University researchers explored what drives women who entered a STEM major to switch to something else. Their findings, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, show that the answer is a complex combination of factors..."

Misinterpreting the growth mindset: Why we're doing students a disservice

"She [Carol Dweck] states that a growth mindset is not merely about effort, praise, feeling good, running around saying 'I can', believing everyone is smart, or used to explain why some students are not learning."

Why your IQ strongly influences your success at work

"The researchers reviewed dozens of studies and found that smarter people generally perform better at work...The really surprising bit is that, while being smart is more important the more complicated your job is - think a lawyer or an accountant - it's even meaningful for relatively uncomplicated jobs."

Also, please see my top ten list of Best 2017 articles about music and music education.

Let me know of exceptional articles or blog posts from the past year in the comments section below. (Note: I did not include blogs posts from the many talented writers in the gifted education field, since I would not have had room for all of them!)

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ten great articles in 2017 about musical skills development, music education, and performance

Here are my top ten 2017 picks for great articles about music, the arts, music's effects on child development, and the importance of music in education.

How parents can nurture a lifelong love of the arts
"The arts have the potential to create opportunities for self-reflection and self-expression, but gifted kids often lose interest in the arts the same way they lose interest in school: when teachers do not draw out students' own original, exploratory thinking."

Ten reasons to let your kid major in music
"Following the tough road of a music major will make your daughter more sturdy and flexible than kids who drift through 'safe' degree programs."

Arts standards quietly take hold in 14 states
"As or early this year, 14 states and the Department of Defense Education Activity had either adopted the National Core Arts Standards in their entirety or written new ones based on them. Several more states are expected to follow suit in the coming months."

John Coltrane draws a picture illustrating the mathematics of music
"Thelonious Monk once said: All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.' Musicians like John Coltrane though have been very much aware of the mathematics of music and consciously applied it to his works."

Where all the school's a stage, and the list of success stories is long
"Performing and visual arts high schools like New World inspire a fierce devotion among students and graduates. It is no wonder. Many serve as springboards to the professional world."

Music interventions and child development: A critical review and further directions
"This paper reviews the latest evidence on the effect of musical interventions on the development of primary school-aged children."

How to become the best in the world at your skills, according to science
"The solution that masters use is "deliberate practice" - a science-backed method that can help you become exceptional at doing what you do best." 

Music performance anxiety: Perceived causes and coping strategies
"Thirty-nine per cent of the musicians had indicators of MPA [music performance anxiety]. The most commonly reported causes were repertoire difficulty (57%), concerns about audience response (52%), and self-pressure (51%)."

Music education, academic achievement and executive functions
"This study examined whether music education was associated with improved performance on measures of academic achievement and executive functions."

There's something missing from STEM learning
"At its best, STEAM removes the limitations of pure orderly thinking and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry and innovation."

Here are two articles I wrote, as well:

Your musically gifted child's road to college
"How can you help your child decide about college when music is his passion? What options are available, realistic, and financially sound?"

How to find the right music teacher for your child
"While there are specific qualities seen among excellent music teachers, what is also critical is the teacher's understanding of your child's developmental, emotional, and motivational needs."

Wishing you a "harmonious" and happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Key relationship dilemmas for gifted women

What are some of the challenges, dilemmas and downright hazards that gifted women may face in even seemingly rock-solid marriages or relationships?

With all that brainpower, gifted women might be expected to reason their way out of snafus and predict whatever dangers lie ahead. Yet emotions reign supreme, and logic has little to do with feelings. And giftedness brings specific challenges for women in the course of a long-term relationship.

In a previous post, ten sources of conflicts gifted adults often encounter in relationships were listed. Here are some specific dilemmas that are likely to impact women in relationships:

Competitive feelings

While a competitive drive is not exclusive to gifted people (and sometimes even lacking - see gifted underachievers), constant competition within a relationship can derail connection and intimacy. The drive to excel at school and work can migrate into relationships, and some gifted women believe that they must repeatedly prove their worth in order to gain acceptance. If you always need to be right and win every argument, if you must prove your point every time, if you always feel compelled to outperform your partner's abilities, then a pattern of resentment, distance and bitterness will ensue.

Alternatively, if you completely submerge your competitive feelings for the "good of the relationship," you will be denying an important aspect of yourself. Some gifted women learned to mask their competitive drive as early as middle school to remain popular. As adults, they may hold on to long-held fears that standing out will scare others away. Learning when and how to compete, when to allow yourself shine, when to let go, and when to compromise are essential skills for thriving in a relationship - and living in the real world.

Guilt, ambivalence and shame

Some gifted women choose to be stay-at-home moms, or pursue the "mommy-track" in their careers. Even child-free gifted women may choose a less demanding career path than they (or those around them) had predicted. As a result, some may feel guilt or shame because they have not utilized their abilities to the fullest or feel they have not lived up to their potential. Some gifted women feel like impostors, and harbor suspicions that they were never smart after all. Those with multiple talents may bemoan the road not taken. Working moms often agonize and obsess over time spent away from home, and whether day care will cause irreparable harm - even when their children are flourishing.

Since career decisions are often considered within the constraints of a relationship/marriage (e.g., location, schedules, travel demands), some women feel thwarted or resentful if they abandon their goals - or guilty when they pursue them at a cost to the relationship. Women who forge ahead, and place demands on their partner or spouse (such as relocation, a greater proportion of childcare) may feel guilt and worry that their partner will resent them.

Breadwinner blues

Many women are now the primary breadwinners in their relationships. Some relish this opportunity; others may feel ambivalent. In one study, female breadwinners were interviewed, and although many were ambitious and took pride in their accomplishments, some experienced guilt and resentment about their multiple roles. Gifted women who are more financially successful than their partners/spouses within heterosexual relationships may fear an imbalance that can result in resentment and anger. Rather than welcoming greater financial freedom, some men can feel "disempowered" or even emasculated by their partner's success. Although most relationships can weather this storm (sometimes with the aid of counseling), it can tap into anxiety and ambivalence many gifted women experience about achieving and showcasing their talents.


Perfectionism wreaks havoc on self-esteem, academics and work, as the pursuit of perfection can backfire. It also may interfere with finding and maintaining a healthy relationship. Harsh self-criticism ("I am too unattractive or unsuccessful or unappealing or uninteresting..."), search for the ideal mate ("I won't settle for anything other than the most minor flaws"), and ongoing critique within a relationship can result in unhappiness, conflict, and unsuccessful partnerships. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as "healthy perfectionism." Identifying how overly high expectations, perfectionistic standards and unreasonable criticism interfere with finding joy in relationships is essential.

Overthinking everything

Even if you are not a perfectionist, a tendency to overthink or overanalyze can create problems. Many gifted people overanalyze situations, people, events... sometimes, just about everything. It comes naturally due to their quick, analytical minds. Problems occur when analysis interferes with spontaneous, enthusiastic engagement with life and with those you love. Sometimes overthinking can contribute to perfectionism (see above), excessive scrutiny of minor relationship struggles, or personal flaws. Many overanalyzers pick apart their perceived imperfections, resulting in self-consciousness, body negativity, and low self-esteem. A negative self-concept creates barriers to intimacy, confidence in relationships, and even the capacity to enter fully into a relationship at all.

What is the next step?

With some attention to the above pitfalls, gifted women should be able to use their inherent smarts, sensitivity, and reasoning abilities to overcome potential conflicts that may arise. Some self-exploration and support from friends and family can certainly help. If problems persist, counseling with a licensed mental health professional often can help couples rediscover the joy they once felt toward each other.

Below are more Gifted Challenges blog posts about gifted women and girls

Women, success, and harnessing inherent strength
What keeps women from STEM careers?
Why do smart girls develop eating disorders?
Why do smart women forego success?
Difficult passage: Gifted girls in middle school
Gifted women, gifted girls and mental health
Gifted or pretty: What do parents want for their daughters?
What stops girls from learning math?

Friday, December 1, 2017

When gifted children are not identified as gifted

What happens when gifted children are not identified as gifted?

What is the impact when they realize how much they differ from peers, but can't quite make sense of what it all means?

What transpires when adults witness these children's intellectual and social/emotional differences, but refuse to give voice to what they see right in front of them?

Whether resistance to identification arises from doubts about the evaluation process, philosophical views about giftedness, biases, ignorance, or concerns about the gifted label, gifted children may be labeled (with something) nonetheless. Without an accurate and informative term that conveys an understanding of giftedness, though, they are more vulnerable to incidents of misidentification and misdiagnoses.

An accurate label, a clear explanation, and ongoing guidance about what it means to be gifted will help gifted children adapt. It also conveys essential information, clarity and a framework for understanding giftedness for adults who are teaching and caring for these children.

Yet, there is resistance to this simple concept of identification, and to using the gifted label.

Some propose that gifted children should not be told that they are smart, and imply that conveying information about their abilities is equivalent to praising them for their innate talents. Others claim that "all children are gifted" or that identifying a child as gifted will create a "fixed mindset," or cause an array of psychological problems.

Even when not formally identified, though, gifted children stand out from the crowd and become targets for labeling. Children may taunt them with names such as nerd, geek, or smart-a**, because of social immaturity (i.e., asynchrony) or innate differences or just plain smarts. They may be ostracized or bullied because of their differences unless they learn how to fit in.

Gifted children often present with overexcitabilities, quirks and neuroatypical characteristics that prompt puzzled adults to slap on serious-sounding labels - often with little understanding of how giftedness plays a role. Although this might be well-intentioned, many professionals don't know a lot about giftedness. Sometimes diagnoses like ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and even oppositional-defiant are tossed about with little regard to their impact - or to their accuracy.

If gifted children's behaviors already gain notice (and invite inaccurate labeling), what is the harm in providing an accurate label?

Why not embrace use of an informative, descriptive and accurate label that can aid adults who educate, treat and nurture these children?

Barriers to identification

Resistance to identification may stem from concerns about elitism, equity, upsetting district parents, or opposition to use of the gifted word. Many find the actual gifted word offensive, since it implies having a gift. But whether you use the gifted word or a different one, students' needs still must be addressed. Misconceptions are sometimes based upon personal opinions or biases among educators and parents, or occasional anecdotal reports from gifted adults who claimed that being gifted caused emotional distress. Eager to justify elimination of gifted services, these reports are targeted to suggest that gifted identification might produce long-lasting scars.

Sometimes resistance may result from inadequate training in gifted education. Some educators and other professionals don't understand gifted children's unique learning needs and potential. Gifted students' abilities are conflated with those of high achievers, and their performance is tied to test scores. Their social and emotional traits may be viewed from within a psychiatric framework rather than an understanding of asynchrony, neuroatypical development or overexcitabilities.

Other times, struggling schools are blamed. Some claim that labeling gifted children won't improve their education within a flawed school system, so why bother identifying them anyway. Some researchers highlight the importance of quality education for all, an important and lofty goal, and stress the fluidity of academic growth. As highlighted in a previous post, this view emphasizes academic performance among bright students, but downplays the pace, depth and complexity of learning seen among gifted children.

And yet...
Would school staff refuse to identify (and offer services to) a child with dyslexia  because it might hurt her feelings?
Would a pediatrician refuse to diagnose a medical problem because it might upset the child or parent?
Would a school (get away with) a refusal to evaluate a child with a suspected learning disability because the school had inadequate teaching resources?
Would school administration refuse to implement a highly effective educational strategy for at-risk, low-performing students because other vocal parents don't "believe" these kids have such needs?

Of course, the above situations seem far-fetched. But comparable decisions occur with striking frequency for gifted children and their families. While some might argue that the above examples represent "real problems" and giftedness is an advantage, those who understand the needs of gifted children are well aware of the stressors and potential difficulties that can arise when their education is shortchanged.

Let's put these misconceptions to rest.

As a psychologist, it is clear to me that diagnosis informs intervention. That does not necessarily mean reliance on formal DSM-V categories. But understanding the root cause of one's behaviors is essential to knowing how to help.
If we deny gifted children the same consideration, and refuse to define giftedness, they will be misidentified, misdiagnosed, and may never receive the education, intervention, or services they desperately need.

Whether you call it underidentification, misidentification, or just ignoring the obvious, refusal to identify gifted children creates problems. Here are a few:

1. Misidentification is deceptive.

Gifted children are smart enough to know they are different from their neurotypical peers. No one has to tell them. They realize it on their own. Often there is a defining moment when they recognize that they "get it" in ways their peers may never fully grasp. They learn at a faster pace, and with greater depth and complexity. They are highly sensitive and preoccupied with injustices and existential concerns. Their worries, thoughts and interests are just, well, different.

Telling a gifted child that he is like all the other kids, that his mind works the same way, and that he just needs to try harder to fit in, is dishonest. You might wish it were true. Your child might even want to be "average." But denying the truth won't help you, your child, or anyone else who has to work, teach, play or interact with him. It also leaves your child feeling confused. He knows he is different, and gets feedback about this every day. Yet, the overt messages he receives tell him to ignore and deny his own perceptions. This level of denial is a set-up for self-doubt and the development of distrust toward others.

2. Misidentification compounds emotional struggles

When gifted children realize they are gifted (regardless of whether they are labeled), they initially may feel pride and excitement. But sometimes they experience confusion, embarrassment or even guilt. They may not feel "entitled" to their passion for learning, and feel guilty when they easily complete assignments and their friends struggle. They may feel ashamed about their heightened sensitivities - not understanding why they react so strongly to perceived injustice.

When adults refuse to explain giftedness to gifted children, they deprive them of a context and framework for understanding their intense emotional reactivity, their real differences from peers and how they approach learning. Parents, physicians, and teachers help children understand, for example, what it means to be depressed, to have dyslexia, or to experience overwhelming shyness. Pretending these conditions do not exist would prevent children from understanding what is happening to them, and from access to interventions that help to manage their differences or struggles. Why would we deprive gifted children of the same understanding and intervention?

3. Misidentification perpetuates stereotypes

We all hold conscious and unconscious biases and prejudices. Gifted children's talents invite projections of envy, bitterness, and false beliefs about the nature of their abilities. Some characterize gifted children as privileged rather than acknowledging their learning needs. Many seemingly logical people will fall prey to false beliefs and misunderstandings. How often have you heard the following?

I don't believe in giftedness - all children have the same potential if we just find the right tools to educate and encourage them.

Gifted children are merely bright students who are high achievers, or whose wealthy parents provided enrichment opportunities to help them get ahead.

If we give gifted children extra help, it will deprive other kids of the education they need. It's just not fair.

Refusing to identify gifted children and accurately label their abilities creates a culture of denial about talents and educational needs. If we can't give it a name, we can't adequately address it. Until we recognize that giftedness must be understood and served within the educational system, gifted children's emotional and academic needs will suffer. And they will continue to receive misdiagnoses and inaccurate labels.

Let's give it a name

Misidentification and denial are not the answer. We know that there are intellectual and social/emotional traits that must be addressed when raising, educating and treating gifted children. It is misguided to assume that keeping children in the dark about their giftedness is beneficial. Or that adults should ignore their educational needs. If parents and teachers are concerned that gifted children will not understand or respond appropriately to a gifted label, there are tools for explaining giftedness to them. If teachers lack sufficient training, additional education is available. And parents can continue their efforts to educate other adults among their circle of friends, family and community.

Otherwise, gifted children will continue to be misdiagnosed, overlooked and misunderstood.

This blog is part of Hoagie's Gifted Education blog hop on The Misdiagnosis Initiative. To read more blogs, click on: