Serving Highly & Profoundly Gifted Learners

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Serving Highly and Profoundly Gifted Learners


Miraca Gross, in her landmark study of highly and profoundly gifted children in Australia, charted out numbers and levels of giftedness as shown below.
level iQ range Prevalence
Mildly (basically) gifted 115–129 1:6–1:40
Moderately gifted 130–144 1:40–1:1,000
Highly gifted 145–159 1:1,000–1:10,000
Exceptionally gifted 160–179 1:10,000–1:1million
Profoundly gifted 180+ Fewer than 1:1 million
The enormity of such numbers are difficult for me to grasp, but clearly the highly,exceptionally, and profoundly gifted children are a tiny minority even within the gifted population. Many of these children begin speaking by the age of 9 months and are reading at age 2. Most teachers may have only a single, or at most, a handful of such children in their entire career span of teaching. With so few children in this group,why should we care? We need to care because these children are the most under served children in our school systems. Most of them have been given (forced?) regular classroom work that is at levels several years below their tested ability and achievement. In sports that would be the equivalent of having the school’s star varsity basketball player practice with the school’s most uncoordinated P.E. student. It benefits neither party and creates unnecessary stress. Gross states, “It is surprising that extremely gifted students do not rebel more frequently against the inappropriate educational provision that is generally made for them” (Gross, 2004, p. 17).
I don’t know how many highly or profoundly gifted students I had during my twenty years of teaching gifted children. In the 1970s and 1980s there was very little information and almost no  training in gifted education where I lived and taught. I’m afraid that I was guilty of assuming that the strategies and curriculum I used in my gifted classes were sufficient for all the students in them. I suspect this assumption continues widespread today.
However, it behooves educators and parents to make concerted efforts to learn to distinguish the different levels of giftedness because otherwise we will surely miss and overlook those who need differentiated instruction and effective understanding the most. Our authors in this issue give us a start in recognizing the nature and needs of this ignored group of highly gifted learners. Our feature section begins with Jim Delisle’s essay, Highly Gifted, Vastly Ignored: The Compelling Case for Recognizing and Serving Our Most Able Children.” He traces the origins of gifted
education in this country to Leta Hollingworth and points out that advocates of gifted education at that time viewed these children
from the vantage point of psychology. He maintains that “…highly gifted children have their most profound needs not in relation to
curriculum, but in relation to overall adjustment in a world where they are, indeed, a tiny minority.” Delisle provides suggestions and food for thought for both parents and educators.
Susan Daniels follows with an article entitled, “Highly Gifted, Highly Sensitive, and Highly Intense,” in which she discusses
the seemingly extreme sensitivities highly gifted children often embody. She delineates clearly the “over excitabilities” defined by the Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski: Psychomotor, Sensual,Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional. Daniels points out that, “While the over excitabilities are central to the highly gifted individual child’s self, identity, and developmental potential, they also bring with them behaviors that confound adults.” Her article includes specific strategies for parents and educators to encourage modulation (not elimination!) of their over excitabilities to ease themselves and those around them.
The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has only been in existence since 1998 but already it has become a leading resource for highly gifted children and their advocates. The article, “Davidson Institute for Talent Development: A Decade of Supporting our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds,” prepared by its staff outlines the significant resources made available to highly gifted children.They invite you to visit their website which spells out in more detail all they have to offer.
Robert Schultz expands the discussion in his article, “The Highly/Profoundly Gifted Individual.” Of particular interest is a chart prepared by Dr. Schultz in which he specifies the tendencies and or behaviors associated with highly and profoundly gifted individuals, including descriptions of them as they might be observed in a classroom setting. The chart is designed as a reference to assist in recognizing and identifying these children.
Our final feature presents results of the experiences of highly and profoundly gifted children at a special summer camp held at Western Carolina University situated in the mountains of western North Carolina over the years 1958–2000. Known as “The Cullowhee Experience” the authors, Sharon Dole and Lisa Bloom, compiled the responses to a survey of participants concerning their thoughts about their camp experiences. The article includes samples of student responses in addition to presenting the themes that emerged from the study and their implications for classroom practices. The article is entitled, “Lessons Learned from a Summer Residential Camp for Highly Gifted Students.”
I would also like you to especially note this issue’s “Hands-on Curriculum”  column.  Authors Ann MacDonald and Jim Riley have decided this is their last column for the journal. I wish to express my thanks for the exemplary work they have shared with us over the years and to wish them well in their ensuing ventures.
—Margaret Gosfield