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Giftedness/Advanced Achievement/Gifted with Learning Disabilities

School-Age Students (for younger children see Early Childhood Talented and Gifted Learners

Students with outstanding skills may find themselves in difficult situations in the classroom in both public and private schools for several reasons. At the Vancouver Learning Centre we understand the problems these children have and work with them to realize their full potential.

  Red Flags for Parents of Gifted Children and Youth

These are the major reasons why gifted students may find themselves in difficulty:

1. Boredom

Can you imagine a child who has learned to read and who enters grade 1 as a reader at the grade 3 to 5 level, being subjected to learning the phonics or sound/symbol association of letters one or two at a time?

2. Slow Pace of Learning

Gifted learners often achieve mastery on first presentation of material while others take three to four or more presentations. I have heard them say that by the third repeat ‘the learning hurts’.

3. Rules that Constrain Creativity and Curiosity

Some teachers may be helpful here in devising possibilities for the students to extend their knowledge, but others force children to remain within the boundaries of their classmates so they do not get too far ahead of others.

4. Discipline that Requires In-Seat Behaviour

Gifted children, excited and enthusiastic about learning, often have difficulty sitting still, or focusing on material they have already mastered. They have great difficulty in participating in learning routines in areas of skill they have already mastered. This can be mistakenly seen as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

5. Enthusiasm for Learning, Especially Outside the Curriculum Content

The student is curious and asks a lot of questions. This can be disruptive to the class, but such enthusiasm for learning needs to be fostered, not suppressed.

6. Task Refusal

Gifted children and youth may refuse to participate in carrying out the mundane tasks to learn material where they already have mastery.

7. Performance Refusal

Gifted students may refuse to read, giving the impression they cannot read.

8. Elective Mutism

The extreme outcome of learning rejection can be refusal to participate, or talk, or both.

9. Depression

A dampening down of learning enthusiasm and excitement can lead to extreme boredom and seeming depression. This is a medical condition created by the learning environment rather than resulting from psychological or physiological causes.

10. Peer Problems, Difficulty in Making Friends

Very bright children often have difficulty finding their intellectual peers in their classrooms. Others may see them as arrogant, unfriendly or boastful. This sometimes leads to bullying, which can be a serious problem that affects both well-being and academic achievement. Making friends is a learned skill. At the Vancouver Learning Centre we take this issue seriously, and a program in making friends may be included.

11. School Refusal

Refusing to go to school is a common dilemma for parent and child. At the Vancouver Learning Centre we work with the school and the parent to resolve this impasse.


Next Steps

  • If you would like to have answers as to what can be done, you can book a complimentary interview with Vancouver Learning Centre Director Andrew Taylor by telephone at 604-738-2277 or by e-mail.
  • If after you are fully informed through the interview and by reading this website you are interested in proceeding, Andrew will provide you with an assessment date to begin the process.
  • If you have further concerns or questions you can speak to VLC principal and senior psychologist, Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, either by telephone or by booking a further personal complimentary interview.
  • The assessment will provide a clear statement of the student’s cognitive and educational strengths and weaknesses along with a detailed program that is offered as a proposal. The program is delivered by the Vancouver Learning Centre’s highly qualified teaching faculty, one-to-one.


Learning Difficulties in Gifted Children

  Red Flags for Parents of Gifted Children and Youth with Learning Disabilities

A rather common phenomenon in children and youth with outstanding abilities is the combination of outstanding performance in one area with serious difficulties in age appropriate performance in others. For example:

1. Difficulties in Written Output

When written performance is slow it is often a brain based problem in efficiency in the visual motor system. If the mind of the writer is proceeding full speed ahead with ideas and picking up the pen to record the ideas takes place at a snail’s pace, there is a major disconnect between ideas and what can be written down. This produces internal chaos, which can result in refusal to write, or writing in the simplest, quickest manner, well below the ‘ideas’ potential. Since practice is minimal compared even to average performing classmates, the ability does not develop well. Spelling, punctuation and structure suffer.

In our schools, especially in high school when grades are largely dependent on written performance, these students underachieve by very great margins. This puts them at risk for not achieving the grades needed for post secondary entrance, and could affect their whole lives.

Self esteem also becomes a problem. These children can respond by withdrawing, by avoiding written tasks, by not handing in written assignments and even by dropping out of school well below their potential.

At the Vancouver Learning Centre we have developed proactive programs for these students.

2. Verbal and Reading Difficulties

In some cases, students who are gifted performers on abstract tasks, or Math, or conceptual thinking when language or semantic (words) content is not involved, have great difficulty with vocabulary and learning words. They resist reading for pleasure or even being read to since their weakness in understanding word meaning makes the tasks meaningless and therefore uninteresting.

Since they do not have a lot of reading practice, they fall behind their peers in both reading skills and reading comprehension, the essential skill for delivery of school success.

These children often show by their hobbies and interests outside school that they are “really smart,” however school performance is often weak. This prevents them from achieving good grades in school. They underestimate their own ability, especially since their strength skills are not challenged in school until the upper grades in high school. These students are seriously at risk for underperformance and underachievement that can affect their life choices and life outcomes.

The Vancouver Learning Centre has special programs that address this problem.

3. Difficulty in Mathematics

Many children have difficulty in this subject. This can be because of a learning disability in the auditory processing system that affects short and medium term aural memory. Since mathematics information is dense, and correct answers require precision in remembering detail (often orally delivered), students whose math skills could be closer to average or even outstanding, experience failure to achieve in this subject. As the gaps build up and education in the more senior grades increasingly challenge the aural processing system, these children experience difficulty in achieving success in math.

The Vancouver Learning Centre has special programs designed to address this issue.

4. Social Isolation / Difficulty in Making Friends

Children with superior intellectual gifts can be out of synchrony with their classmates. They are not interested in the games and activities pursued by their age mates. Others find them ‘boring’ because they are not necessarily gifted athletes. Still others find them threatening and do whatever they can to intimidate them, to reduce their own fear.

They may not be invited to birthday parties or play dates. This causes serious distress and self- esteem problems. It also may result in bullying activities, which seriously impacts their enjoyment of school and unfortunately can be associated with all learning activities.

At the Vancouver Learning Centre we understand that making friends is a skill that sometimes needs to be taught, coached and facilitated.

  Red Flags for Parents of Gifted and Talented Learners

Assessment for Gifted and Talented Students

An assessment of gifted and talented students is needed when a parent, especially the mother, who has observed the child from birth very closely, may see what appears to be accelerated development in one area, such as any of the following:

  • Outstanding curiosity
  • Enthusiasm for learning
  • Extreme interest in listening to stories or information
  • Intense ability to focus on a pursuit of something for a long time
  • Intuitive sensibilities
  • Extreme tenderness for others
  • Unusual questions or interests
  • Learning to read early (almost teaching themselves)
  • Gifted mathematical or problem solving ability emerging early
  • Quickness with puzzles and patterns
  • Extreme interest in listening to music
  • Artistic ability
  • Extreme co-ordination and climbing interest and ability
  • High order originality or creativity of any kind
  • Etc.

This could indicate a possibility that the child has outstanding cognitive potential, whether or not this shows up in school. Parents should be particularly alerted if such a child does not perform well in school or seems to lose this early interest.

The assessment at the Vancouver Learning Centre would unearth these talents and a program would be designed to ensure solid performance in school (even honour-roll performance or outstanding achievement in areas of strength) and to nurture at the child’s own challenge levels areas of excellence and interests. Sometimes advocacy in the school system is also required, and we are prepared to help with this. Most importantly, the parents are alerted to the situation and are better able and equipped to advocate for appropriate school based services.

It is important to understand that gifted children and youth are often as underserved as their learning disabled and handicapped classmates in ways that put them at risk for future well-being and psychological and emotional health. In their case, just as important as for less capable young people, knowledge of the extent of their gifts provides the power to be able to advocate for them and get them the services they need to thrive.

This knowledge also protects and preserves their future contribution to society.

The coaching and mentoring for excellence that is part of the VLC program design often flows into many other areas of their lives and helps to serve as a buffer in difficult situations. It should be noted that programs for these children and youth are unique and individually designed to provide a personal ‘best outcome’ over both the short and long term. Parents should consider these programs as a complement to their child’s educational experience, just as they would provide music lessons for musically gifted children.


Next Steps

  • If you would like to have answers as to what can be done, you can book a complimentary interview with Vancouver Learning Centre Director Andrew Taylor by telephone at 604-738-2277 or by e-mail.
  • If after you are fully informed through the interview and by reading this website you are interested in proceeding, Andrew will provide you with an assessment date to begin the process.
  • If you have further concerns or questions you can speak to VLC principal and senior psychologist, Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, either by telephone or by booking a further personal complimentary interview.
  • The assessment will provide a clear statement of the student’s cognitive and educational strengths and weaknesses along with a detailed program that is offered as a proposal. The program is delivered by the Vancouver Learning Centre’s highly qualified teaching faculty, one-to-one.

 









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