Sensitive. Gifted. At Risk.
by Lucas McGrannahan, PhD.Who are the gifted? Gifted individuals
are identified first and foremost by their intensity and sensitivity. These are the primary traits that drive their
intellectual and creative abilities, the prominent features of their
personality and temperament, consistent across a lifetime (Daniels & Piechowski 2009). However, it is precisely these
traits that are often a source of social, emotional, and behavioral problems, including isolation, extreme emotional sensitivity,
unhealthy perfectionism, harsh self criticism, under-achievement, and depression. As a result, gifted students frequently
become lonely, bored, frustrated, and disengaged in a traditional school setting (Neihart et al 2002; Grobman 2006;
Renzulli & Park 2000). Moreover, because of their intense psycho-motor activity and sensitivity, gifted students are at
risk of being misdiagnosed with disorders such as ADHD, autism and other pathologies, causing them to receive inappropriate
drug treatments and/or become labeled as “behavior problems” (although this is complicated by the fact that it
is possible to be both gifted and have other conditions) (Hartnett et
Baywood Learning Centers’
Mission is to serve the social and emotional needs of gifted youth. But “giftedness” is a widely misunderstood
category. Crucially, we recognize that while gifted learners have an impressive capacity for academic success, giftedness
is not always synonymous with high academic achievement. This capacity must
be unlocked in an environment that supports their particular
Without an appropriately structured learning environment, gifted youth are at heightened risk for social alienation, emotional problems, and dropping out of school.
The cultivation of gifted youth is imperative,
not just for the well-being of the gifted individuals themselves, but also for the communities they inhabit. Studies show
that in low-income communities and communities of color, gifted youth are far less likely to be recognized than in more affluent
or white communities (Swanson 2006). Even worse, students in these communities who display behaviors typical of the gifted
are at risk of being routed into what experts are calling the “school to prison pipeline” where student misbehavior
is criminalized so that students become institutionalized from a young age since misbehavior in these populations is much
more likely to be treated in a criminal manner (Whiting 2009).
Gifted LGBTQ youth also face special challenges
due to their need to manage two forms of difference from their peers (Hutcheson 2012). Properly serving the gifted in these
communities should be viewed a matter of social justice, which helps to lift up these communities as a whole.
Baywood Learning Centers
serve the gifted through educational programs designed to engage the passions and interests of gifted learners. In our Alternative
School, the curriculum is individually tailored to meet each learner’s specific academic needs and special
interests. Educational decisions are made collectively by the Learning Team, consisting of the learner, the parent(s), and
a mentor who works closely with the learner in order to provide academic, social, and emotional support.
are held responsible to state standards in the core academic areas of reading, writing and math, but we place special focus
on feeding passion interests through enrichment workshops that are offered in an intensive small group environment by
experts from a variety of fields spanning the sciences, humanities, arts, and more. Enrichment workshops are made available to
the general public and home-school community on an “a la carte” basis.
Daniels, S., and M. Piechowski. 2009. LIving with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity,
Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults. Tuscon: Great Potential Press, Inc.
J. 2006. “Underachievement in Exceptionally Gifted Adolescents and Young Adults: APsychiatrist’s View.”
Prufrock Journal 17, no. 4: 199210.
Hartnett, D., J. Nelson, and A. Rinn. 2003. “Gifted or ADHD? The possibilities of misdiagnosis.”
RoeperReview 26, no. 2: 7376.
Hutcheson, V. 2012. “Dealing with Dual Differences: Social Coping Strategies of Gifted and Lesbian, Gay,
Transgender, and Queer Adolescents.” Master’s Thesis. The College of William & Mary.Neihart, M., S. Reis,
N. Robinson, and S. Moon. The
Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children:
What Do We Know? Waco: Sourcebooks, Inc.Renzulli,
J., and S. Park. 2000. “Gifted Dropouts: The Who and the Why.” Gifted Child Quarterly 4, no. 4:
Swanson, J. 2006. “Breaking through Assumptions about LowIncome,Minority Gifted Students.”
GiftedChild Quarterly 50, no. 1: 1125.
Whiting, G. 2009. “Gifted Black Males: Understanding and Decreasing Barriers to Achievement and Identity.”
Roeper Review 31, no. 4: 224233.
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