The first question I asked myself when I went to write this piece was, “what is the definition of a gifted child?” The federal government statutory definition of gifted and talented students in the United States is:
“The term "gifted and talented" when used in respect to students, children, or youth means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities."
For me, it is always a child who is bored by school, stands outside of the box, can show talents in one or many areas, seem highly developed and thought out for their age, has an adult sense of humour, can seem highly frustrated, has multiplicity - the ability to take in information in all 4 learning styles, often has a rare personality type and may or may not seem brilliant academically.
The last point is very important. Can a child be gifted if they don’t have perfect literacy? Can literacy issues seriously impair a student to do well on the conventional I.Q. tests? I think the answer to both is yes and these are the students who suffer the most challenges in being gifted.
Can you imagine having all the thought processes and abilities of a gifted child but never being able to show them? It’s massively frustrating.
For me, the challenges with gifted children are not just the repercussions to help with making school more interesting. With a reasonably inspired teacher, good communication and some outside the box curricular activities - all these needs can be met.
The real challenges with gifted children are personality based. The first difficulty a gifted child will have is that they are highly sensitive to everyone else. They see far more from a young age than they can possibly understand. They just don’t get why they don’t meet anyone like them and why sometimes others find them too energetic, intense and deep. They can sense more and know more - and others shy away from them. In the same way that they philosophically and scientifically want to know more about the world and how it works - they also want to know other people on these deep levels.
The ages from 7 to 10 are critical for a number of reasons. If you haven’t got the academic side right - you are in fear of having a child switch off education forever. Boredom is a terribly dangerous mode. It can make or break people in terms of educational fulfilment for life.
10 is the age we become aware that we are different to everyone else and for gifted children they get a sense of this quicker than others. Though they may lack the maturity to fully understand why they don’t want to be different or stick out from the crowd. I often meet gifted students who are simultaneously looking for validation that they are bright while trying to pretend they are too “stupid” to fit in. It can be a really complex set of emotions to go with the slight rejection that they are feelings from others.
We can address the academic needs often with a layered approach. If we can get someone beyond 11 and still interested in school they will more than likely go on to achieve greatness. If we can show them the outside world and introduce them to the ideas of others outside the box we can do the ground work for them being different. They will more than likely be a pioneer too and change the world. They may not meet anyone like them until they are in their 20’s but they can know they exist.
But the real challenge for me is in creating the balance of childhood. Just because you are gifted doesn’t mean you don’t need to be a kid. You need to make mistakes. You need to learn from them. You need to play. You need to match your maturity level with the toys and games that non-gifted children play at these stages too. Too often we lose these aspects for gifted kids and they spend too much time “working” and not enough time playing. It is as important to find yourself in the silliness of childhood as it is to balance the boredom. It’s an important life work balance that we need to learn. Gifted children often have very high expectations of themselves and can be work-a-holics later in life. You have to learn to do non-important silly things too! You have to learn to take breaks and not to be so hard on yourself.
I sometimes feel that parents have to spend so much time battling the system to prove their child is “gifted” that they forget to let them be children.
If you want a balanced child - you have to give them an outlet for the emotional side of them that may be several years behind their “gifted” level.
Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly.
I have had a gut feeling over the last number of years that it makes no sense to me when I am contacted to take on cases with both a diagnosis of A.S. and A.D.H.D. For me it has felt like 'oil and water don’t mix.'
Over the last 6 years I have evaluated all the new students and clients of all ages spanning 5 to 75 years. I now see many strikingly clear patterns that explain my earlier feelings logically.
The first important point is that all A.D.H.D. students, regardless of age, exhibit what I see as multiplicity. This is the ability to take in information in all 4 learning styles. I wrote an article on this in 2012 when I first saw clearly why so many of the students who come to us struggle in conventional school. They simply don’t get to learn the material in enough different ways simultaneously and they get bored! It’s worth noting that we have never had a diagnosis of A.D.H.D. in any of our learning environments and that we don’t ever see the tell tale effects of A.D.H.D. behaviour. Another scary fact is that in conventional education we start to lose multiplicity from the age of 10 and in many cases it is gone completely by 15 - without intervention. We become the linear thinking people the system has created.
I recorded a short video introduction to A.D.H.D. and behavioural effects we see including Diffuse Focus™ where our attention is always being dragged away to hide what we can and cannot really do.
So, where A.D.H.D. students show multiplicity - A.S. students are slightly more linear and show a very different set of Purple Processing Scales™. These are the scales I have developed to understand how we take in information from our world and how we process the information to retain it.
There are marked differences in the visual and auditory Purple Processing Scales™ for Dyslexia Spectrum, A.D.H.D., A.S. and so on.
I have always felt that there is a 'lost in translation' element to A.S. You ask a question and get a very different answer from the one you are expecting because the question has been interpreted completed differently.
You have never met a quiet A.D.H.D. student and you seldom meet what is viewed as a disruptive A.S. one. A.D.H.D. students tend to be remarkably good at presentation and general chat, whereas A.S. students tend to be very quiet and reserved - until they find their confidence or their subject.
Auditory learners don’t just need to learn by listening - they also have to talk out the ideas and ask endless questions - hence they are often seen as chatterboxes in school.
This means that A.D.H.D. students naturally have a form of self-expression. Whereas A.S. students, with their different Auditory profile, can lack self-expression. This is why it is so important for us to help these students to write their inner thoughts and ideas. A.S. students can be seen to have such whacky ideas that their writing is not always received well in response to conventional school work and they can lack structure. Also, A.S. students, before they gain confidence, can appear to give you the answer in the shortest number of words - which matches their confidence in speech. We have developed ways to overcome these traits very quickly. Ironically, A.S. people can go on to be amazing writers - and with certain use of their Purple Processing Profile they can learn to spell much easier than people on a pure Dyslexic spectrum! Of course, there are many people coming to us that have an Auditory Processing Disorder (A.P.D.) who are wrongly diagnosed altogether. Understanding personality of course plays a vital role in all of my work. I don't think it is possible to separate out understanding of personality and understanding of processing. You have to look at both together. This is why at all of my initial sessions I am creating a profile for both, Purple Profiling™.
So, I was correct 6 years ago - there is a world of difference between an A.S. and A.D.H.D. diagnosis and they don't have the same Purple Processing Scales™ - which I have now proven! Expression is key to all of our successes.
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly, Expression Developist™.
P.S. For the record, I don't even believe that Aspergers and A.D.H.D. exist in the ways the establishment view them. My new challenge is to start debunking these areas in 2015!
I always see ADD and ADHD as an affect of what is really going on with the students who come to me looking for help and support with their school work. This has helped me to coin a term over the last 4 years called "Diffuse Focus™" to describe what is really happening for them. I equally see these patterns of behaviour carried through to adult life with our business clients!
Dr. Naoisé (Expression Developist™)
At the end of the first term at The Homework Club (our development centre) we work though an evaluation process with the students to wrap up the term's achievements. This has two main functions, firstly to get the students thinking about their own progress over the term, where they have reached and where they would still like to improve in each topic. This gives them control over their own learning objectives and helps them map out a plan for the new year.
It also allows us to reflect on the students and their personalities. We do this by using the attached questionnaire below. When I first started this study of the students, I saw a trend very quickly that the disorganised, unstructured and unfocused students didn't fit neatly into one category of learnign style. They ticked one box in each section with no clear direction of thought. Many of these students simply didn't know where their strengths lie or how they learn best. This allowed us as a team to focus on key skills we felt that needed to be improved or to help the students develop more structure in certain areas and so on throughout the second term in preparation for the exams at the end of term three.
This is now our 3rd year of this study and I now see an even bigger significance than I did initially. As the student intact has expanded in the ages (from 5 to 20+) and learning difficulties of the students of this period, I now see a new more important trend.