Gifted Children and Academic Underachievement
Many intellectually and creatively gifted children do not achieve to their abilities in school. Although parents and teachers are typically aware of how bright these children are, they are puzzled by students' lack of motivation and productivity. Furthermore, as school performance declines, even parents and teachers may begin to wonder whether the students are as capable as test scores and earlier performance indicated. Frequently, the children themselves lose confidence in their ability to perform in school.
What are some signs of academic underachievement?
When should underachievement be considered a problem?
Even very bright children should not be expected to receive "A" grades in everything. In fact, students who complete almost all their work perfectly may not be sufficiently challenged. All students should be expected to have strengths and weaknesses, as well as subjects they find more and less interesting. Underachievement should be considered a problem if it is severe (achievement well below grade level), is longstanding (occurring over more than one school year), or is causing the student distress.
What Causes Gifted Children to Underachieve?
There usually are complex causes, so it is important not to oversimplify the problem. Gifted children may not understand why they are underachieving. Usually school and home causes combine to set this pattern in motion.
Possible School Causes
What Can You Do about Your Child's Underachievement?
Many children do overcome their underachievement; others continue similar behaviors throughout adult life. If the pattern has continued for more than one school year, it is important to get help. It is easier to change the pattern if you identify it early. Following are some suggestions for getting help:
- Arrange for regular communication with your child's teacher about the problem.
- Join a parent support group for gifted children.
- Arrange for an evaluation by a school or private psychologist who specializes in helping gifted underachieving children.
- Read Up From Underachievement and Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It.
- Avoid conflicts with your child's teacher that may lead the child to blame the school for his/her problems.
- Continue to encourage your child's interests, regardless of the level of school success. Do not use talent development as a reward for academic achievement.
- Encourage your child to participate in enrichment activities that involve other achieving gifted children.
- Don't give up on your child.
National Association for Gifted Children
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