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Your gifted kid isn't misbehaving — he's bored

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






The secret to keeping a gifted child stimulated is better understanding his needs

Traditional learning and play environments might be ideal for most kids, but the needs of gifted and talented kids are often overlooked.

What is a gifted kid? There isn't really a lot of agreement on that. Some experts say gifted and talented students score in the top percentiles on achievement tests. Others say any child who demonstrates exceptional skills in almost any area in comparison to their peers is gifted. But regardless of the definition you use, gifted students tend to get restless and bored easily. Why? Their brains need more stimulation than they're likely getting in traditional school and play.

The Davidson Institute, located at the University of Nevada, Reno, is focused on research devoted to the needs of "profoundly gifted young people," which they define as students who earn a score in the 99.9th percentile on achievement and IQ tests. The most gifted and talented students, Davidson researchers say, have "an extreme need for constant stimulation," an incredible ability to focus for long periods of time, process information very quickly and have an insatiable curiosity.

So if you find that your kiddo is acting out a lot and finding his way into trouble, he may not really deserve that bad-kid rep he's been given. He might just be really, really smart.

Gifted kids are misunderstood

The Davidson Institute's Melissa Reed says it's common for gifted kids to be completely misinterpreted by peers, family and school staff.

"Common misdiagnoses in gifted students include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD] and more," Reed says. "Missed diagnoses in gifted children may occur for these same conditions when giftedness overcompensates for the weakness."

So if you're dealing with a kid that is misbehaving, consider that instead of an intervention, they may need what Maryland middle school teacher Josh Work smartly calls an "uppervention" to challenge them a little more. Here are a few things parents can do to engage their gifted and talented kids and turn their misbehavior into an opportunity to let their genius shine.

Gifted kids need flexibility

Reed says parents of gifted children working with the Davidson Institute "have to constantly readdress educational planning options quite frequently and often have to think outside the box in order to meet their needs academically and emotionally."

Take a close look at your child's talents and make sure they're in an environment where those talents are appreciated and challenged.

Gifted kids need to be challenged at home, too

Gifted and talented kids need toys and activities that both challenge their intellect and help them discover new talents they might not even know they have.

There are plenty of activities geared toward kids who thrive when they're both creating and solving complicated problems, like littleBits, which are used in schools and at home to give kids early exposure to engineering by building all sorts of machines with simple electronic building blocks.

But no matter your child's particular strengths and passions, there are sure to be smart ways to keep up with their brains.

Gifted kids have special needs, and exposing them to the right environment can mean the difference between them being labeled as a troublemaker instead of a genius. With just a little awareness and some smart choices, we can give gifted and talented kids the tools and resources they need to realize their potential and become the geniuses that change the world.

This post was sponsored by littleBits.

More on gifted children

How to parent a gifted child
The downside to having a smart kid
How to recognize a gifted child

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