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Gifted Students and the Need for an Intellectual Peer

Written by: Dr. Kelly Van Sande, ILA Founder & Head of School - and a parent of two gifted children

Students with high intellect demonstrate many of the same needs and desires as their non-gifted peers; they want to feel included, have friends, play games, and hold on to a 'stuffy' (stuffed animal) when they are young and feeling uncertain. Yet, their needs become more complicated as they often struggle to identify and relate to their peers. While this is true from an early age, young children are typically more able to adapt, even if it is at the expense of 'hiding' their giftedness from others. As a child grows and matures, the differences become more apparent and feelings of isolation and 'being different' may start to creep in. 

Yet, when a child with uniquely high intellect is matched with a peer of similar intellect, interest, and passion, magic is ignited.

The presence of stimulating discussion, the freedom in asking as many questions as desired, and the connection formed when two children share a passion for a similar topic, allows a child to blossom in a way many have yet to do until that point. Multiple studies of gifted children have yielded similar response, including Gross' findings (1993) that more than 80% of children with an IQ of 160 or above experience social isolation in the general education classroom coupled with perpetual academic and emotional frustration. 

Anna, an eight year old girl, pointedly described her bewilderment and confusion with her identity in her poem, Frustration (Gross, 1993). 

Frustration
Frustration is there, everyway I look,
Grasping at me, like some expensive jewel.
It wells up inside me like an inflating balloon
just waiting to explode.
It gnaws at my mind
Chewing at all particles of thought.
It distracts my brain from concentrating,
Like an itching mosquito bite.
It sucks me downwards into a churning
whirlpool of anger.
I am confused, my thoughts feel like dice in a cup.
They dart dizzily around my head
in a trance-like state.
It forces me ferociously about
If I resist this horrible force it only puts me in pain.
When I am in this hypnotic state
Pressure engulfs me like a thick blanket.
I become its faithful servant.
Its every wish is my command
and my body is dull and lifeless.

Here at Ignite Learning Academy, we belive in the magic of intellectual peers. We connect students with others who share similar passions and intellect and provide them a safe space to build a relationship that will, hopefully, last a lifetime. Students are encouraged to meet with others in breakout rooms after class, and many of our students have standing Zoom 'playdates' (or 'hangouts' for the older students!) arranged by parents due to the child's desire to meet so frequently with his or her new friend. We strategically partner students together to compliment the strength within themselves and of the other student. 

Our mentor program extends this a step further and pairs an older 'Sparkie' (as we often refer to our gifted SPARK program students) with a younger Sparkie to allow the older student to be a first-hand witness to the excitement a mentor-mentee relationship can bring. 
This video was created by a 4th grade mentor student in preparation for a weekly meeting with his kindergarten mentee. Both boys were fascinated by science and had regular discussions where they discussed the working of space, time, and neuroscience. Both students benefited greatly from this experience and it was an incredible experience for their parents, teachers, and staff to see the completeness of the relationship formed. 



Learn more about our SPARK program for gifted learners
here


References
Gross, M.U.M. (1993). Exceptionally gifted children. New York: Routledge.

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