Close to madness or unstoppable? Do gifted children become gifted adults?
Posted Mar 27 2010 3:55pm
Gifted adults often struggle with the same challenges as gifted children. What factors help adults identified as gifted when young to continue to achieve? Educator Carol McGaughey comments about these issues:
I think one area that needs to be addressed is what happens to these gifted individuals as they grow into adults.
Is the folk wisdom of “genius close to madness” the reality, or does the “cannonball theory” that nothing can stop these high achievers from getting through school and accomplishing their goals more the norm?
Having started in the field of gifted education decades ago and progressed into the age of Google, some of my former gifted students are re-discovering my whereabouts. In fact, some students held a 20 year reunion of students who had attended the Learning Center during the 70’s and 80’s.
So, on an anecdotal basis, I was able to discover the various paths these identified gifted individuals had taken. It was interesting to note that the majority had pursued their gifts achieving in their chosen fields. Some of the students had married other former students.
There was a high level of satisfaction expressed and an eagerness to share pursuits-as well as to reacquaint with a peer group that had been instrumental in their early development having been classmates from 2nd through 6th grade.
In comparing my experience with these individuals with the research on adults who were identified as gifted when they were children, it is evident that some studies do show that those who were able to utilize their talents, work in the company of other talented individuals, and have outside interests beyond their jobs thrived.
However, other studies noted that the same problems that plagued gifted children, such as social miscues, perfectionism, anxiety to achieve, and extreme self-criticism, also continued into the adult years.
It is evident that more research is needed in this area so that effective strategies in gifted education can be implemented that assist the young gifted to grow in healthy self-definition. In the meantime, understanding the unique challenges of gifted children and providing support and a peer group can be invaluable to their social and emotional development.
Carol McGaughey, Ed.D., is a Professor of Education specializing in Curriculum and Instruction at Houston Baptist University.