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Giftedness is not what you think it is!+ #74

+Upcoming Events

How do we justify an educational system that ignores competence and achievement, and utilizes chronological age as the primary, or only, factor in student placement?  Miraca Gross, Giftedness Expert and Author

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and working together. 

We are also a founder-member of the Gifted India Network– if you are interested in issues related to gifted education and talent development, an easy way to keep updated about talks, programs and resources is to join the Gifted India Network telegram channel (

In this week’s post, we share highlights from SchoolScape’s event for parents and educators titled ‘Giftedness is not what you think it is!’. The speaker Dr. Gopika Kannan is the mother of a profoundly gifted child and a cognitive scientist. She shared several insights about giftedness in this session, based on her own experiences as a mother, experiences of families of other profoundly gifted students and research from neuroscience and giftedness. In some places, we have inserted quotes and references from other sources to embellish the points Dr. Gopika made.

The details of our Gifted Summer Programs in May 2023 and July 2023 for students moving to grades 6-10 are available in the upcoming events section.

Giftedness is not what you think it is!

Profoundly gifted people have an entirely different way of thinking, processing information and reacting! Gifted is a spectrum and each level has a variance of one standard deviation. BUT, what is Giftedness? Is it merely an IQ score? Are all Gifted children successful in the classroom? How does a profoundly gifted child differ from a moderately gifted one? And what might we see in the classroom and how to identify and scaffold? -from the session blurb

The session blurb emphasised that a profoundly gifted individual has a very different way of thinking and processing information, and posed several important questions about giftedness. The speaker, Dr. Gopika Kannan, started shedding light on these questions right from the start. Some of the key points she made are shared below.

5 Levels of Giftedness and Asynchrony

Caselets of 2 students were presented. Student 1 was enjoying school work and doing extremely well, had advanced math problem-solving skills, was a couple of grades ahead of her class, was enrolled in a gifted math program, and fitted in socially with both her seniors and her classmates. In contrast, Student 2 was apathetic and withdrawn, often refused to complete schoolwork, was considered a difficult and rebellious child, had a strong interest and expertise in Nordic mythology and could talk endlessly about the topic. On the surface, student 1 seemed gifted and not student 2, but a closer look revealed that student 1 had an IQ of 133 and student 2 an IQ of 169! A college professor of Nordic mythology thought highly of student 2’s expertise. Student 2 could also easily converse with undergraduate students on this topic, though he was socially rejected by his classmates at school.

Using the contrast between the 2 cases, Gopika went on to highlight how there are different levels within giftedness and that there is more ‘asynchrony’ at higher levels of giftedness. Asynchrony means that different characteristics of the child are not ‘in sync’ and the child is very different from his peers in some respects. For example, a 9 year old child may be intellectually a 15 year old, but emotionally his biological age. Other asynchronous characteristics that may be observed at higher levels of giftedness include emotional over-excitability, and taking a longer time to self-regulate.

She pointed out how rare it is for teachers to come across the higher levels of giftedness in their career, and being unaware of the potential asynchrony, they may not be able to identify that a child in their classroom is highly gifted. For example, student 2 in the above caselet was not suspected to be gifted because he was struggling with schoolwork.

Gifted students, especially those in the higher levels of giftedness, have greater working memory capacity, have a strong ability to connect the dots and an exceptional capacity for self-learning.

Check out this post in which Dr. Bhooshan Shukla shares how one of the defining signs of giftedness is the ability to connect the dots even in early years. This post highlights some of the challenges parents of gifted students face, given their unique characteristics.

The Consequences of Non-Acceleration

Given these important differences, gifted students need acceleration opportunities on the intellectual/ academic front. And exceptionally and profoundly gifted students require radical acceleration- as they are often 5-6 years ahead (or even more) of their peers. Not getting such acceleration leads to negative life outcomes as Miraca Gross’ 20 year long longitudinal study of highly gifted students in Australia shows.

The below quote from a highly gifted young woman, reproduced from Miraca Gross’s keynote address at a conference in 1999, elegantly describes the possible consequences of non-acceleration.

“I can’t imagine that I would still be me if I had to sit through that many years of school and still have so many left to go . . . I think I could have kept my mind intact, but only with a very small, narrow channel through which my thoughts could be communicated to the outside world.  I was building a veritable fortress around myself, and I think it would have continued growing and growing, setting me further and further apart from the rest of the world, making the world more and more of a stage for me to watch and try and make my life alone in the castle resemble . . .” -Elizabeth, highly gifted student

Elizabeth was a highly gifted young woman of 18 at the time of Miraca Gross’ address. She was at university, in her final year of undergraduate study, having been radically accelerated through elementary and high school. She affirms that she would have grown up very differently if she had been retained in the regular classroom with no access to intellectual peers, withdrawing into herself and mimicking social interactions rather than participating in them. Acceleration has given her friends, self-confidence and self-acceptance.  She is in the world, and of it, rather than apart from it as she had been in her earlier school years.

Another consequence of non-acceleration, not just for highly gifted students but even for mildly and moderately gifted students is that it impairs the development of executive function skills. Individuals develop executive function skills only in response to situations where they are adequately challenged.

“In the ordinary elementary school situation, children of IQ 140 waste half their time. Those above IQ 170 waste practically all their time. With little to do, how can these children develop power of sustained effort, respect for the task, or habits of steady work?”–Leta Hollingworth, Psychologist

Gopika says that the executive functioning challenges gifted students face can fortunately be addressed employing known strategies (refer to link in the ‘Recommended Resources’ section).

This post sheds some light on helping gifted students develop psychosocial skills, including executive function skills.

What to look for in the Classroom and What you can do

In the final part of her talk, Gopika shared several tips on what teachers should look out for in the classroom (to identify signs of possible giftedness) and what strategies they could employ to address the special needs of gifted students. The below video clip covers these points. While she addressed teachers, most points are also relevant to parents.

Some of the points Gopika made with respect to identifying gifted students are, looking out for-

signs of asynchrony- intellectual level exceeding emotional maturity, child preferring the company of older (or sometimes younger) children

a high level of abstraction compared to peers

a constant need for mental stimulation

unexpected and quirky questions

display of great interest when challenged

On what teachers can do to help gifted students, these are some of the points shared-

provide activities with greater challenge

accept the need of some gifted students to move while learning

accept that some gifted students cannot control their reactions and seek strategies to cope with this

allow self-teaching through independent activities

Recommended Resources

The Spark by Kristine Barnett – 

5 Levels of Gifted by Deborah Ruf – 

Exceptionally Gifted Children: Long-Term Outcomes of Academic Acceleration and Nonacceleration; Miraca U. M. Gross 

Exceptionally Profoundly Gifted and (prevelance of levels of gifted) 

Executive Functioning E-book 

The session on which this post is based, was from SchoolScape, and targeted at teachers and parents. SchoolScape has been functioning since 2004 with a focus on bringing quality learning to the field of education, be it large-scale government programmes or for independent schools. Its strength has been to influence and impact pedagogy of learning through a professional teacher, teacher-educator programmes, and developing programmes to enable learning from an experiential base to a conceptual level.

Upcoming Events

For further details of the below programs, please send a Whatsapp message, or call-

Eklavya- 7046466866

Sapna- 9821112090

Gifted Summer Program (Gr. 6-10)- May 2023, MAHE Campus, Manipal

The program is exclusively for gifted students who are top performers on Ei-ASSET Talent Search (Ei- ATS). If you do not have an ATS score, but are interested in the program, please contact us with your ASSET scores. If you haven’t taken ASSET recently, you can take it here. More details of the program and registration links available here.

Younger students moving from Grade 4 to Grade 5 this year, can attend this online program.

Residential Internship Program for High School Students May 2023, MAHE Campus, Manipal- GenWise is offering  a 2-week ‘Residential Internship’ program from May 14 to May 20, 2023 at MAHE campus, Manipal. In this program, students finishing grades 10 and 11 will be introduced to various opportunities, as well as issues that need to be considered before they embark on their dream life journey, beyond school.

The program design will be finetuned based on the requirements and interests of the incoming students. Students will be required to express their areas of interest a month before the program startis, to enable us to finetune the plan and the projects offered. 60% of the program focuses on providing domain exposure and making students aware of the life skills they need to develop to set and attain their goals. And 40% of the program is spent on project work. For more details click here, and register for the program here.

Gifted Summer Program International (Gr. 6-10)- July 2023, MAHE Campus, Manipal

The program is exclusively for gifted students from UAE and students on the international calendar from India and other countries. Top performers on Ei-ASSET Talent Search (Ei- ATS) are eligible to apply for the program. If you do not have an ATS score, but are interested in the program, please contact us with your ASSET scores. If you haven’t taken ASSET recently, you can take it here.

For more details, and to register, visit this page.


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