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Gifted Child and Society
by Radha Joshi Bookmark and Share
Imagine yourself in planet Mars surrounded by Martians. You do not understand how to communicate with them and how to adjust in this strange environment. This is exactly how a gifted child feels when among his peers. It is very difficult for him to find a like-minded gifted prodigy to make friends with. He has to adjust with children who do not match his mental wavelength. Here, it appears as if the gifted child is from a different world.

Five-year old Pooja finds mental mathematics exciting. She loves to calculate people’s age, the money spent on grocery purchase or at the ration shop. She looks for figures in magazines and newspapers and even loves adding the numbers on the number plates on the cars. She loves the globe and knows her planetary system well. Although she can play chess for hours, she can’t sit still when she is bored. She needs mental stimulation all the time, gets fidgety, moody and angry when she has nothing to do.

At the children’s park she has no friend as she often does not appreciate the games her peer group plays. She either finds their games boring or is unable to compete with them. While she may be doing mathematics of a fourth grader, her physical development may be less than her age group. She finds her age-group as irritating, and often loses her temper at them, especially when they are not playing a ‘fair’ game. It is very normal for a five-year old to ‘cheat’ at a game or to play it incorrectly. But Pooja does not appreciate such kids. She holds them in contempt and even picks up a fight with them. She ends up being labeled as a bossy kid or a kid with a flying temper.

Her peer group is unsympathetic with the peculiarities of her behaviour. They tease her for fun. They cannot play the games she invents. They are too complicated to comprehend for an average five-year old. She lays down too many rules in her game and loses her cool if a kid forgets any rule or does not play the game correctly.

The main concern for Pooja’s parents is to understand how to help Pooja adjust to her environment. They have realized they have a child prodigy in hand. They also realize that Pooja needs special attention like the mentally or physically challenged kids. Unfortunately, while enough research has been done on handling children with learning disability, not much is available on handling children with special ability. Society is unsympathetic to a child who appears perfectly normal and mentally sound yet behaves abnormally. When Pooja throws a temper tantrum in the park as she is not allowed her turn on the swing, no one pities her or tries to understand her ‘righteous’ behaviour. Parents and kids alike label her as a case of bad upbringing. They fail to see her logic in turn-by-turn chance at the swing.

Highly gifted children may have trouble establishing fulfilling friendships with people of their own age when there are few or no other highly gifted children with whom to interact. For parents of kids like Pooja, it is advisable that they introduce her to different social groups. She should be encouraged to mix with children at the park as well as with older children who match her intellectual wavelength. She can join perhaps a chess club or an astronomy club where she can pursue the subjects she is passionate about and share her ideas with an audience who is willing to listen.

It helps children to understand that there are different types of friends. They may play basketball, ride bikes, and watch TV with one person, talk about books or movies with another, and play chess or discuss astronomy with another. Some of these friends may be their own age, some may be younger, or more often, older. Only in school is it suggested that children must be within a few months of each other in age to form meaningful relationships. 

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