''Gifted Children'' - Where Are You Now?

In this thread on early readers, I made the following comment:

There are a lot of people on this board who indicate that they tested off the charts as children, learned to read at a very early age (i.e. college-level reading comprehension by kindergarten) or had an unusually high IQ. I’m not terribly skeptical of these claims myself, I suppose where I’m skeptical is the notion that such advanced understanding of anything as a child has any practical meaning.

I think parents have a tendency to overestimate the value of being a child prodigy or gifted child – this is understandable, because they want their kid to be successful. But how often do those children retain that level of intellectual superiority well into adulthood? My argument is that, for the most part, they don’t. We’re always going to have our child prodigies like Mozart who go on to create amazing masterpieces for the rest of their lives, but this doesn’t happen very often. Eventually, I predict, the vast majority of our world’s gifted children become smart adults with above-average abilities just like the other smart adults.

I suppose by any general definition I was a ‘‘gifted’’ child, at least in reading, writing, and to some extent the arts. I don’t care to make any specific claims about my level of ability because they aren’t really verifiable. I know that memory is very subjective, and I believe constantly receiving messages that you are brilliant can warp your brain into thinking you were more brilliant than you actually were. Left Hand of Dorkness points out in the ‘‘Your Baby Can Read’’ thread that he was a verifiable, legitimate child prodigy in the playing of the violin, and yet when he reviews his childhood performances as an adult he is rather stricken by the low quality.

The only claim I think I can legitimately make about my experience is that it set me up for a lifetime of feeling like I could never do good enough. College… well, that was a humiliating experience. When you’ve been taught your whole life that you’re Someone Special and then you join up with about 50,000 other kids who were told the same thing, it sort of rocks your world. As a relative of mine who attended the same school describes the welcome speech during orientation week: ‘‘Oh, you graduated Valedictorian, did you? Look to your right. So did that guy. Look to your left. So did she.’’ Sr. Olives is a smart guy, always in the top 10% or so of his class, but he never got the ‘‘gifted’’ treatment. College therefore did not shatter his sense of identity the way it did mine. And I mean it really shattered my sense of identity. I lost confidence completely. It took me a long time to get over it.

Because of my experience it’s hard for me to really believe that giving children the gifted treatment will do much more than make them feel overconfident and disproportionately superior to their peers, thus setting them up for crushing despair when they eventually reach adulthood and people mysteriously fail to worship their extraordinary talent. Because a person who has grown up to define ‘‘success’’ as ‘‘vastly outperforming everyone else’’ is going to feel like a failure again and again until s/he learns that his or her expectations of constant praise and superior performance are totally unrealistic. Some very talented people never do learn this lesson, and spend the rest of their lives with crippling insecurities about above-average ability.

So where am I now, this gifted child? I’m halfway finished with a Master’s degree in the prestigious field of social work. I chose social work as a career because when I’m working with people who share my values, none of that overachiever shit seems to matter. In addition to preparing to start a family of my own, I’ve got the following pressing concerns on my mind:

-eating well and exercising
-getting into a regular housecleaning routine
-meditating more
-forming lasting intimate friendships
-finishing Paper Mario on Wii Console (I have all seven star spirits, I just need to beat Bowser.)

So yeah, contrary to my teachers’ apparent expectations, I’m not in my basement working on my 37th Great American Novel or anything (I don’t even have a basement.)

Gifted Child, where are you now?

Do you have any minimum criteria for being considered gifted?

BTW, thanks for starting this.

I have to believe that high intelligence/“gifted”-ness are only a fraction of what makes up highly successful people; motivation and attitude/work ethic have much more to do with it than anthing, IMHO. You touch on this yourself when you said:

I got the “gifted” treatment my whole childhood, but luckily I was jaded and cynical enough even at a young age to not really buy into it. Frankly, my work ethic in high school sucked; I skated by on raw wit alone. I never did/put much effort into the work, I was busy having fun, and I got by because I was just really good at taking tests. All of those test-taking strategies that Kaplan teaches? I figured them all out on my own very early and that’s how I managed to get through school with decent grades.

I started to clean up my act once I got to college, but I still found it exceptionally easy to skate by because of the significantly lower workload(a few hours of class per week opposed to 40+ in HS) and copious amounts of free time and trouble to get into.

I bounced around a variety of different jobs after graduating and have now, at 32, finally settled down in a technical job that fits my talents and I love.

I was one of those Gifted Children. I tested very high on the IQ scale at a young age, read far above my grade level, and was in the Gifted and Talented program (they called HAP–High Academic Potential) at my school. I never had much trouble picking up anything in school and was consistently at or near the top of my class. Even in college I didn’t have much trouble. I learn things easily and can explain them to others in clear, understandable ways.

Woo-hoo. :rolleyes:

I did all right for myself–I’m working as a technical writer at a large IT company, I make decent money, I’m married to someone I love and who loves me (who was also a “gifted child” and still struggles with feeling like he’s never going to be “good enough,” whatever the hell that means). But I’m certainly not rich. I’m not a doctor or lawyer or rocket scientist. Could I have been? I have no idea. Possibly. But high IQ doesn’t necessarily correlate with ambition. All I want to be is comfortable and happy. I have no interest in being “successful” (in the corporate sense) or wealthy. So in a conventional sense, I didn’t live up to society’s expectations for “gifted children.” But I did live up to mine, and that’s all that matters to me.

I don’t know my IQ, but I taught myself to read at 3, was in the gifted program through school, all that mess. Turns out that I’m mighty bright and lord, do I love to read, but my personal interests did not lead to a bright scholastic career or high paying job. Instead, I (barely) graduated high school and never returned to the classroom, preferring the bar room. I roadied some, worked in kitchens, did a little traveling, ran a few music zines, had some good times. Now I’m 34 and I work for the state. I pay my bills, but I pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. That being said, I’ve got no regrets - it seems like half the people I ever met through the punk scene followed almost exactly the same path. Gifted kids gone bad.

I went through school before gifted programs were in place, but my parental-units had my IQ tested early since I was reading at the age of 3 or so. These things don’t really mean much usually and, in fact, made my school days a series of disappointments for them (and for me, it was hell on Earth). Eventually, I did end up working for NASA (which isn’t that big of a deal, actually) and I am considered to be an expert at my chosen career of robotics, so I guess it worked out OK (so far at least… who knows what tomorrow will bring).

SWMBO and I did not place our gifted children in gifted classes and they have turned out to be relatively undamaged by their experiences.

I was on a separate gifted track throughout grade school up to 7th grade, able to opt out of mainstream classes, automatically in AP, plus additional “gifted curriculum” classes. I always tested off the charts for standardized testing at the time.

The educational budgets disappeared for all of this in 8th grade before high school, and myself and the couple dozen or so other kids were dumped back into the normal public mainstream. I saw one of two things happen to us kids…

–School ended up ridiculously easy and you excelled
–School ended up ridiculously easy and you got bored and checked out, doing the bare minimum to get by.

I handled it like the latter. I eventually (after barely maintaining a C+/B- average in HS), went to community college, then to University, and then to a decent career (engineering). Nothing earth-changing, just another cube-jockey designing blinky/flashy stuff.

I was way gifted – not as much with math but definitely with reading. Gifted schools whenever we could, honors classes, high SATs and PSATs and all that, all without much effort.

Didn’t do me much good: I answer a phone today. I have trouble holding down a job because I get bored with easy work, but I can’t get promoted into better stuff because nobody trusts me with it. But I’m going back to school with an eye toward getting my Masters and Ph.D.

It doesn’t help you with social relationships, with learning to be generous versus being self-indulgent, or with having a decent work ethic.

And that is exactly the reason a friend of mine has purposely kept both of her kids out of the Talented and Gifted programs at school. When she first told me this, I was a little horrified. How could a momma not want to maximize her child’s potential. Then she asked me, “Were you in the T & G programs?”

“Um, yeah.”

“And, once you got to college, did that help you in any way? Create an advantage? How did being in the TAG program benefit you?”

Dogzilla: :confused: Erm… profit?

Then she went on to point out that most of us still had to learn how to study in college because K-12 was such a cakewalk and how does thinking you’re more smartypants than the rest of the class really help you out later in life? I think she’s right.

This gifted child never went past a B.S. in Journalism and is happily working as an editor for an international publishing firm. Oh, and I’m learning pole dancing for fun.

Yep. That’s what I’m doing with all those genius IQ points… learning how to dance like a stripper. :cool:

Yeah, I was one of those off the charts kids - I’m a public librarian who just accidentally typed “pubic”. :slight_smile:

I’m not doing smack in the gutter, but I’m not a brilliant scientist or novelist either. I own my own house and have a masters’ degree, but it’s the kind of masters’ degree that they throw through your window if you drive through campus slowly with your window open. In other words, I do okay and am healthy but am not going to win a Nobel prize in anything any time soon unless they start giving them out for shoddy housekeeping and procrastination.

ETA - however, whenever I hear from people I knew at Duke’s TIP summer programs they’re all doing crazy-ass international stuff. So there’s that.

I was considered “gifted”, together with my two brothers. In fact, I felt all along it was a more than a bit of a sham as a kid - it was based, seemingly, on having certain interests plus being able to do certain standardized tests well.

The only one of us who was I think really "gifted’ was my eldest brother, who had a serious affinity for mathematics at a very young age. My other brother and I, while no doubt smart enough, were not really stand-out smart - my oldest brother basically trained both of us in how to write the standardized tests behind the backs of teachers and parents (I know this is supposed to be difficult to do, but it isn’t - same with the LSAT, later). With training, we did better than he!

[I should also point out that both my eldest brother and I were, at one time, thought to be developmentally disabled - I was subjected to an entertaining (in hindsight) psychology exam as a kindergarden kid, for antisocial behaviour (extreme shyness and introversion)].

As a result, all three of us went into the so-called “Level 6” program in High School (my eldest brother was in the first year it was offered in our city), which was great.

Where are we now? Scattered to the winds, except for me. My eldest brother teaches physics in a university in the US; my middle brother is a researcher in materials science in England; and I’m a lawyer in Toronto. All good, upper-middle class type professions and academics, but no great works of genius I’m afraid.

I have a four-and-a-half year old son, and to my mind, I think his personality is far, far more significant an issue than classification of whether he’s “gifted” or not (other than, of course, the advantages the kid might derive from such a classification) - I’ve noticed that people’s accomplishments come and go as kids grow (the kid who was an early reader is no better off by grade 8 than a slow reader), but their personalities often don’t change all that significantly. My son, I’m happy to say, seems empathetic towards others - he’s a good kid. He’s not reading Shakespear, but he loves his story-time (like his dad, he also loves his video games … that can be a problem, a bit :smiley: ). He’s slowly learing the mechanics of reading and numbers; he’s not a child prodigy, but (thankfully!) he’s not worse off than other kids - best of all, he has none of that crippling social shyness that afflicted both myself and my wife as kids.

I didn’t get streamed as gifted but that was largely the influence of my parents. I was reading before school and starting in Grade 2 we used IMS (Individual Math system?) and by the end of Grade 3 I’d finished to the end of Grade 8. The school wanted me to skip a grade but my parents resisted. They were more concerned that I stayed with my social peers than that I graduated early.

What it got me was a scary lack of study skills, an intense boredom and desire to escape school as quickly as possible. I did not go on to college or university instead I joined the Air Force and got the heck out of my closeminded small town.

I’m not sure how much of my life now is based on the early ability to read and calculate but I’d venture to guess that it’s not much. I’ve retained the frustration with classrooms and the pace being limited to the slowest person in the room and thus when I need to learn something new I still rely on books (and the internet!) rather than a teacher.

Professionally I’m doing fine even without a degree but that’s due as much to siezing the opportunities that presented themselves and working like a dog as it is to intelligence.

I’m married with two kids who both grew up with the understanding that the next step after high school was university. My biggest disappointment was that I didn’t get a degree and I brainwashed them from birth to ensure they didn’t have to deal with that one.

Gifted in the Los Angeles school system when I went through Grade School in the 70’s meant top 2% so it wasn’t that high of a bar. Those of us who were designated as Gifted got to go to a special class once a week where we made barometers and dissected frogs.

I ended up with a Masters Degree in Engineering at a very good school and have done very well for myself. That’s pretty good but there a shit ton of people in the building where I now sit who can say pretty much the same thing.

As others have said, intelligence is cheap. Work ethic is the key. There were plenty of people at my University who were smart enough to get their engineering degrees. Almost all of them weren’t willing to do the work.

I was a gifted child. Reading at 2, etc…

I got bad grades throughout middle school because I was bored and didn’t care. When it started to matter (High School/college) I did better.

I got a PhD - loved graduate school. I’m an academic scientist now at a major research University. I love it, never wanted to be anything else.

Project manager.

My daughter is “gifted” and needs gifted education. Not in order to become a cancer curing researcher, but because she requires the challenges and social stimulation provided in a gifted classroom. Gifted education is just a different type of special education - or as they call it in my kids school “intervention.”

Gifted kid, learned to read at 2 and a half, high-school to college-level reading by kindergarten, spent 2nd and 3rd grade in a special all-day class with other gifted kids, then got moved out of it, skipped the fourth grade and went to fifth.

Oh, was that a total cock-up. See, the special class was big on independent study and unstructured–we could choose to read books when we wanted to and worked on big projects of our own choosing every 6 weeks. Going from that to being expected to do homework in subjects that didn’t interest me in the least was a huge jolt–and since I was always grade-level in math, skipping a grade there really screwed with me, as I was now behind. During the formative years in which I should have been learning work ethic and study skills, I was sitting in a reading loft with the Narnia books, being allowed to do whatever the fuck I wanted to. It screwed me up but good. I was barely a C student all through high school–never did a lick of homework unless I felt like it, but got As on all the tests. I flourished in college, though, when I could actually study subjects that interested me. I’m now a lawyer, and I think I’ve done pretty well for myself…but I would have done a LOT better if I’d just stayed in regular school.

I was identified as gifted but my parents didn’t want to put me in a special school. I skipped a year instead. I did well at school but pretty bad at university as I wasn’t used to studying. I’ve held no jobs of note, but I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve done work-wise and that’s always been more important to me. My working class upbringing probably had more effect on me than my intelligence in terms of career aspirations.

I’ve consistently tested in the 99th percentile on standardized tests, competed in all kinds of academic competitions like Math League and Science Bowl, and I would’ve had straight As if I could’ve done my homework. As a kid, I was praised for being smarter than everyone else and in high school, I was told that I’d go far.

And I have. I completed a successful Army career that gave me a highly valued clearance and job skills and paid for college. Today, I work in Intelligence for the government, make more than twice the average American’s salary, and generally live the high life. When I get bored at work, I either study chess or watch some videos over at Academic Earth. On occasion, I’ll try to improve my Spanish or brush up on my Latin.

So basically, everything they said about me has come true and I haven’t changed one bit (in this regard) from childhood.

When I went to school in New York, we were sorted by what they considered intelligence. I was always in the top classes. It made a difference - in my neighborhood there were lots of smart kids, so I spent my time in an environment where learning was always recognized. I don’t remember anyone making fun of us for being smart in high school, but if they did our little clique looked down on them. It also meant that our teachers were very supportive. It was a nerds paradise.

This support of risk taking has served me well. I went off to MIT, and did plenty of work for good grades, then went off to grad school where I really started learning. I found something I really wanted to do research on and did it, even though I had to switch schools to continue when my advisor died. I became a “world’s leading authority” on that subject, switched fields when I got a job and became a “world’s leading authority” on that one. My VP likes me because I am not stuck in a rut, and look at problems in a way no one else did. Lots of my ideas crash and burn, but I’m fine with that because I have four more waiting. I make a very good living, not as good as if I went into management, but I’m having a lot more fun.

My daughter who was also GATE identified, is very similar to me. She had a hard time finding a grad school, since she had a very specific thing she wanted to work on, but when she did she is having a ball. Even before this, we combined what she is working on and what I do, and published two papers even before she started her current grad school.

I don’t feel I was ever held back in grade school. I know tracking is not favored any more, maybe for good reasons, but it worked really well for me.

I did not get much of the “gifted treatment”–I enjoyed a little pull-out class in elementary school, but by 3rd grade we moved and I don’t think there was any such thing as gifted programming after that (which didn’t hurt me much, since I’m pretty average, but probably there were some profoundly gifted children who did suffer). I did honors classes in HS, but did not consider myself to be in the really intelligent crowd, just sort of on the edge of that–no calc or physics for me. The fact is that my schools were not very good at all, and I was not well prepared academically for college.

That wound up being an advantage for me in some ways. I got into a really good school (by the skin of my teeth, because I’d been an exchange student and was from an area that didn’t send many kids to college), and I was surrounded by kids who had been the smartest kid in the room for their whole lives–they had never had to try or really work hard. I could work hard and had no ego about my intelligence–I was grateful for a B+ --so I got along OK while some of them crashed and burned. I learned some good lessons there.

ETA: I became a librarian and have spent much of my time as a SAHM and homeschooler. I enjoy a lot of reading and discussion, but I haven’t made a big splash in the working world, nor did anyone ever expect me to. No one expects us literary types to get rich and famous. :wink:

My own daughters are quite bright, but not profoundly gifted or anything like that. They would qualify for the local GATE program. One advantage of homeschooling is that they really have no clue about that, and I’m trying to keep it that way. I can give my 9yo kid work that fits her, but she doesn’t really realize that it’s often a year or two ahead of her grade or that she’s doing stuff they wouldn’t do in school. She doesn’t see other kids’ results all the time, and so has no idea that some of her friends have real struggles with schoolwork, or that some are way ahead. (She has friends who go to GATE, and friends with severe LDs and Tourette’s, etc.) No one teases her about being a schoolgirl or a nerd, nor does she feel superior about her intelligence. She doesn’t care. I think this is wonderful and am going to keep it up for as long as I can, because I think that when a kid grows up with that feeling of superiority (while also being teased a lot) it can make life more difficult.

I also try to stress that intelligence is largely a matter of how willing you are to work at something and be open to new information; you don’t have to be naturally talented at something to do well at it. The raw brainpower is great, but it won’t get you far unless you do something with it. IMO we assume far too often that raw brainpower is what counts and that smart people don’t have to work at learning.