Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Problems in Gifted Identification: Boys

Boys and girls are very different in the ways they approach school.


When a little boy starts school, however, he almost immediatley notices that what he wants to do is not happening in school. To make matters worse, what he wants to do isn't allowed or isn't even available. Therefore, boys are much more likely to act out and complain than girls. As a result, more boys than girls are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or hyperactivity."

-Dr. Deborah Ruf, "Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind"

I discussed previously how learning style can affect someone's perception of a child's giftedness. This is one of many factors involved in identification of the gifted. Giftedness itself can create difficulties when teachers are not aware of the characteristics of the gifted, which most are not. Aside from that, gender and personality also have large impacts on the perception of giftedness.

I hope to discuss all of these points, but I think gender is an appropriate place to begin. Both gifted boys and girls, on average, tend to deal with their higher intelligence in different ways. In general, though, girls will be more passive about disparities in their abilities and curriculum. Boys will be more defiant and oppositional. Of course, because something happens this way on average doesn't mean that girls won't act out or boys won't comply just to get things over with. It is important to be aware of all possible behaviors that can signal educational issues.

Boys are fortunate to have the set of genes or expectations that cause them to act out in the situations when they have caring teachers and parents. Those boys may have the benefit of people who understand that the difficulties may not lie within the child but within the environment. The boys are communicating this the best way they know how. It is up to the adults to listen, and it's hard for the adults to ignore some of this behavior.

Most boys are not that fortunate. They spend time becoming angry, losing respect for adults, and not understanding why they are required to spend so much time in such monotonous, unstimulating environments. They refuse to complete assignments, they will not stay organized, and they don't pay attention. They are labeled as AD(H)D or Oppositional or accused (rightly so) of underachieving.

The key to this problem is it that the adults need to change, not the children. The boys are not being intentionally defiant (for the most part), but they have lost interest and few adults are sympathetic to their plight. Our culture wants boys to learn to, "Take it like a man." The boys are helpless to communicate this in any other way than passive resistance to the authority for which they are losing respect.

Unfortunately, many of these behaviors prevent them from being accelerated. The view is that they haven't earned the responsibility of an advanced material for if they are not responsible in normal conditions, they certainly will not be in an accelerated program. This completely overlooks the issue that these behaviors are the result of a lack of stimulating environment, and medicating them will only keep the problem at bay for so long.

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