What happens when gifted children are not identified as gifted?
What is the impact when they realize how much they differ from peers, but can't quite make sense of what it all means?
What transpires when adults witness these children's intellectual and social/emotional differences, but refuse to give voice to what they see right in front of them?
Whether resistance to identification arises from doubts about the evaluation process, philosophical views about giftedness, biases, ignorance, or concerns about the gifted label, gifted children may be labeled (with something) nonetheless. Without an accurate and informative term that conveys an understanding of giftedness, though, they are more vulnerable to incidents of misidentification and misdiagnoses.
An accurate label, a clear explanation, and ongoing guidance about what it means to be gifted will help gifted children adapt. It also conveys essential information, clarity and a framework for understanding giftedness for adults who are teaching and caring for these children.
Yet, there is resistance to this simple concept of identification, and to using the gifted label.
Some propose that gifted children should not be told that they are smart, and imply that conveying information about their abilities is equivalent to praising them for their innate talents. Others claim that "all children are gifted" or that identifying a child as gifted will create a "fixed mindset," or cause an array of psychological problems.
Even when not formally identified, though, gifted children stand out from the crowd and become targets for labeling. Children may taunt them with names such as nerd, geek, or smart-a**, because of social immaturity (i.e., asynchrony) or innate differences or just plain smarts. They may be ostracized or bullied because of their differences unless they learn how to fit in.
Gifted children often present with overexcitabilities, quirks and neuroatypical characteristics that prompt puzzled adults to slap on serious-sounding labels - often with little understanding of how giftedness plays a role. Although this might be well-intentioned, many professionals don't know a lot about giftedness. Sometimes diagnoses like ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and even oppositional-defiant are tossed about with little regard to their impact - or to their accuracy.
If gifted children's behaviors already gain notice (and invite inaccurate labeling), what is the harm in providing an accurate label?