Students with Special Gifts & Talents

Instructor: Clio Stearns
Working with students who have special gifts and talents can not only be exciting and invigorating but also challenging. This lesson gives you some insight into these students' characteristics and needs.

The Gifted and Talented Student

Ms. Frommer has been surprised by her caseload this year. A guidance counselor at an elementary school, she is used to working with students who have individualized education plans because they have diagnosed disabilities. This year, Ms. Frommer finds herself getting referrals to work with more and more students who do not meet that profile. Instead, many of her students are described by their teachers as gifted; they are unusually advanced or talented in one or more areas. Since she has so many gifted students coming to work with her, Ms. Frommer realizes that she needs to learn a little more about who these students are, what their lives are like, and what they can struggle with both in and out of school.

What Makes a Student 'Gifted'?

Ms. Frommer learns that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits all definition for what makes a student gifted or talented. Some students might appear gifted in one context but ordinary in another context. Some students who are called gifted will carry that label throughout their lives, while others are advanced in learning but normalize once other students catch up developmentally.

In general, students are considered gifted when they exhibit one or more areas of intelligence or talent that really set them apart from their peers. Some of the students Ms. Frommer works with are gifted readers and writers, such as her kindergarten student who can read middle school texts with full comprehension. Others are spatially and mathematically gifted. Still others have special artistic and musical talents that really make them stand out. Many gifted students are talented in more than one area, whereas others have one particular area of excellence.

Academic and Cognitive Challenges

Ms. Frommer comes to understand that school is not always easy for students with special gifts and talents. Gifted and talented students sometimes struggle with boredom, academic pressure, and uneven abilities and face unique social and emotional challenges. Some might be extremely sensitive or tend towards feelings of superiority. Let's explore some of these issues in a little more depth.


Many students who have special gifts and talents complain of being bored in school. It is often the case that these students already know and understand much of what is being taught, and they need extra challenges or creative work in order to stay engaged.

Academic Pressure

Ms. Frommer is surprised to learn that many gifted students experience a strong sense of academic pressure. They may feel that because they carry a gifted or talented label, they are supposed to excel at everything all the time and will disappoint others if they do not.

Uneven Abilities

Students who are gifted or talented in one area might really struggle in a different area, but this disparity may leave them facing their difficulties alone. Ms. Frommer learns that it is important for teachers to get to know their gifted and talented students as whole and complicated people.

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