What Margaret Mead observed more than half a century ago about the lack of support for intellectually precocious children in our society still holds true today. The educational needs of our most able students, those with the greatest potential, are often neglected. Schools are ill-equipped to serve profoundly gifted students because they seldom encounter them. According to Gross (1993), individuals with an IQ of 160+ appear in the population at a ratio of fewer than one in 10,000. Those with an IQ of 180+ appear in the population at a ratio of fewer than one in a million.
Many schools have policies against acceleration or skipping grades, even though the research is clear that acceleration is a viable and workable way to address the educational needs of a profoundly gifted child (Elkin, 1988; Gross, 1992b; Benbow & Stanley, 1996). Schools are often resistant to making special accommodations such as curriculum compacting and individualization for profoundly gifted students. Instead of providing them with learning experiences reflective of their intellectual development, many well-meaning educators give them the role of teacher's aide, often asking them to help less capable students, whose learning styles are very different in an attempt to satisfy the profoundly gifted student's desire to learn, assign additional, yet developmentally inappropriate, work on the same content. All too often the profoundly gifted student is expected to stay in the age-appropriate grade and relearn material they've already mastered. Too often schools are unable to provide the profoundly gifted student with a learning environment that is rigorous enough to appropriately challenge his or her abilities.
The popular perception is that profoundly gifted students, because of their high level of intelligence, should be able to fend for themselves. However, research findings show that this is not the case. (Feldman, 1979; Robinson, 1981; Bloom, 1982; Wernick, 1989; Gross, 1992a; Lovecky, 1992; Gross, 1999; Neihart, 1999; Gross, 2000; Osborn, 2000). All children should be nurtured and supported to reach their full potential, including those with the highest abilities.
The Davidson Institute for Talent Development was founded by Bob and Jan Davidson out of a concern that our nation's most gifted and talented young people are largely neglected and underserved. As former educational software entrepreneurs, Bob and Jan are passionate about giving back in the field of education. When they discovered how little educational support was provided to America's brightest young people, they decided to do something about it. They have contributed significant financial resources as well as their time and energy to serving the profoundly gifted. Bob and Jan's devotion to fulfilling the Institute's mission and their entrepreneurial leadership contributes significantly to what our team is able to accomplish.
The Institute's work is based upon the beliefs that: (a) all children should be lovingly nurtured in a safe, supportive environment where each child is accepted and appreciated as a unique individual; (b) all children should have an opportunity to develop their talents in positive ways to create value for themselves and others; (c) the needs of profoundly gifted students should be recognized and accommodated, and their uniqueness should be understood and nurtured; and (d) they should be allowed to learn at a rate appropriate to their abilities. Like all children, profoundly gifted students should have the opportunity to be challenged to excel and achieve.
The mission of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.
We use the term "profoundly gifted" to mean individuals with an extremely high level of intellectual precocity. These individuals are identified by demonstrating mastery of a significant amount of content in a particular domain, far beyond the norm for the child's age group, or by a score in the top 99.9 percentile on intelligence or achievement tests.
What We Do: An Overview of Our Programs and Services
Since 2000, the Davidson Institute's programs and services have continued to expand and evolve. The following is a list of the programs and services we offer. For the most up-to-date information on our programs and services, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
What We Have Learned
Although the Davidson Institute has only been actively supporting profoundly gifted young people since 1999, our intensive experience working with parents, students and professionals has allowed us the opportunity to learn a great deal about this population. The three most basic lessons we have learned are:
Why We Do What We Do
The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is committed to supporting this underserved population and to making the information available to others to help them meet their needs. Why do we do what we do?
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Bloom, B.S. (1982). The role of gifts and markers in the development of talent. Exceptional Children, 48(6).
Clark, B. (1997). Growing Up Gifted. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Elkind, D. (1988). Acceleration. Young Children, 43(4). Retrieved April 2, 2001, from the World Wide Web: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/elkind.htm.
Feldman, D. (1979). The mysterious case of extreme giftedness. The 78th Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education.
Feldman, D.H. & Goldsmith, L.T. (1991). Nature's gambit: Child prodigies and the development of human potential. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gross, M.M. (1992a). The early development of three profoundly gifted children of 200 IQ. In P.S. Klein & A.J. Tannenbaum (Eds.), To be young and gifted.
Gross, M.M. (1992b). The use of radical acceleration in cases of extreme intellectual precocity. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36(2)
Gross, M.M. (1993). Exceptionally gifted children. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gross, M.M. (1999). Small poppies: Highly gifted children in the early years. Roeper Review, 21(3), 207-214.
Gross, M.M. (2000). Exceptionally and profoundly gifted students: An underserved population. Understanding Our Gifted, 12(2), 3-9.
Hollingworth, L.S. (1942). Children above IQ 180: Stanford Binet origin and development. New York, NY: World Books.
Lovecky, D.V. (1986). Can you hear the flower sing? Issues for gifted adults. Journal of Counseling and Development.
Lovecky, D.V. (1992). Hidden gifted learner, part one. Understanding Our Gifted.
Morelock, M.J. & Feldman, D.H. (1991). Extreme precocity. In N. Colangelo & G.A. Davids (Eds.) Handbook of gifted education. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Neihart, M. (1999). The impact of giftedness on psychological well- being. Roeper Review 22(1).
Osborne, J.B. (2000). Gifted children: Are their gifts being identified, encouraged, or ignored?
Robinson, H.B. (1981). The uncommonly bright child. In M. Lewis & L.A. Rosenblum (Eds.), The uncommon child (pp. 57-81).
Terman, L.M. (1926). Genetic studies of genius: Vol. 1. Mental and physical traits of a thousand gifted children. Stanford,CA: Stanford University Press.
Terman, L.M. & Oden, M.H. (1947). Genetic studies of genius, Vol. 4. The gifted child grows up. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Wernick, S. (1989, May 21). The special needs of highly gifted children. The Boston Globe.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.