Gifted Children–These 3 Things

“You will never get teachers to understand.”

“Too many teachers only see gifted children as smart, high-achievers.”

“It’s the word gifted. Change the word and maybe it won’t be so off-putting”

“It’s an uphill battle.”

“Unless they have a gifted child of their own, they will never understand the struggles of raising gifted children.”

“Things will never change.”

Gifted advocacy can be a soul-crushing, arduous endeavor, whether you are advocating at your child’s school or advocating for all gifted children everywhere. Obstacles are ever-present.

The one, most intimidating obstacle which seems almost insurmountable is the belief that changing society’s—teachers, administrators, co-workers, family and friends—erroneous and negative opinion of gifted children can never be changed.

It seems society loves to hate its gifted children. 1

There will always be the disbelievers with  a resolve to not try to understand that there is so much more to giftedness than the enviable high achievement of a gifted child in school. But, can we reach those who are open-minded, willing to learn  about and understand giftedness, or accept that what they once believed may be wrong?

Optimistically, and maybe naively, I’m reaching out to those who are willing to try to see the other side and truly want to know the truth about giftedness. Giftedness, in children and adults, is so complex and multifaceted, but I’ll keep this message concise and I hope you will keep an open mind.

Just these three things about gifted children as well as gifted adults dispel the myths and correct the misunderstandings about gifted people. They are a snapshot of giftedness.


1. Giftedness is not just about school. 2

Gifted children are not only found in school in the seemingly prized gifted programs making straight A’s. Giftedness is not just a function of education. Giftedness is part of one’s entire life—in school, after school, at home and in the workplace.

Just like we can inherit our hair color, body shape and size, and personality traits from our parents, giftedness is also genetic. Studies have shown that if one child is identified as gifted (generally an IQ above 130), siblings and one or both parents will also likely be gifted. From birth until death, giftedness is an inherited trait permeating every aspect of a gifted person’s life, not just their years in school.

2. Giftedness DOES NOT guarantee success in school or in one’s work life.

Not all gifted children make straight A’s in school. Some gifted children actually struggle and even fail in school. Gifted children, as with any child, can have co-existing learning disabilities which hinders a gifted child’s success in school. Additionally, our public school system has historically neglected the education of our gifted children which holds them back. Many gifted children find out early in their school years that learning more deeply and more quickly can cause negative repercussions because moving ahead of their class is an inconvenience in traditional education. This is often seen in schools where gifted programs are minimal or non-existent, and regular education teachers have too much on their plate to attend to every child’s learning needs, especially children who have already reached minimum grade level standards. So, sitting in class, gifted children wait, wait some more, and then give up. Yet despite this, the mockery and envy of stereotypical, high-achieving gifted children is rampant and disgustingly mainstream. 3

Gifted adults can also be the victims of envy and resentment. They can be seen as arrogant and know-it-alls for exhibiting their natural creativity and problem-solving talent at work which can make those around them feel inferior and intimidated. Gifted adults often experience workplace bullying from co-workers who feel threatened by the gifted adult’s intelligence. 4 Again, gifted people, children as well as adults, learn that using their natural, above-average intelligence makes others feel less-than, so they dumb down, offer their creative ideas judiciously or just hide their intelligence all together.

The envy and resentment of gifted people likely stems from the belief that gifted, highly intelligent people have it made in life, success is handed to them on a silver platter. Bullying of gifted children and adults, and the need to cut gifted people down to size can cause distress, emotional damage, depression and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and can even drive gifted individuals to suicide. 5  Success is hardly guaranteed under these conditions.

3. Gifted people do have weaknesses, quirks, flaws and disabilities just like you and me.

Gifted people are human beings. They are not perfect and they don’t have it made.  They need support, they need understanding and they need acceptance—just like every other human being. And just like every other human being, they possess good and not-so-good traits. A gifted person with superior cognitive skills can also have below-average emotional maturity–really no better off than anyone else.

Gifted children, although they are of above-average intelligence, can often lag behind in other cognitive areas such as social and emotional development. This is called asynchronous development. 6  Gifted children’s development can be uneven—their accelerated intellectual development can be paired with delayed social and emotional development making them adept in some areas and lacking in others.

Gifted people often struggle with inherent overexcitabilities (OE’s)—super sensitivities—which are most often connected to giftedness.7 Being more sensitive to sounds, smells, tastes and textures can make life rough for gifted people and those around them.


All of the negative attitudes towards giftedness from those who do not understand gifted children and adults stem from misunderstandings, unfounded beliefs, myths, envy and resentment. But, if you want to understand the truth about giftedness, then understanding these three things is necessary.

1. Giftedness is not about school.

2. Giftedness DOES NOT guarantee success in school nor in one’s work life.

3. Gifted people do have weaknesses, quirks, flaws and disabilities just like you and me.



Gifted people are no better than any one else, yet they are so often treated with resentment as though they lead a perfect life, better off than the rest of us. Giftedness comes with its share of ups and downs, but the most detrimental down is the resentment and misunderstanding of their giftedness they face nearly everyday from those in society who want to believe that giftedness equals superiority, that giftedness is a net-positive.

For those who mock, envy or bully gifted people, you are very wrong and it is up to you to decide if you want to stand for the truth or continue to believe the fallacies. Giftedness is not the golden ticket to a great life you believe it to be. For those who simply do not understand giftedness, but believe in knowing the truth and acting on facts, remember these three things about gifted children and adults.



1. America Hates Its Gifted Kids, Chris Weller, Newsweek, January 16, 2014,  

2. Gifted Education is About the Whole Child, Celi Trépanier, Education Week, May 12, 2015,

3. That time The Today Show mocked gifted kids, Jen Merrill, Laughing at Chaos, May 21, 2015,

4. Workplace Bullying—Who Gets Targeted, Workplace Bullying Institute,

5. Bullying and Gifted/2E Kids, Pamela Price, Red, White and Grew™

6. Asynchronous Development, Jean Goerss, SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)

7. #3 Gifted Children are Often Extremely Sensitive, Celi Trépanier, Crushing Tall Poppies, June 24, 2014,

14 Comments on “Gifted Children–These 3 Things

  1. Louise’s story (except for the psychosis part) seems all too common. I say ‘except for the psychosis part’ because there is a myth that extremely intelligent people are more prone to psychosis than average people. I believe that the reason why people believe this to be so is that they look at the weird, eccentric behaviour of gifted and extremely gifted people (EGPs) to be pre-cursor indicators of incipient psychosis. Although this article ( is not from a scientific, scholarly journal, it is a non-academic representation of what science thinks of the relationship between giftedness/genius and psychosis, which is to say, there is no substantive evidence to demonstrate that people with giftedness/genius are more likely to develop a psychosis — they aren’t. So Louise, your psychosis may have been triggered by your problems you encountered for being extremely gifted, it wasn’t caused by it. You had the genes within you for both psychosis and for being extremely gifted.
    As it is, Louise, I am sorry you went through such horrendous treatment at the hands of teachers and other academically-employed cretins, as well as by the cretins OUTside of school. I was treated pretty badly, but you got REALLY bad treatment, and we both went to elementary school in the ’70’s. My heart goes out to you.

    • Thank you for pointing out the psychosis part. Of course there is the whole ‘mystique’ of the ‘mad genius’, more often than not, as you so rightly pointed out, caused by people wrongly extrapolating eccentricities, and other such quirks of individuality, with psychosis. I did not develop a psychotic disorder, because I was a gifted child. I developed one because I had a family history which automatically predisposed me to it. There were definitely other factors, besides just the difficulties faced being gifted at that time, that contributed to all of the issues that plagued me into adulthood (including issues of a familial pattern of abuse). So I don’t say, and admittedly I should have made that clearer, that all of my ‘woes’ can be laid solely on the door step of giftedness, just that it also didn’t exactly help in the larger tapestry of things.

      Thanks again.

  2. I grew up as a gifted child in the late 1970’s and what I remember affecting me most back then wasn’t necessarily the bullying of other school children (although I’m certainly not downplaying the impact that severe and prolonged bullying had on me in later years), but the reactions of adults around me at the time.

    Just to place things into the context of my own experience, for the sake of discussion, and as I do understand each gifted child walks their own unique path – At the age of 2 I was able to read and discuss simple news paper articles, by age 5 I had already begun to study Greek and Roman Mythology, Ancient History, Archaeology and Paleontology, and at age 7, when I was admitted to my State’s program for gifted children (back then the criteria for admission was strict, in the year I was admitted the total percentage of students in the program was less than 1% of the school population), I was in the top ten percent of academic performance for the educational curriculum of students aged 12-13. This is a simple snapshot of me as a gifted child.

    As I said previously I don’t discount the impact that bullying from other school children had on me – but I also remember being initially mislabeled as ‘disturbed’, and then the tut-tuts and the shaking of heads, “Oh whatever shall we do with her, she’s just unmanageable, there’s something very wrong with that child, she’s seriously disturbed, have you read some of the things she writes abut, it’s just not normal”, before being re-assessed and found to be gifted. And then the tut-tuts and head shaking suddenly turned into me sitting before a panel of educational experts, and my school’s Principal, and the district head of education, and they’re all looking at me like they’re either attempting to dissect me with their eyes, as if I’m some sort of specimen of utter fascination, or they’ve just seen a vision of the second coming – “Oh my god she’s gifted, the discovery of a gifted child has been made, quick sound the bells, she’s a genius, ooh, ahh, everyone gasp in amazement and stare at her while she sits there with her Mother beside her feeling very bewildered, and confused, and Mummy why are all these people looking at me like that?”

    Then there were the adults who actually seemed frightened of me, the ones who went all wide eyed, and slack jawed, and started backing away from me with a frozen smile on their face when all I was doing was trying my hardest to respond politely when spoken to and carry out a well mannered conversation – “What’s with that child over there, have you tried talking to her?”…”Yeah, I know, I didn’t know what to say, how do you respond to something like that, *shudders* she gave me the willies*” (*a fright, or ‘the creeps’ – this is an actual conversation I once overheard). And of course the adults who thought by sheer virtue of having the label of ‘gifted child’ that I was too up myself, felt myself to be too superior to others, needed to be taken down a peg or two, etc etc. I had one teacher at the age of 9 who publicly humiliated me in class, tried to set anxiety provoking punishment tasks for the slightest of infractions (and then mocked my Mother when she stepped in, because she didn’t really mean it, and can’t your daughter take a joke), and then finally just up and physically backhanded me across the face (for what exactly I can’t remember). The second time my Mum visited the school to speak with her she came straight out and said, “Your daughter is a bitch, Mrs ____, and I intend to cut her down to size’.

    The sum result of all this was that by about the age of 9 I began to ‘ungift’ myself. Basically I very systematically, and purposefully, set about dumbing myself down as much as possible just to get a moment’s reprieve from all the abuse, and the stares, and those frightened looks, and accusations. My story as a gifted child did not exactly have a happy ending. I developed childhood onset Anorexia Nervosa at the age of 8, was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 15, developed Psychotic Depression at the age of 19, abused drugs throughout my 20’s, and eventually ended up on the streets as a heroin addict. I am now clean 12 years, finally in proper treatment for my mental health issues, and have been further diagnosed with chronic-PTSD owing to repeated childhood trauma. I did have one teacher back then who understood, and knew how to work with a gifted child, but I often wonder how different my life might have been if more people had stood up and said, “Stop treating this girl like a circus freak, she’s just a child who learns differently’.

    Kudos for your advocacy of gifted children, it is needed far, far more than so many people even realise.

    • Louise,

      Your story profoundly breaks my heart, and yet tragically, your story is very similar to many who have commented on different posts on Crushing Tall Poppies. I am so very, very sorry that you had to experience this.

      “Stop treating this girl like a circus freak, she’s just a child who learns differently” is exactly what I wish every last person in the world could just understand. My mantra is “no child should have to suffer simply because he was born gifted.” And that is my mission for my advocacy–to stop the suffering by bringing about an understanding of giftedness.

      Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I keep saying that the more we all share and speak out, the greater the chance we will finally be heard.

      Louise, you are a brave and beautiful survivor and I’m honored you shared your story here! <3

      • You are very welcome, and absolutely so much more understanding of what being gifted really means needs to be put out there, and I am glad to see someone doing that. I think far too often people tend to lump categories like ‘bright’ or ‘advanced’ in with the category of ‘gifted’. I wish being gifted as a child had been as easy as just being a ‘bright’, or ‘advanced’ student. I was the child even the so called brainiacs of the school hated and shunned – because they were clever, and got full marks on all their tests, and worked at an advanced educational level, but then someone comes along and slaps me with a genius tag and suddenly I’m being invited to join a weekend run gifted children’s program alongside people like Terrence Tao, and then it was all “Well how come she got accepted, and I didn’t, oh sorry, I forgot *she’s* a genius” (said in a sarcastic tone, usually alongside demands to be a performing seal at a moment’s notice and demonstrate said genius at the drop of a hat).

        I was a child genius who had no real concept of what that meant, nor did I exactly care. I didn’t walk through life with this thought process of ‘I am so smart, I am so clever’, I basically drifted into other realms entirely – knowledge, discussion, stories, learning, creating, sensation – all of this thirst for new experiences and opportunities for the things I was interested in, and I was insatiable, if I could have downloaded the entire universe into my brain I probably would have done so. But I also disassociated whilst belting out random renditions of Mull of Kintyre at the most inopportune times, and over thought things to the point where it became a burden (what would the primeval void of Chaos in the Greek myths have felt like if I was there, maybe it had a swirling, pulling feel to it, like the water when it runs down the bath drain, or flushes away from the toilet, where does that water go, does it get sucked into nothingness, is that a sort of primeval void, will be sucked or flushed down with that water and cease to exist? Just to be safe I better develop an irrational fear of the plug when it’s pulled out of the bath water, and I won’t actually be properly toilet trained until the age of 6).

        Or to put it another way, when we were being taught how to fold origami cranes, after having learnt about the story of the thousand paper cranes, the bright and advanced students quite happily completed the task in record time and then sat back and admired their work – I, on the other hand, completed the task and then sat there desperately trying to work out how to cure Leukemia, before deciding that the obvious answer was to start a frenzy of non-stop origami crane making because clearly at the age of six I was now responsible for the lives of every single Leukemia patient on the planet. Being a gifted child doesn’t just launch you into higher level of intelligence, more often than not it straight up launches you into another stratosphere.

        • Louise, you explain how it feels to be profoundly gifted so well. Why can’t others not understand this? Why do others in society feel the need to mock, criticize, fear and shun gifted people?

          And just today on Facebook, the page, Grammarly, posted the meme, “Every Child is Gifted. They Just Unwrap Their Packages at Different Times” and it got over 7,000 shares and much agreement. It makes one want to scream at the ingnorance.

          Thank you, Louise, for sharing and shedding more light on profound giftedness. I can’t thank you enough!

          • In regards to the meme, if I knew in advance that my ‘gift’ was to be gifted, that is one present I never would have chosen to unwrap.

            And again, you are more than welcome, it’s nice to talk with people who understand what being classified as gifted really means. I have some more to say on the subject of the aforementioned meme, but for now, seeing as I am in Australia and have pulled an all nighter, I must be off to bed for some semblance of sleep.

            Keep up the fantastic work you are doing here, maybe one day the rest of the world will actually ‘get it’ (one can only hope).

  3. I wanted to mention an idea I have been mulling over for some time, and I think it fits here. And that is the problem of mis-attribution of status for merit.
    By this I mean the idea that status can be used as a measure of ability. So an example is a boss of a company who proclaims, “I am the smartest person in this company, because I own the company”. Another example would be a teacher who says (either aloud or to him/herself), “I am the smartest person in this class because I am the teacher”.
    Now, it is important to differentiate four concepts that frequently get confused one for each other: intelligence, education, knowledge, and wisdom. These are NOT the same concepts. Intelligence or IQ, is a measure of academic performance as predicted by IQ scores. Education, obviously, is the number of years of schooling one has achieved/obtained. Knowledge is the body of facts, ideas, theories, mythologies, stories, concepts, etc. that a person has in their memory and cognitive ability. Wisdom is presumably (but far from always) what one accumulates just from living and experiencing the world; It’s the most difficult of the four, because, I believe, wisdom is strongly correlated with intelligence. It is hard to be very wise, yet dumb as a rock. Contra-wise, it is easily possible to be brilliant and a fool. But, I believe it is the case in most cases that wise people are also, usually, smart (intelligent) people. Not always, but often enough to state that there is probably a high overlap.
    There is also a fifth factor, that has only a tangential relationship to the other four: authority or high status. It was the case, especially in pre-industrial society, that authority was derived by (accidents of) birth. A king or queen, prince, princess, nobleperson, or tribal leader, was generally born into the position, and inherited it; usually the first-born male inherited that status. As society swept away this feudalistic attitude, in other words, as Capitalism made itself prominent and primary, it replaced this status-basis for society with the notion that ability or merit would reign superior; that men (and, thankfully, nowadays, women too) of superior ability and talent would rise to the top of society.
    We still, however, have many holdovers, some necessary, from this status-basis for society. Parents have legal obligations to “tell their children what to do”. Employees serve their employers under what the Law calls a Master-servant relationship; and in the classroom, teachers have authority over their young charges, again, by law.
    Now, the problem is this: some people wrongly come to the conclusion, that because they have authority, they are naturally superior. And in what ways are they superior? Well, in prison, it’s use of force against other prisoners. No prisoner became the “top dog” because of their prowess at quilt-sewing or chess-playing. It’s because they have the force of personality and, failing that, the force of, or threat of the force of, violence that gives them their supremacy. That’s very straightforward, and if one thinks about it, that is usually how Kings in ancient times became kings: by being more violent, and more bloodthirsty, than their competitors for being the ruler of the land. Granted, kings also had to learn how to manage their subjects in such a way that the subjects would not rise up and overthrow the king, but with varying levels of success.
    Now, assuming authority is granted either by law (a judge’s authority), or by being hired into a position (teacher or supervisor), or capital investment (entrepreneur/majority shareholder/owner), then there is a legitimate authority.
    The mistake comes when people attribute to themselves that, having obtained elevated status, **they therefore have elevated levels of wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge**.
    It’s a mis-attribution based on egotism; “If I am elevated to such-and-such a rank, it MUST be because I am a superior individual; therefore everyone below me MUST be less wise, intelligent, and knowledgeable than me”.
    A logic error, to be sure. After all, perhaps the person got the job because they are related to their employer; or they got the job through seniority, or they got the job via bribery (as happens in Nepal, for example [but I lack a direct source for the information; I read an article in the National Post newspaper describing why emergency services and goods have such a hard time getting to their intended destinations in that devastated country]). That means that they did not necessarily get the job due to merit, i.e., they were NOT the best candidate, but the luckiest, oldest, or slimiest (a la bribery).
    For sure in such a case, we are hardly dealing with the best-and-brightest person. In the case of a business owner, just because someone can spend thousands of dollars setting up a business does not automatically mean they are any good at business. Similarly, someone who buys shares in a business may know nothing about running such a business and would be better off on their personal private golf course or riding their horses than running a business.
    But let’s suppose that the person hired for the job, in this case, since it’s most appropriate, are teachers. And let us further suppose that in every case (HAH!) the teacher hired was without doubt, the best candidate for the job. The question in such a case would be, **just because the person hired is the best person for the job, how do we know for a fact that that person MUST THEREFORE BE the smartest, wisest, or knowledgeable person in the classroom?**
    Let us suppose that Jane Smith is hired as a teacher of a grade 6 class. Can we guarantee that her IQ will be the highest in the class? No. Can we guarantee that she and she alone (sorry, I am not trying to pick on women here, no sexism here, folks, move along, move along!) is the most widely-read, and/or the most knowledgeable person in the classroom? Is it within the realm of possibility that our Ms. Smith has an IQ of 120, a B.A. from a small, mid-ranked, Midwestern college, and a Teacher’s Diploma, would be nowhere near as widely read as Mary Jones, who has an IQ of 165, reads at a first-year university level, and has read everything she can lay her hands on about astronomy and astrophysics? Of course it is. Yet Jane Smith, if she is operating under that delusion that “since I am elevated to the rank of teacher, and am therefore in charge of this class, it MUST be because I am a superior individual; therefore everyone below me MUST be less wise, intelligent, and knowledgeable than me”, could come to the false conclusion that BY REASON OF HER STATUS AS TEACHER, she must therefore be smarter than our poor Mary Jones.
    As a result, Ms. Smith will resent and despise Mary Jones, because Mary Jones upset the apple cart, the “natural order of things” (at least, as according to the teacher, Ms. Smith).

    What would the damage be to Ms. Smith’s ego? Tremendous, upon finding out that this little girl knows vastly more about Astronomy than does Ms. Smith, the teacher, (who, remember, got her degree in English, but assumes she is the most knowledgeable due to her rank).

    The natural tendency of all biological organisms is to seek homeostasis, which is defined as “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements”, or in other words, to make sure that one’s world remains as stable and “same” as possible.

    Upon having her homeostasis unceremoniously un-homeostasized, what will our Ms. Smith do? She’ll do whatever it takes to regain her equilibrium, which in this case means neutralizing the source of her lack of homeostasis: Mary Jones. That’s a clinical and cold way of saying that the teacher will make the child’s life a living hell, or at least as much as she can without losing her job or getting in trouble with the Law.

    Now let us add in the other elements of the toxic brew that is known as the Modern North American School System: (1) a demand made of the students and teachers alike by society at large for conformity; (2) a bureaucratic difficulty in accommodating exceptional children; such children are processed differently and may or may not receive services because schools are set up to teach to the middle, rather than tailoring schooling for each individual child. This is a legacy of the 1850’s Schools Act that treated schooling as being similar to a factory, creating near- or perfectly-identical “product”; (3) a systemic expectation that Teachers Teach Children, not that children could POSSIBLY teach adults anything — again, a social norm of conformity to “common sense”: teachers teach, students learn.
    Given the teacher’s own upset at being “shown up” by a twelve-year-old, North America’s societal expectation for conformity, a systemic inability to handle “different” children, and another systemic expectation that it is inappropriate to have the learners teach the teacher, in whose odds do you suppose the deck is stacked?

    Not for our young student.

    My analysis will show that the inept and inaccurate misattribution of status for ability, combined with the systemic and social forces inherent in society and the school system itself, leaves open the real possibility that a bright, gifted student like Mary Jones will NOT be able, at least to some degree, to avoid being crushed by the very system that is supposed to uplift her; in fact, cynic that I am, I’d reckon her chances to be close to, or at, zero.

    She has as much chance of avoiding the teacher’s wrath as a snowball does of not melting in the Sahara desert.

    Her destruction is at hand. And that is sad indeed, that a system and a cognitive error could do so much damage to a young mind, heart and soul. Tragic indeed, don’t you think?

    But it happens all the time, and little or nothing is done about it by the system. Only a few outspoken advocates for the gifted speak out and are trying to change this sort of completely unacceptable situation. More needs to be done, I think, rather obviously.

    • John, you have brilliantly explained what happens when a classroom teacher is too much of an authoritarian. It damages independent thinking, self-esteem and risk-taking on the part of students–gifted as well as every student. And I think you are right that some teachers, bosses and others take on this belief that they are in charge and the smarter one in the room.

      But, I believe, having been a teacher myself, that this authoritarian role is becoming more prevalent in teaching where it would otherwise not be. Understandably, such authoritarian measures are more and more necessary because of the unjust and illogical demands on teachers today. When teachers are faced with keeping their jobs based on their students’ test scores, teachers clamp down hard on students, hurting all of them.

      Although most professional educators will agree that a teacher’s role should be as a facilitator, a guide for her students and their education, the recent focus on standardized tests and output has left no room for teachers to adopt the most appropriate role for ensuring the education of their students and nurturing their self-esteem.

      “But it happens all the time, and little or nothing is done about it by the system”–sadly, you hit the nail on the head here.

      Thank you so much, John, for your enlightening commentary!!

  4. Yes, yes, yes!! I believe we can do this. I’m designing PD for my district this summer and I’m jumping in this fall. Bottom line – teachers care about their kids. We just need to figure out how to help them see that our kids need care, no matter what their label. Thank you for your help with that!

    • Wendy, thank you for your enthusiastic optimism! My own children were lucky to have teachers such as you. And yes, all students, no matter their quirks, abilities, disabilities or labels, are simply children in need of nurturing, care and concern. You are exactly right!

      Good luck with your PD. Oh and just in case this can be of any help to you: A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers — a free, shareable presentation.

  5. Wonderful Celi! So agree with this and beautifully written. Thank you. Sharing with NZ Assoc for Gifted Children 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *