For some children, it simply doesn’t make sense to be in a classroom with other kids their age.
Intellectually gifted children and teens often need a more advanced learning environment. For these students, experts recommend an accelerated learning plan. That can mean skipping one or more grades, early entrance to school or college, moving up for certain subjects or taking advanced placement courses.
Skipping grades or early entrance sometimes raises parental concerns about whether a child can adjust emotionally and socially. But research shows that gifted kids do well academically, psychologically and socially when they move ahead of same-age peers, said clinical psychologist Dr. Rebecca Lieb, director of the School Success Clinic and the Autism Diagnostic Clinic in the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“Acceleration is one of the few areas where everyone is in agreement,” said Dr. Lieb. “If you have a child who is cognitively more advanced, the child socially will want to be matched with peers at their level. They are able to connect with these older peers in a way that is different than their same-age peers.”
You might worry about your child fitting in with older students. But the real problem might be they don’t fit in with kids their age, Dr. Lieb said.
“That can be very frustrating because there is a disconnect when your same-age peers are doing basic math, and you’re doing algebra,” she explained. “Older kids will see them as peers. When they see them in action, it earns their respect.”
Skipping grades may not be for all gifted students. But it often presents a needed challenge for these children. “If a child is not being challenged, they tend to be bored,” Dr. Lieb said. “When they are bored, we tend to see a lot of behaviors. They can be labeled as a problem child.”
A smart child who isn’t challenged can actually become an underachiever.
School districts have standards for identifying and serving intellectually gifted students, and they will write an educational plan to meet the students’ needs. An evaluation would determine whether a child is academically and socially ready to jump to a higher grade level or advance in a specific course or courses.
“If you see a child is consistently at the top of the class, mastering the material, and he or she isn’t being challenged, that would be the time to talk to the teacher and find out if acceleration is something to consider,” Dr. Lieb said.
More information about academic acceleration is available on the Ohio Department of Education web site.