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Ages & Stages

The Gifted Underachiever

Despite their high intelligence and talents, some gifted children do not live up to their potential in the classroom. These are the gifted children who also have a learning disability. More boys than girls fall into this category. Approxi­mately 10 percent of gifted children are delayed in reading by two or more grade levels, and approximately 30 percent of gifted children have a significant discrepancy between their potential, as measured by intelligence tests, and their achievement.

When an educational specialist diagnoses a gap or underachievement, he or she will look for signs like a significant discrepancy between the verbal and nonverbal portions of an IQ test, or between scores on an IQ test and a stan­dardized achievement test. The assessment may also include aptitude testing, as well as emotional, behavioral, and family evaluations.

In some cases parents may hold especially high or unrealistic expectations of a gifted child. These parents may have difficulty understanding why a child of superior intelligence or talent is underachieving. They may blame the school for not providing adequate stimulation and challenge through its cur­riculum and teaching. They may criticize the school for emphasizing confor­mity rather than originality and creativity.

Gifted underachievers are especially prone to developing a poor self-concept. They may grow increasingly negative about themselves and feel increasingly incompetent, unaccepted, and isolated. Their expectations of themselves tend to decline as they meet with continued frustration and a long-term lack of success.

Talk with your school principal, a learning specialist, or a professional who works with gifted children to help an underachieving gifted child get back on track. Perhaps your child would be better off in a regular classroom receiving some special attention than in a special class for gifted children. Do not ignore the problem and merely hope that it resolves itself. Again, early recognition of the situation and appropriate intervention makes for the best outcome.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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