Gifted Asperger’s Syndrome Student: How Schools Can Help Them
In every institution, some students are gifted. However, just like Neihart (2000) suggests there is a growing number in students who are gifted and have Asperger’s syndrome and most of them are not always diagnosed due to their unusual behavior seen as a learning disability. Students with disabilities and are highly gifted are also known as twice exceptional. One unique thing with these students is that they all have complex learning requirements (Josephson, Wolfgang & Mehrenberg, 2018). According to Reis, Baum, and Burke (2014), twice-exceptional students are those students who show gifted qualities such as being above-average in terms of intelligence while at the same time showing disability. As a result, this calls for schools and teachers to be wary of the needs of these students and provide them with all the essential support that they would need. If such students are not provided a supportive system around them, they would likely get bored and this may make them lose their motivation. Therefore, schools have to adopt techniques, in which they can harness the full potential of these students. Irrespective of the type of institution, its primary goal should always be making use of the strengths of its students while accommodating their weaknesses. While it is known that even though these students have got complex learning requirements of their own, there are common techniques that schools can adopt such as adopting ‘pull out’ enrichment programs, compacting, self-pacing and emotional training.
What are gifted pupils?
According to the UK government, they define gifted students as those children or young people who are exceptionally developed and they are ahead of their year groups based on their abilities or the potential to gain such abilities. American Gift Education is also called Gifted and Talented Education (GATE program). Most US schools use a single criterion to define giftedness: IQ (e.g. >130), however, this is not sufficient. In the 1980s, researchers started to include more aspects of the concept of giftedness. Three-Ring Model by Renzulli emphasizes creative or innovative products, which differ from lesson-learning giftedness or schoolhouse. Renzulli believes that innovations that arise from a gifted person are influenced by the interaction and overlap of three cluster traits. These traits include an above-average ability based on the given task, commitment and lastly creativity and they do occur at certain individuals, under certain times as well as conditions (Autor, 2003). Again, the awareness that giftedness was about more than just IQ.
There are also other additional definitions of gifted children and pupils, which have been provided by other individuals as well as bodies or organizations. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Education (2013), defines gifted students as those students who showcase or have the potential to show exceptional high attributes in terms of their ability to learn, perform or create as well as above-average reasoning ability. This definition somehow resonates with Renzulli’s three-ring model of gifted students. While the book concentrates on the above-mentioned qualities, it also identifies various fields that these students may demonstrate their abilities. However, they are not only limited to these fields since their abilities may still be conspicuous in other fields not mentioned. The identified fields include spatial, linguistics, mathematics, bodily-kinesthetic, music, and technology. These aspects are unique in themselves and this explains why these students can demonstrate their abilities or potential.
However, there are some issues with current definitions of giftedness. Firstly, most researchers agree there are multiple components of giftedness, but in the real-world (i.e. schools), too much emphasis just on IQ. It is not clear how many components need to be met to be gifted, and there is a lack of agreement on exactly what those components are. Besides, it is unclear whether a person needs to already have demonstrated their ability, or whether they just need to show potential.
Gifted pupils’ special needs.
Interpersonal relationships with peers.
It is not uncommon for gifted pupils to find it difficult to associate with others. In the case of children suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, this makes it even harder for them to cope up. However, they are intelligent enough to recognize that they are different from most students, thus, they often view themselves as independent in some way. This can make interpersonal relationships challenging. As the child’s age increases, they will become more and more lonely with companions and feel that everyone does not like themselves, even think everyone’s eyes are malicious and ridiculed. There are some celebrities, such as Einstein, who is considered to be a patient with Asperger syndrome. Although he can understand many social customs, he is not interested in the subtle details of the interaction between people, and the interaction with emotions, even makes him feel afraid and incomprehension.
Gifted students with Asperger Syndrome (AS) often show confusion and challenging behaviors to their teachers or their tutors. They do showcase multiple behaviors that are typically associated with AS and therefore they require educational interventions aimed at addressing their deficiencies. Something that is always missing is intensity-based programming, that is, educational programs should systematically focus on students’ learning ability, interests, gifts, and talents. If the strengths of these students are not addressed, they will face not only academic risks but also social and emotional ones. Gifted pupils with AS need double-differentiated guidance, and this includes interferences that provide strategies to compensate for weaknesses of the students while fostering their strengths and interests (Bianco et al., 2009). Through this, their academic and personal life will always be meaningful.
Gifted and talented individuals have unique social and emotional needs
In general, institutions, fellow students, and the public might assume that gifted or twice-exceptional students do not have social or emotional needs. The reasoning behind these is that these groups have always seen gifted students as confident and motivated, however, these qualities make them be mistaken since they do have their inadequacies (Peterson, 2009). Most research samples are not sufficiently inclusive to reflect a wide variety of students that have got a high potential and may have long-term constructive stereotypes. Besides, deep-rooted social attitudes, democratic and equal, or differing political views among many citizens may make them question why governments or institutions should focus on giving attention to gifted students’ emotional and social needs.
Teachers are not aware of gifted students have social and emotional needs. To meet the different needs of pupils with genius disorders, it is necessary to study and formulate a complete personalized education plan to provide students with continuous education to develop their talent potential. Simultaneously furnish support in the field of obstacles, cultivate a positive interpersonal relationship, and promote self-awareness. It is very important to support the social and emotional needs of gifted pupils. Students who have difficulties in adapting to interpersonal interactions or show symptoms of emotional stress should intervene early. Emotional disorders geniuses have visual, auditory processing difficulties and sensory integration coordination disorders, and their physiology and intelligence in ability development. In the school environment, the standardized curriculum and learning environment are a challenge for talented students. Gifted pupils with emotional disorders will face many interpersonal conflicts. Other students may think that gifted students interfere with their classes when they have too many questions to ask and interrogate the teacher. Thus, the boredom shown by other classmates makes the talented students weak in self-concept. Therefore, parents and teachers of gifted pupils should adopt behavior management skills, reduce environmental stimulation, give more encouragement and support, and establish a clear code of conduct and enhancement of positive goals.
How Schools Can Support Gifted Asperger’s Syndrome Student’s Needs
The most common questions raised by parents are related to being in the quest of information that would help them identify the best educational choices for gifted children. Their children may be bored, under-challenged, unhappy, or, underachieving. Their children may conflict with the teacher. Their children may be disguising their intelligence, trying to look more like their peers. For the curriculum, finding the best match for children’s cognitive abilities, maturity, and learning interests are crucial for gifted students. Gifted children often encounter lessons that are somehow simple, slow in pace, and repetitive based on their accelerated form of learning (Pfeiffer, 2009). In most European countries, the available educational system does not fulfill the educational needs of these gifted pupils. If schoolwork is too easy it can become boring and makes students feel unmotivated and unengaged, thus, their potential is not reached.
Education opportunities for gifted pupils include early kindergarten, selection programs, multi-age classrooms, acceleration and enrichment, cluster grouping, resource rooms, home education, correspondence courses, honor courses, IB courses, advanced university courses, special days and boarding schools, double college admissions, summer courses, and early college admissions.
‘Pull out’ enrichment programs
In this way, gifted students are withdrawn from the traditional or regular ‘grade’ classroom environment and placed in courses designed particularly for gifted students. For example, removed one hour a week to learn robotics or extra math. The benefit is that they allow pupils to go at a faster pace, explore more complex content, and to be fully intellectually stimulated. A meta-analysis found that they improve academic achievement, critical thinking, and creativity.
The unique goal that is linked with this approach is that it is student-centered and this means that the potential of the students will likely be harnessed at the fullest. Even though the students are aware of their abilities, these programs would ensure that they do have an understanding of the responsibilities that come with their abilities. The viability and reliability of these programs would heavily rely on the teachers. While these programs may be inclusive of all the gifted students, the school may still allow them to pursue their projects based on their capabilities.
Gifted students always happen to be competitive and this presents them with a good opportunity to harness this. Given that these types of students may find it hard to participate in academic contests that include ‘ordinary’ students, these programs provide them with an opportunity to compete among themselves. Just like in the example listed above, robotics may be hard for the other students but not for them. Therefore, schools may advise teachers to come up with contests in which it may enable the students to be engaged and cut down boredom. At the same time, since most of the students who have Asperger’s syndrome do suffer from behavioral challenges, these programs provide them with a supportive community. These programs bring them together and this gives them a sense of program which is essential for their development not only in terms of communication but also in developing an emotional connection with their peers.
Compression can also be called ‘skip’ because that is essentially the case. Regularly pre-test pupils participating in the traditional classroom environment to understand what skills and content they have mastered. If students’ proficiency is above average in a certain subject, they can be allowed to skip any other repetitive exercises in the subject and progress to the topics or research areas that are ahead in the syllabus. Compacting enables gifted students to harness their potential by killing their boredom. Remembering that they are bored they would not be active and this would be a waste on their potential.
On the other hand, teachers can challenge the students to read ahead so that they can solves problems in the syllabus that they are yet to try (Taylor, 2003). Also, this approach can enable them to develop skills that they are not aware of. Despite some of the challenges that these students face, the schools can play a crucial role in ensuring that they informed on the value of attaining knowledge at their own pace. The schools would not only help them not feel wasted but they would also enjoy learning. When one is in a classroom where he or she feels she is always ahead of their colleagues and the teacher does force him or her to adhere to the given pace they will always feel like they are being held back. For this reason, compacting opens the student mentality as well as enabling the school and the teacher to harness this student’s potential. Given that these students are highly intelligent; the future of the world may highly depend on how their potential is harnessed. Currently, the world is facing a lot of problems, form food insecurity, climate change, and terrorism and what in what way would these challenges be managed if not encourage those who can provide solutions to always think ahead.
Compacting also enables the students to connect things that are unrelated in creative ways (Taylor, 2003). It is through this connection that the institution will enable them to feel engaged. Despite these students suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, it is common for gifted students to be active. Therefore, at all times, institutions should always ensure that their minds are always engaged, especially when they are in a classroom. Also, the school can draw a curriculum based on these students’ needs. With many of these students always feeling unmotivated if not fully engaged, compacting proves to be one of the solutions to making them active.
Self-paced schedules enable gifted pupils to learn at their own pace and are beneficial to both talented and other students because it permits them to learn at their own pace. The gifted students who are willing and eager to learn at a faster rate can be allowed to do so while those who are not eager be allowed to study at a slower rate. Although the self-pacing method is valuable, in the traditional public-school system environment, it may be difficult to implement if there are no additional or supportive resources.
One way for self-spacing is for the students to have their self-driven goals (Heward, 2009). Teachers can also set these goals for the students depending on their abilities. These goals would enable the students to self-advance at their own pace. While an inclusive classroom can prove to be essential in boosting the student’s social skills, the school and teachers cannot overlook the fact that these students are somehow different from their counterparts.
First of all, the most important thing for gifted pupils with Asperger Syndrome is emotional training which is a relatively long-term process. What they need to learn includes emotional management, how to understand and express emotions, especially anger and tension. The second aspect is interpersonal communication which is how to express, communicate, and chat with others at will. The third is peer relationships, that is how to meet new friends, maintain new friendships, and improve the ability to resolve conflicts.
In emotional management, these students may be allowed to finish their assignments at their own time to avoid anxiety (Josephson et al., 2018). Students who are gifted tend to undergo greater similarity in terms of their socio-emotional development compared to their fellow age-peers. Therefore, they have to be approached in a slower but sure way that is congruent to their abilities. These students are always conscious of their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, it is not unusual for them to suspect they are inadequate in one way or the other (Baldwin et al., 2015). These insecurities explain why most of them do suffer from anger and tension. For this reason, one way of managing this is through teaching them stress management techniques. Given that one way of managing stress is through exercising, schools can create avenues in which these students may be involved in various exercises or meditation to boost their wellbeing. If they are more relaxed, they would enjoy learning as well as improving their emotional needs.
In terms of improving interpersonal communication, participation in extracurricular activities may prove to be critical (Baron, 2003). Institutions may come up with a policy in which these groups can accommodate these students. Some of the examples of these extracurricular activities include clubs and sports. Apart from enjoying learning and making use of their mental abilities in the classroom, these clubs and sports activities would help in meeting their emotional needs. Through these activities, they may be able to recognize their other passion outside of the classroom as well as forming new friends. Generally, inviting them to join or participate in these clubs and sports activities not only draws them away from their disruptive behavior but also enables them to form new friends and as a result, it improves their communicative skills.
In terms of peer relationships, social activities will be essential. Just like in the case of interpersonal communication, participating in club societies and sporting activities enable them to meet new friends as well as maintaining these new friendships. Besides, the school or teachers can always give these students group work assignments, which fosters teamwork. The teamwork, in turn, fosters a unit that promotes brotherhood and friendships. At the same time, the school should encourage the teachers to teach interactively. These interactions can be done by allowing to teach each other, work together as well as getting involved in their fellow students’ works or assignments. Through this, they are not only able to pull their knowledge potential together but they will also be able to interact themselves in due course. It is through these interactions that they would be able to form new friendships and improve their communicative skills. An institution should always stress the need for working together in the classroom. Social activities create unbreakable bonds that would likely last for a long time while these students are a given institution.
While for many schools working with twice-exceptional students may prove to be a challenging fete, there is a need for them to identify their needs and adopt all the necessary options to support their needs. One of these measures includes adopting “pull out” enrichment programs. Since these programs are student-centered, there is a high likelihood that the potential of these students would be somehow harnessed if not fully. Also, compacting may prove to be essential. This technique allows the twice-exceptional students to skip learning knowledge and skill that they are highly competent. If they happen to be above average in their proficiency, teachers can encourage them to try tasks ahead so that they can develop new skills as well as gain knowledge that they were not aware of. In terms of self-pacing, teachers can encourage the students to set up their objects as well as their own goals. In a traditional classroom, the teacher will always set general goals for the class. However, in the case of twice-exceptional students, this may prove to be a challenge and they may end up being disengaged and lose motivation. Therefore, allowing them to set their own goals or setting it for them might prove to be critical. However, when setting these goals for the teachers should be aware that just because they are highly intelligent, that does not necessarily mean they are exceptional in all fields. It for this reason that emotional training is crucial. Students with Asperger syndrome have their challenges forming an emotional connection and developing social skills being one of them. Participation in sporting activities, club societies, and interactive learning might be the gem in solving these shortfalls. Generally, all students in a classroom should well be taken care of, and twice-exceptional students are no exception to this.
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