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Gifted children are not a homogeneous group – they often vary in their abilities and their patterns of growth differ from their same age peers as well.

Asynchronous development refers to the uneven intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development in a child. In gifted children, the development in these areas can often be out of “sync.” For example, a gifted child's intellectual development can be more advanced than his/her physical, social, and emotional development. A gifted six year-old student can be debating the problem of homelessness one minute and be throwing a temper tantrum the next minute because he does not get to play the game in PE class that he wanted to. A grade 3 girl may be reading at grade 8 level, yet is struggling with math concepts. A primary student wants to draw and write like an intermediate student, but his motor coordination is not that advanced and he becomes frustrated.

Asynchrony implies greater complexity in a gifted child. The higher the student’s IQ, the more their development is likely to be out of sync. This asynchronicity can be frustrating and sometimes confusing for teachers because these children are often intellectually advanced for their chronological age, but usually show emotional, social, and physical behaviours for children of their actual chronological age.

What does this mean for your gifted student?

Social Relationships: As levels of giftedness increase, asynchrony may be more pronounced and friendships may become more problematic.

Peers: It's essential that gifted children spend time with chronological age peers as well as like-minded advanced peers. Various groups of friends are helpful in meeting the child’s needs at different levels of growth.

Anxiety: When a gifted child realizes she is out of sync from her age mates, she may experience fear, anxiety, or depression.

Twice-Exceptional: The most asynchronous gifted learners are often those with learning disabilities, commonly referred to as twice-exceptional or 2e learners. This combination often requires additional Learning Assistance support at school.

Perfectionism: Gifted students often experience intense frustration when they cannot keep up with the ideas of their more advanced minds. Teachers most often see this trait when children struggle to write down their ideas as they brains are moving so quickly. This struggle is often referred to as written output deficiency.

Teaching Strategies:

  • Embrace your student's strengths, especially if they are twice-exceptional learners with disabilities.

  • Help your student and classmates to understand the meaning of being gifted, as well as the challenges that accompany asynchronous development.

  • Teach different strategies that may help to alleviate the stress that comes from being out of sync with others—i.e. mindfulness, self-advocacy, and exercise.

  • Try to find a variety of peer groups for your student. One group may include those similar in cognitive ability while another group may include those with similar interests. A mental age match is sometimes more important than a chronological age match.

  • Remember that gifted children are still children, so it is important to set expectations that realistic and age-appropriate.


National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC):

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