Asynchronous Development in Gifted Students

Asynchronous is a term that describes uneven development. It can mean uneven development academically, physically, and/or emotionally (i.e., a student is a whiz kid at science, but can’t throw a ball). It can also describe uneven development between subjects (i.e., a student reads years ahead of his classmates, but is at grade level in math).

We often expect children to meet certain development standards. We know that they should begin to crawl by a certain age, and then go on to walk and run. We expect them to talk when the baby books say they should talk and then recognize colors and shapes, begin reading, learn to share toys, etc.

Teachers have both academic and social expectations at each grade level. But, children do not necessarily develop just as expected.

Versions of the following conversation can often be heard when young gifted children start school. "Bill doesn't belong in kindergarten!" the parent cries. "Look, he's reading at the fourth-grade level and has already learned two-column addition." The teacher or principal, having already decided this is a 'pushy parent,' replies, "Well, Mrs. Smith, Bill certainly doesn't belong in first grade; he hasn't learned to tie his shoelaces, and he can't hold a pencil properly, and he had a tantrum yesterday in the hall."

The problem is that both parties are probably correct. This story is an example of asynchronous, or uneven, development. Few children meet developmental expectations across all areas each year of school; however, the disparity can be exacerbated when a child has especially high abilities in one or more academic areas.

It is especially difficult for teachers in primary grades to address advanced academics in children who are not yet able to work independently or in small groups without constant supervision.

Parents and teachers may need to get very creative when trying to meet the needs of young children with asynchronous development, especially in the early grades. A combination of techniques may be employed, including the use of volunteers in the classroom, moving students to a higher grade for part of the day, and small group work with motor and social skills.

As students advance, parents and teachers may need to create a collage of educational approaches. Possible combinations include distance learning, homeschooling, mentoring, dual enrollment, early college, subject acceleration, and/or private school.

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