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Underachievement, where there is a discrepancy in the students school performance against an assessment index such as an IQ score, (Davis & Rimm, 1989) is a major problem faced by schools. Subsequently, importance has been laid on identification of its causes and the designs of interventions to reverse the trend. Issues in the identification of underachievers are related to the meaning underachievement. Different definitions of giftedness have given rise to varying aspects of underachievement. Researching attitudes of underachieving students Mandel and Marcus (1995) have categorised them as: coasting, defiant, anxious, sad/depressed, identity search, and wheeler dealer (Mandel & Marcus, 1995 as cited by Clemons, 2008). However, Rimm (1995) introduced 16 types of underachievement as: Perfectionist Pearl, Poor Sally, Passive Paul, Social Sally, Jock Jack, Academic Alice, Dramatic Dick, Sick Sam, Taunted Terrance, Depressed Donna, Torn Tommy, Hyper Harry, Creative Chris, Manipulative Mary, Rebellious Rebecca, and Bully Bob. These fall into four categories of dependent conformer, dominant conformer, dependent non-conformer, and dominant non-conformer (Rimm, 1995 as cited by Clemons, 2008).
Underachievement in gifted students can be attributed to either health impairments, learning disabilities, attention deficits, emotional disturbances or psychological disorders in learners, a disparity between the students' learning abilities and those of their learning environment and low self-motivation, low self-efficacy, low self-regulation (Siegle & McCoach, 2002).
Identification and assessment of twice exceptional children:
As a result of disabling conditions in the gifted they are either not correctly identified or do not receive acknowledgment or development of their cognitive abilities. As a result there are significant discrepancies in their mental ability and performance. In order for these children to reach their potential, it is imperative that their intellectual strengths be recognized and nurtured, at the same time as their disability is accommodated appropriately
There are at least three subgroups of unrecognized twice exceptional students exist:
Identified gifted but unidentified learning disabled: The first are those working at their grade levels, identified as gifted, with subtle learning difficulties attributed to poor self-confidence or indifference.
Identified learning disabled but unidentified gifted: The second are those with learning difficulties that have been identified, but whose giftedness is overlooked due to inadequate assessment or depressed IQ scores.
Unidentified gifted and learning disabled: The third and the largest group are those students working at their grade levels, well under their potential with their abilities masking their disabilities (Beckley, 1998, (Weinfeld, Barnes-Robinson, Jeweler, & Shevitz, 2006, Sousa, 2009).
AD/HD: AD/HD is a developmental disorder, with strong hereditary characteristics, the American Psychological Association (APA) in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) describes the different types as: AD/HD Inattentive type, AD/HD Combined type, and AD/HD Hyperactive/ impulsive (DSM-IV as cited by Lovecky, 2004). Symptoms vary with age and changes over time, and the combined type AD/HD is predominant in pre-schoolers and young children (Lovecky, 2004). Though the APA in its DSM-IV recommends the identification before 7 years of age, Hartmann (1996) suggests that it is difficult to do so as most often symptoms of the disorder are manifest only between grades 4- grade 9.
Conditions that can co-exist with AD/HD are Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), anxiety disorders such as Overanxious Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OBC) and Separation Anxiety Disorder, Tourette Disorders, Mood Disorders such as Dysthymia (mild chronic disorder), Major Chronic depression and Bipolar Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), Asperger's Syndrome (AS), Learning Disabilities, and Non-verbal Learning Disabilities (Lovecky, 2004).
A number of researchers have suggested that AD/HD is over diagnosed in gifted students (Webb, Amend, & Webb, 2004) and this is due to the fact that gifted children display behaviours that are similar to those of children suffering from AD/HD (Hartnett, Nelson, & Rinn, 2004). The strengths of gifted children that can be linked to the problems of AD/HD children are:
Ability to learn quickly that results in boredom or exasperation with slow learners.
Ability to organize things/people resulting in an insolent and controlling attitude.
Due to their critical nature they appear to be intolerant of others.
Ability to invent things resulting in breaking the norms of conventions.
Strong desire to be accepted by others and a strong sense of empathy resulting in being alienated, as others do not share their values.
Diverse attitudes and abilities resulting in lack of time and frustrations leading to chaos.
Strong sense of humour which may not be understood by others.
Displays intense effort, alertness, ability and high energy which may be viewed as hyper-activity, disrupting the work of others (Sousa, 2009; Webb, Amend, & Webb, 2004 ).
To reduce the instances of misdiagnosis Sousa (2009) suggests considering the source and the setting of observed areas of behaviour as gifted children so not exhibit problem behaviours in all settings and at times these behaviours could be due to allergies, hypoglycaemia, or issues with sensitivity (Sousa, 2009). Some gifted children suffer from AD/HD and their intelligence can obscure the symptoms resulting in delayed or inappropriate diagnosis (Moon, 2002). School personnel and few clinicians are aware of the unique developmental characteristics of gifted children, and since most of the gifted children with ADHD have coexisting conditions, assessments of these children should include evaluation for these disorders as well. Neihart (2003) suggests that a multidisciplinary team consisting of one clinician distinguished in childhood psychopathologies and a professional aware of the normal range of developmental characteristics of gifted children can accurately assess these unique children (Neihart, 2003).
Asperger's syndrome: Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder with a whole spectrum of manifestations, with difficulties in areas of social relationships. It has been viewed as a 'high functioning autism (HFAA), with reduced communication skills, difficulties with motor and sensory co-ordinations, and problems with some aspects of cognitive development.
Asperger's syndrome can co-exist with anxiety, depression, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, AD/HD, Tourette's syndrome, Obsessive compulsive disorder, Nonverbal learning disability and developmental co-ordination disorders. Some of the gifted children who have AS may not be properly identified because they are perceived as weird (Winebenner, 2001).
The strengths of gifted children that can be linked to the problems of AD/HD children are:
Most gifted children are socially isolated whereas those with AS are socially inept
Gifted children are independent of their age mates whereas those with AS are unskilled in dealing with their age mates
Both gifted and AS children display highly focused interests.
Gifted children display complex cognition with advanced vocabulary whereas those with AS display simple cognition and are hyperlexic (Gallagher & Gallagher, 2002)
Autism: Autism is one sub class of pervasive developmental disorders characterized by significant problems in the development of communication and social functioning. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) incorporates broad range of related disabilities such as Asperger Syndrome, Rett's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Dunlap, 1999).
Characteristics in the gifted that can result in misdiagnosis as autistics are:
Autism occurs on a continuum from mild to severe and giftedness progress from mild to exceptionally gifted
Some gifted children tend to demonstrate a narrow-minded interest in topics of their choice, with a similar characteristics exhibited by the autistic.
Both groups display socially disruptive behaviour in classrooms, in attitudes towards dress, compulsive preoccupation with words and ideas.
Individuals with autism are visual thinkers and some gifted do display this characteristic.
Both groups display ingenuousness with regards to friendship (Cash, 1999).
Children with learning disabilities:
Children with learning disabilities are those children who are not at the age-appropriate levels in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation and mathematics problem solving; not resulting from visual/ hearing/motor disability, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, cultural factors, environmental/economic disadvantage, or limited English proficiency (U.S.Department of Education, 2006). The guidelines for schools in the identification of children with learning disabilities as outlined by the Australian Government, though not as explicit, reflects those of the U.S. government defined above (Schooling Issues Digest).Horowitz (2007) states that despite these recommendation by governments there is no legislation that provides for gifted students with LD, since their learning ability is not low enough to warrant educational services (Horowitz, 2007).
Significant discrepancies in the IQ range and the educational achievement range indicates the existence of a learning disability. Potential learning disabilities may be manifest in the inability to complete class work at the level expected, without support. They may possess organizational and processing weakness that hinders completion of class work at expected levels as a result missing part of the instruction. These children carry with them a low self-concept because they know they are bright and due to the frustrations they face due to their short comings. (Weinfeld, Barnes-Robinson, Jeweler, & Shevitz, 2006). Ruban and Reis (2004) cites challenges in the use of concept of masking, profile analysis and the discrepancies-formula to identify these children the area of consensus being the capitalizations of strengths and the minimization of weaknesses. A major issue in the assessment process is the use of IQ testing to determine giftedness resulting in compelling arguments for broadening the definition of giftedness. (Ruban & Reis, 2005).
Characteristics which hamper the identification of these children as gifted are:
Frustration to master certain academic skills (Beckley, 1998)
General lack of motivation
Disruptive classroom behaviour (Beckley, 1998)
Failure to complete assignments
Lack of organisation skills
Careless in one's work
Demonstration of poor listening and concentration skills
Deficiency in tasks emphasising memory and perceptional abilities
Absence of social skills in some peers (Ruban & Reis, 2005)
Manages not to fail academic papers
Poor short-term memory
Illegible handwriting gets bogged down with details in the concept and has difficulty with rote memorization
Fails to seek help if struggling and can get verbally combative when challenged. (Horowitz, 2007) (Beckley, 1998)
Their characteristic strengths are:
Excellent long-term memory and exceptional vocabulary
Incomparable observational and analytic skills
High levels of creativity and productivity
Advanced problem-solving skills
Capacity for divergent thinking
Specific musical, mechanical and artistic ability.
Extraordinary critical thinking and reasoning skills.
Ability to see the interrelationship among concepts.
Task commitment and desire for knowledge
Desire to explore and discover things
A strong sense of humour. (Ruban & Reis, 2005) (Horowitz, 2007)
Ruban and Reis(2005) state that
Firstly gifted students with Ld. are difficult to identify since
Firstly Ld is viewed as an educational instead of a medical one.
Secondly many types of LD such as nonverbal disability and cognitive processing disorder are very difficult to identify.
Thirdly, psychosocial, attention deficit or conduct disorders masks academic giftedness.
Lastly parental attitudes to their gifted child being labelled as Ld hinders its identification. (Ruban & Reis, 2005).
Identification of gifted children with autism spectrum needs cooperation between parents, psychologists/ doctors and educators; intelligence tests , home performance, school performance, behavioural checklist , anecdotal evidence and expert analysis is necessary to determine if the disability is present. (Weinfeld, Barnes-Robinson, Jeweler, & Shevitz, 2006)
Observe reflect and respond (ORR) to a child's behaviour in the following areas:
Cognitive processes displayed wether in words/ sentences or actions.
Responsibility and commitment in their actions and the ability to carry through to complete it.
Task- analysis in following the steps to complete the task.
Creative ability in the tasks by way of imagery, music, art, etc.
Appreciation of beauty through verbal and non-verbal actions.
Interpersonal and intrapersonal skills brought out in their interactivities with others. (Weinfeld, Barnes-Robinson, Jeweler, & Shevitz, 2006)
The ORR chart gives inspiration, stimiulation and affirmation to a child ( Barnes-Robinson et al 2004 as cited by (Weinfeld, Barnes-Robinson, Jeweler, & Shevitz, 2006)
If the responses are inappropriate or disorganised given the sensory input then sensory processing disorder may co-exist with autism spectrum disorders, where the subclasses are 'sensory over-responsivity' where the responses are too large, 'sensory under-responsivity' where the responses are too quick and 'sensory seeking/carving ' where 'he responses are too little too late. Dyspraxia is difficulty with motor planning. Remedies - occupational therapy with sensory integration approach where the occupational goal (dressing) is provided. (Simmons & Miller, 2008)
Many students talented in science have been classified as underachieving or learning disabled (Neu, Baum, & Cooper, 2004). Beckley (1998) suggests that peer nominations are sometime more effective in identification of twice exceptional students when compare to teacher nominations (Beckley, 1998). Vaidya (1993) advocates using portfolio type assessments and creativity tests in addition to IQ assessment in trying to identify twice -exceptional students. (Beckley, 1998)
A gifted child with AD/HD can focus easier on a task because he expends lesser energy focusing on the difficulty of the task and this may at time mask the AD/HD in the gifted, (Kauffmann et al 2000) as cited by. (Lovecky, 2004). Moon et al (2001) reported that gifted boys were less mature that other gifted boys as well as average boys in maturity as they showed
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders:
ASperbegers : AS:
Failure to develop appropriate peer relationships
Alack of spontaneity inseeking to share enjoyment, pleasure, interests and achievenments with others. Most children with aspergers had good grammer and vocublary but lacked flexibility in content.(wing, 1981, as cited by lovesky, 2004). They do seek social interactions with others but are inappropriatein how they access it.(fred volkmar and ami kiln's 2'0 as cite by lovesky , 2004). Knowing what to say ins social situtions and when to say it.
Twice exceptional students ned appropriate curriculum that addresses both their giftedness and specific diability. (Beckley, 1998)
Programs need to focus their attention on preventing the disability from becoming a barrier in the development of the talents of the child. Students need guidance in understanding ways in which their disability interferes with their learning in addition to the extent of their giftedness. teachers need to hlep the students shape a realistic- self concept accepting their weaknesses and using their strengths to overcome ther weaknesses. Strategies should be introducded to help students compensate for their disabilities. They need to learn alternate ways of thinking and communication to enable them to learn according to their strentgths. (Beckley, 1998)
The three prominent strategies that are effective in reversing underachievement are:
1. Supportive Strategies: Gifted students succeed in a student-centred, flexible, questioning atmosphere where there are reasonable rules, consistent positive encouragement and feedback, and strong support to accept their limitations and strengths.Classroom techniques,that allowsstudents to actively participate in the development and monitoring of their learning using class-discussions and choice in assignments. Designing of curriculum activities that reflect the needs and interests of the children.Teachers need to be sensitive about the observations, opinions, interest, activities and goals, offer realistic problem solving strategies and allow the students to come up with their own solution to conflicts and problem. Provide opportunities for developing tolerance, empathy, understanding, and acceptance of human limitations that reflect their values, interests and needs, emphasising acceptance of self their achievement. Finally, reserve some time to have fun, to be silly, to share daily activities. Like all youngsters, gifted children need to feel connected to people who are consistently supportive (Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan, 1982). (Delisle, 1990)
2. Intrinsic Strategies incorporate the idea that students' self-concepts as learners are tied closely to their desire to achieve academically (Purkey and Novak,1984). Thus, a classroom that invites positive attitudes is likely to encourage achievement. In classrooms of this type, teachers encourage attempts, not just successes; they value student input in creating classroom rules and responsibilities; and they allow students to evaluate their own work before receiving a grade from the teacher. Intrinsic strategies. Whether or not a gifted youngster uses exceptional ability in constructive ways depends, in part, on self-acceptance and self-concept. According to Halsted (1988), "an intellectually gifted child will not be happy [and] complete until he is using intellectual ability at a level approaching full capacity.... It is important that parents and teachers see intellectual development as a requirement for these children, and not merely as an interest, flair, or a phase they will outgrow" (p. 24).Providing an early and appropriate educational environment can stimulate an early love for learning. A young, curious student may easily become "turned off" if the educational environment is not stimulating; class placement and teaching approaches are inappropriate; the child experiences ineffective teachers; or assignments are consistently too difficult or too easy. The gifted youngster's ability to define and solve problems in many ways (often described as fluency of innovative ideas or divergent thinking ability) may not be compatible with traditional gifted education programs orspecific classroom requirements, in part because many gifted students are identifiedthrough achievement test scores (Torrance, 1977). According to Linda Silverman(1989), Director of the Gifted Child Development Center in Denver, Colorado, astudent's learning style can influence academic achievement. She contends that giftedunderachievers often have advanced visual-spatial ability but underdevelopedsequencing skills; thus they have difficulty learning such subjects as phonics, spelling,foreign languages and mathematics facts in the way in which these subjects are usuallytaught (Silverman, 1989). Such students can often can be helped by knowledgeable adults to expand their learning styles, but they also eed an environment that is compatible with their preferred ways of learning. Older students can participate in pressure-free, non competitive summer activities that provide a wide variety of educational opportunities, including in-depth exploration, hands-on learning, and mentor relationships (Berger, 1989).Some students are more interested in learning than in working for grades. Such students might spend hours on a project that is unrelated to academic classes and failto turn in required work. They should be strongly encouraged to pursue their interests, particularly since those interests may lead to career decisions and life-long passions. At the same time, they should be reminded that teachers may be unsympathetic when required work is incomplete. Early career guidance emphasizing creative problem solving, decision making, and setting short- and long-term goals often helps them to complete required assignments, pass high school courses, and plan for college (Berger,1989). Providing real-world experiences in an area of potential career interest may alsoprovide inspiration and motivation toward academic achievement. Praise versus encouragement. Overemphasis on achievement or outcomes rather thana child's efforts, involvement, and desire to learn about topics of interest is a common parental pitfall. The line between pressure and encouragement is subtle but important. Pressure to perform emphasizes outcomes such as winning awards and getting A's, for which the student is highly praised. Encouragement emphasizes effort, the process used to achieve, steps taken toward accomplishing a goal, and improvement. It leaves appraisal and valuation to the youngster. Underachieving gifted students may be thought of as discouraged individuals who need encouragement but tend to reject praise as artificial or inauthentic (Kaufmann, 1987). Listen carefully to yourself. Tell your children when you are proud of their efforts.
3. Remedial Strategies. Each child is unique with differing social, emotional and intellectual needs. Therefore designing remedial strategies to provide opportunities to excel in their areas of strength/interest and supportive strategies in specific areas of learning deficiencies are paramount. The creation of an environment where mistakes are viewed as part of the learning process and where attitude shifts in the positive direction are encouraged is commended (Delisle, 1990). Dinkmeyer and Losoncy (1980) caution parents to avoiddiscouraging their children by domination, insensitivity, silence, or intimidation.Constantcompetition may also lead to underachievement, especially when a child consistentlyfeels like either a winner or a loser. Avoid comparing children with others. Show hildrenhow to function in competition and how to recover after losses.Study-skills courses, time-management classes, or special tutoring may be ineffective ifa student is a long-term underachiever. This approach will work only if the student iswilling and eager, if the teacher is chosen carefully, and the course is supplemented byadditional strategies designed to help the student. On the other hand, special tutoringmay help the concerned student who is experiencing short-term academic difficulty. Ingeneral, special tutoring for a gifted student is most helpful when the tutor is carefullychosen to match the interests and learning style of the student. Broad-rangedstudy-skills courses or tutors who do not understand the student may do more harmthan goodSuggested interventions: Delisle (1990) suggested
Whitmore (1980) AS CITED BY (Delisle, 1990) describes three strategies that are effective in reversing underachievement. They are:
Traditional instruction such as lecture, reading the text, and writing papers discourage highly able students and most students need to collaborate with like-minded peers in order to bring their talents, interests and abilities to bear on the real problem at hand. (Neu, Baum, & Cooper, 2004). Stimulating, small size classes help AD/HD students organize their energy levels to utilize their abilities to foucs on the task at hand and to achieve results (Lovecky, 2004)Hartmann, 1996).
Suggestions for parents:
Vaidya (1993) point out that while parents may be concentrating on enabling their child to overcome their difficulties they may be neglecting to nurture their gifts. (Beckley, 1998)