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Out of Sync but Not Out of Mind: 4 Ways to Help the Asynchronous Gifted Child

Posted by Categories: Gifted Education, Gifted Students

Out of Sync but Not Out of Mind: 4 Ways to Help the Asynchronous Gifted Child | National Society for the Gifted and TalentedOn November 30, 2016, I delivered a webinar entitled Family Relationships and the Gifted Child, Techniques for Staying Sane. If you weren’t able to attend and wish to view it, please click here.

A few of the questions that were asked, but there was not time to answer, dealt with asynchronous behavior. One questioner asked how to help the school understand asynchronous learning.

Probably nothing is more indicative of gifted behavior than asynchrony, which refers to the different degrees of development that gifted students possess in different areas. They appear to be out of sync with their age peers. For example, a preschooler may be able to read books that upper elementary students can read, but would still have behaviors one would associate with a toddler. Such asynchronous behavior is often a challenge as we witness advanced abilities in learning and thinking that don’t coincide with other behaviors, emotions, and skills that we would associate with an age commensurate to that ability. It can be confusing and frustrating to both child and adult.

A definition of giftedness that captured the essence of this uneven development was developed by the Columbus Group in 1991:

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.

Asynchronicity can really be a challenge in school because educators are traditionally going to expect children in a particular age range to have similar behaviors and abilities. Here are 4 tips for schools and parents for helping the asynchronous gifted child:

1. Know the child and help others be aware of that knowledge.

Through testing, observation, and dialogue, gain knowledge about where a child stands physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Then help the school by sharing any information gained outside the school that will help them to address the right issues, at the right time, in the right way. You’ll have to be a good advocate of your children’s asynchronicities as well as of their abilities. For example, a young student may need to be directed to content that is age appropriate while also challenging for an advanced mind. The teacher may need to be aware that a student may be emotionally devastated over adult issues that he or she is not emotionally ready to process and plan accordingly.

2. Help your child to understand himself or herself.

Help them become aware of their strengths and challenges and encourage continued growth in all areas, while allowing them to develop at their own pace. Encourage the development of coping skills to avoid frustration that can occur when one part of a person’s development does not coincide with other related areas. Deep breathing, a sense of humor, patience, and journaling can go a long way in self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

3. Implement creative activities.

Creativity can play a great role in successful management of asynchronous behavior. Creative activity that doesn’t rely on typically age –driven abilities and behaviors can be freeing and provide great opportunity for socialization while also developing good life skills. Activities where there is no wrong answer allow students to produce ideas and products that are just right for them, wherever they fall in a timeline of development or not. Incorporate creative and performing arts as well as problem solving tasks, using real and authentic problems, which call for creative solutions.

4. Let others help you.

You may need a professional to consult about any asynchronous behavior issue that is causing frustration or problems.Possible professionals to consult might include occupational therapists, educational psychologists, counselors, and speech therapists, among others. Additionally, you may want to complement what you are doing in schools with outside programs that are not chronologically defined. For example, enrichment and summer programs such as ours at Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG), do not depend on age level attainment of skills, content, or maturity as much as they rely on students’ interests and curiosity, making them a great outlet for out of sync behavior.

There are many poignant stories in the literature showing the range of asynchronicities that have captured our attention. If you would like to share your story or your particular coping behaviors, we would love to hear them. Meanwhile, let’s love and value our wonderful asynchronous children and help them build, access, and create the strategies they need to be all that they can be.

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

2 responses to “Out of Sync but Not Out of Mind: 4 Ways to Help the Asynchronous Gifted Child”

  1. Kathy Palumbo says:

    Our grandson is recently diagnosed as with extreme anxiety and is suffering. He has counselors coming to his home a few times a week. He is highly intelligent and gifted but has started having seizures due to anxiety. My question is should we try to have him go to courses and /or groups where his great interest in science will be discussed and delved into. He seems bored to the point that he is failing his grades although he had perfect MCAS results in the 6 th grade. Now very depressed. His parents are doing everything available to help he is a freshman in high school. Thank you for any advise.

    • Barbara Swicord, Ed.D. says:

      I’m so sad to hear that your grandson is suffering. It certainly sounds like you are doing the right thing in seeking professional counseling. If you are fairly certain that his anxiety is connected to boredom or lack of challenge, putting him in situations where he is engaged, interacting with peers of similar interests, and encouraged to pursue topics of interest to him without fear of failure, then I would think special interest courses and group activities would be a positive step in the right direction. If there is social anxiety initially in going to group classes, then starting with online courses might be helpful. Sounds like he has a good support system so critical for eventual success in overcoming his anxiety. My best wishes to all of you as you work through this challenging time.

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