Implementing Successful Behavioral Interventions With Gifted Students

Behavioral interventions are tough to stage and stage successfully regardless of a student’s cognitive abilities and achievement status, but they can be especially rough when it comes to gifted students. Because these students are functioning in many ways on different levels than the majority of their peers, regular methodologies for behavioral interventions usually fall flat because they aren’t adaptive to the particular needs and challenges of gifted students.

The first thing that needs be done is to differentiate gifted learners from those who are high-achievers. According to noted behavioral researcher and theorist, Dr. Bertie Kingore, high-achieving learners “absorb” information” while gifted learners tend to “manipulate” it. The ability and desire to do such manipulation poses major behavioral concerns as gifted students’ emotional states often lag behind their intellectual prowess. So how do we navigate these concerns when they arise?

Understand their particular needs

It sounds simple, but just understanding what differentiates a gifted student from other students is key to unlocking and staging efficient and effective behavioral interventions. Gifted students are often plagued with “imposter syndrome”, as they are not able to emotionally rectify and process their own capabilities in relation to their own self-esteem issues. They are also more prone to social exclusion and can be less willing to take risks of any kind in hopes of maintaining their perceived perfection.

They are also usually prone to heightened emotional sensitivity, introversion, and bouts of abstract intuition which can be perceived sometimes as rebellious behavior in classrooms where concrete and normative thinking are the order. Any student will have their complexities, but gifted students’ complexities come with additional pressures and caveats which need to be understood in order to carry out worthwhile behavioral interventions.

Practice sensitivity, understanding of their unique position

According to Buescher and Higham’s Helping Adolescents Adjust to Giftedness, gifted students often complain of heightened bouts of self-doubt and depression over teachers who are insensitive to their particular needs. Therefore, it is important to stage behavioral interventions which do not exacerbate this idea of persecution and not being understood. Gifted students’ sensitivity levels are much different than other students because they go through a completely different set of challenges daily. Therefore, it is essential that any behavioral intervention is staged with an air of understanding to these challenges as not to alienate these students further.

Didactic disciplinary thinking and speech usually doesn’t work with gifted students because it doesn’t take their sensitivity into account, nor their innate abilities as gifted learners. Approaching things on a level which concedes to their intelligence while not giving them leeway to “manipulate” their way out of proper correction is crucial. In fact, finding ways to put that manipulation to good use could turn behavioral interventions into key learning experiences for the gifted. Teaching them ways to curb frustrated outbursts such as, “No, you’re wrong!” in favor of something like “Another way to look at it…” could help gifted learners reshape their interactions and utilize their abilities to help others along the way.

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