P.R.O.D.I.G.Y.: Project for Research on Development of Intensely Gifted Youth

Article excerpt

Statement of Purpose

Children of prodigious ability have the potential to offer to society a life-long productivity and enrichment for themselves and the culture at large. Starting early in life, they are among the most significant innovators and artists, creative thinkers, and scholars of each generation.

As adults, sadly, many of these children never reach the levels of productive creativity that their youth portended. Those who do (as well as those who do not) are often deeply scarred by the inappropriate climate in which they are brought to maturity. Many astonishingly promising children do not continue to flourish after their fine start.

As the studies of Terman demonstrated, extraordinary abilities in childhood often turn out to be much more of a blight than a blessing. Exceptionally able children frequently become alienated from their age mates and from others. They often fail to learn ordinary skills of diligent application, problem solving, and socialization. In the long run, many become more impaired than some so-called "handicapped" persons. There is emerging evidence that prodigious abilities are more widespread than currently recognized because those endowed with such gifts often learn to conceal aptitudes and perceptual abilities that cause conflict with, and rejection by, others. Hiding such gifts is not merely a personal tradegy. Society needs the contribution of all of its members, including the highly endowed. We would all be poorer had the gifts of Newton, Mozart, Einstein, and Jesse Owens been smothered by the process that regularly stifles so many others.

In each generation there are many more children capable of this rich productivity than are identified as "child prodigies." Further, among the total population of potentially prodigious persons the attrition at various developmental levels is unacceptably high because of adverse influences which the child of prodigious talents cannot withstand since withall, he is a child emotionally and developmentally.

The deeper understanding of this segment of the population holds the opportunity for a better understanding of the potential and realities of the entire population. What is learned about effiecient and appropriate stimulation of high capacity learners and creators applies not only to them but to all children. What is learned about the variations in psychological and biological capacities in the prodigiously able will enable us to explore similar, perhaps more subtle, variations in the rest of the population. …