Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Academic and Personality Characteristics of Gifted Students with Cerebral Palsy: A Multiple Case Study

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Academic and Personality Characteristics of Gifted Students with Cerebral Palsy: A Multiple Case Study

Article excerpt

Gifted children with disabling conditions comprise a major group of underserved, understimulated students (Karnes & Johnson, 1991). A major portion of their time often is spent in remediation or learning to circumvent the effects of the disability, which in turn may preclude the recognition and development of cognitive abilities. It is not unexpected, then, to find that a significant discrepancy between the measured academic potential of these students and their actual performance frequently exists (Whitmore, 1987). This discrepancy may be due to one or more of three factors: (a) the effect of tile disability on the pattern of cognitive development, (b) the concealment of superior intellect by the disability, or (c) placement in an educational setting focused on remediation rather than on stimulation and development of giftedness (Whitmore, 1987).

Identification of students who are gifted as well as physically disabled is problematic. Neither of the customary identification methods--standardized tests and observational checklists--is adequate, without major modification, for discovering the abilities of these children. Children whose speech or language is impaired (e.g., due to inability to control vocal musculature) cannot respond to tests requiring verbal responses. Children with limited mobility may be unable to complete nonverbal or "performance" tests requiring hand manipulation unless such assessments are modified extensively. In addition, limited life experiences due to impaired mobility may artificially lower scores (Hokanson & Jospe, 1976; Whitmore & Maker, 1985).

A second criterion often used for placement in gifted programs is teacher recommendation. Standard lists of characteristics (e.g., Renzulli, Smith, White, Callahan, & Hartman, 1976) may be inadequate for unmasking hidden potentiality in children who have disabilities. Characteristics of giftedness specific to children with disabilities have been generated retrospectively by having gifted/disabled adults reflect on their childhoods: They often learn or develop compensatory skills that enable them to achieve success; they often display creativity in finding alternative ways of communicating and accomplishing tasks; and they may have an impressive store of knowledge as well as superior memories and exceptional problem-solving abilities. As children, they generally set long-term goals and displayed persistence and motivation to achieve; they were often severely self-critical and perfectionistic (Whitmore & Maker, 1985).

Characteristics of gifted students with physical disabilities also can be discerned from published biographies or autobiographies. Attributes derived from these sources include the ability to solve complex problems mentally (Hawking, 1992), determination (Hawking, 1992; Nolan, 1987), aptitude in specific subject areas, persistence, the need for independence, the development of skills to compensate for the disability, and the early ability to read (Whitmore & Maker, 1985).

The present exploratory study focused on one specific set of school-age gifted students with disabilities: those who have cerebral palsy and are unable to communicate orally. Perlstein (1949) defined cerebral palsy as "a condition, characterized by paralysis, weakness, incoordination, or any other aberration of motor function due to pathology of the motor control centers of the brain" (p. 125). It is an incurable, nonfatal, nonprogressive condition that is amenable to therapy (Sigelman, 1977). Jones (1983) estimated the incidence of cerebral palsy to be about 2 per thousand in the school age population. Of the several types of cerebral palsy, spasticity and athetosis were the two involved in this study. Spasticity, caused by a lesion in the cerebral cortex, affects approximately 50% of persons with cerebral palsy, and is characterized by stiffness, contracted muscles, hyperactive reflexes, hypertonicity, clonus, absence of balance, and jerky uncontrolled movements. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.