Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors' Experiences with a Summer Group Curriculum for High-Potential Children from Low-Income Families: A Qualitative Study

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors' Experiences with a Summer Group Curriculum for High-Potential Children from Low-Income Families: A Qualitative Study

Article excerpt

School counselors facilitated group guidance for children from low-income families and assisted in classrooms with a full economic range during a summer academic program for young gifted children in order to increase knowledge about giftedness. This qualitative study explored how the counselors experienced being immersed with gifted children. The main theme in their language was that they had not expected such differentness. They viewed the children in new ways and considered how school counselors could support them.

For several decades, the social and emotional development of children and adolescents with exceptional ability has received conceptual (e.g., Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977), clinical (e.g., Mendaglio & Peterson, 2007), and research (e.g., Norman, Ramsay, Martray, & Roberts, 1999; Tieso, 2007) attention. Case studies of gifted individuals have explored the impact of low socioeconomic status on achievement (e.g., Hebert & Beardsley, 2001). However, psychosocial factors, too, may contribute to the underrepresentation of children from low-income families in gifted-education programs (Worrell, Szarko, & Gabelko, 2001). Reliance on test scores for identification and narrow definitions of giftedness also have been implicated (Callahan, 2005). Low-income children in out-of-school programs for gifted children have had some research attention (e.g., Miller & Gentry, 2010), but guidance components of summer programs for gifted children from low-income families appear to have had none. Indeed, how many such programs exist and to what extent they include attention to affective development is unknown.

A funded, one-week academic-enrichment summer program, Having Opportunity Promotes Excellence (HOPE), at a Midwestern university, provided full scholarships and transportation for young children from low-income families (HOPE Scholars) recommended by a teacher or school counselor as able to manage above-level content. However, the overall program was for children from a broad range of income levels. The program employed school counselors to assist in classrooms and conduct daily group guidance to increase their knowledge of high-ability children, especially from low-income families, so that they might have a more active and informed role in identifying children with high potential and differentiate counseling approaches appropriately.


School Counselors, Group Work, and Gifted Children

Outcome research especially supports group work with young children (Whiston & Quinby, 2011), and groups can be part of a systemic approach to addressing socioeconomic, cultural, and achievement inequities at school (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012). Psychoeducational and growth-centered group work in schools can have positive academic, social, and emotional impact across a wide economic spectrum (Newsome & Harper, 2011). However, school counselors may not perceive a need for guidance for high-ability students, regardless of socioeconomic status (Peterson, 2006). Counselor preparation gives little or no attention to differentiating services for this population (Peterson & Wachter, 2010).

Social and Emotional Development of Children with High Ability

Scholars have noted characteristics associated with giftedness, such as heightened sensitivity (e.g., Mendaglio, 2003), intensity (Daniels & Piechowski, 2009), stress from expectations (e.g., Peterson, Duncan, & Canady, 2009), loneliness (e.g., Kaiser & Berndt, 1985), and perfectionism (e.g., Neumeister & Finch, 2006), with implications for social and emotional development. Asynchronous development is inherent in the "gifted" label, reflecting cognitive development different enough to warrant differentiated instruction. However, asynchrony typically refers to social and emotional development lagging behind cognitive (Alsop, 2003), with increased interpersonal challenges associated with increases in ability level (Gross, 2004). …

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