Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

An Argument for Proactive Attention to Affective Concerns of Gifted Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

An Argument for Proactive Attention to Affective Concerns of Gifted Adolescents

Article excerpt

To meet affective needs of gifted adolescents, teachers in gifted education can avail themselves of the expertise and resources of school counselors who, especially in recent decades, have been trained to create and implement prevention-oriented, developmental guidance programs. This article provides information about what counselors can offer to gifted adolescents and their teachers, including affective curricula, training in active listening, and cofacilitation of discussion groups. Other strategies for addressing social and emotional concerns in programs are also presented.


Reactive attention to social and emotional concerns of gifted adolescents is often the only attention those concerns receive in schools. When school personnel see behaviors suggesting that a gifted student has an eating disorder or is obsessive-compulsive, schizophrenic, deficient in attention, oppositional, or depressed and suicidal, they are likely to contact the school counselor. The counselor then meets with the student, alerts the student's parents if warranted, offers guidance, and follows established protocols. The student is likely to see a mental health or medical professional. The system has reacted. Prior to crises or clear threats to wellbeing, however, schools often pay little attention to the social and emotional concerns of gifted adolescents. Proactive attention to affective issues usually does not exist.

Some scholars concerned with affective aspects of giftedness have focused on mental health issues in general (Gallucci, 1988; Neihart, 1998; Schmidt, 1987) or have given specific attention to perfectionism (Parker, 1997; Schuler, 2001), depression (Jackson, 1998), suicide (Dixon & Scheckel, 1996; Gust-Brey & Cross, 1999), eating disorders, or response to trauma (Peterson, 2002b). Peterson and Rischar (2000) studied the social and emotional impact of being gay in the school context. Dabrowski's (1964) concept of positive disintegration gives attention to significant emotional upheaval, while recognizing its function in movement toward higher levels of personal development. There has been less scholarly attention to preventing social and emotional distress (e.g., Clark & Dixon, 1997; Delisle, 1988; Harmon & Ford, 2001; Peterson, 1990; Schmidt, 1987) or developing strategies that "mediate the negative consequences of excellence" (Plucker & Levy, 2001, p. 76), even though Colangelo and Zaifran (1979) argued convi ncingly more than two decades ago for attention to mental health concerns through developmental and differentiated guidance for gifted students.

Likewise, programs for gifted students usually do not include attention to the prevention of social and emotional difficulties, although there is a lack of empirical evidence to support that assertion. In contrast, prevention is currently basic to the training of school counselors. It will be the contention here that not only can school counselors work with gifted education teachers to prevent problems in gifted students, but gifted education teachers can also make use of the prevention-oriented curricula available to school counselors at all school levels.

The purpose of this article is to help teachers of gifted students understand what they can do to address affective issues of gifted adolescents proactively. This article will describe strategies for incorporating prevention-oriented curricula into programs for gifted students, in addition to offering guidelines for one-on-one communication about affective concerns. The discussion will begin with a brief historical perspective of prevention-oriented school counseling, followed by a description of the proactive, preventive work school counselors are currently trained to do, which offers curricular models for gifted education at all grade levels. By formally including proactive attention to social and emotional concerns, programs for the gifted can help to prevent social and emotional difficulties and promote healthy development of high-ability students. …

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