Contact Information:
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Davidson Institute for Talent Development
Summary of Research Findings about the Profoundly Gifted Population

  • Underachievement in school is a serious problem in the gifted population. If we compare scores of all gifted students on individual aptitude tests with their level of performance, we would likely find as many as 70 percent underachieving.  High school dropout studies found that between 10 and 20 percent of those who do not complete high school test in the gifted range.  It is estimated that between 15 and 40 percent of all gifted students are at risk of underachievement (Whitmore, 1980; Rimm, 2003; Seeley, 1993).

  • Highly gifted children are frequently placed at risk in the early years of school through misidentification, inappropriate grade-placement and a seriously inadequate curriculum (Gross, 1994).

  • Profoundly gifted individuals have been identified in all races, cultures and economic levels, although some cultures support, nurture and develop giftedness more than others (Clark, 1997; VanTassel-Baska, & Seeley, 1989; Kearney & LeBlanc, 1993).

  • Research on acceleration or grade skipping has been found to have almost uniformly positive results; acceleration is educationally and socially advantageous for highly gifted learners.  No other arrangement for gifted children works as well as acceleration, which is far more effective in raising student achievement than the most successful school reform models (Clark, 1997; Colangelo, Assouline & Gross, 2004).

  • Vulnerabilities of highly gifted children include uneven development, perfectionism, adult expectations, intense sensitivity, self-definition, alienation, inappropriate educational environments and role conflict (Roedell, 1994).

  • Social isolation experienced by highly gifted children is caused by the absence of a suitable peer group with whom to relate (DeHann & Havighurst, 1957; Janos, 1993; Hollingworth, 1931; Gross, 1993).

  • Because exceptionally gifted children often have high levels of energy and require less sleep, they are sometimes misdiagnosed as being hyperactive. These traits can look like hyperactivity, but there is a difference. The energy of a gifted child is focused, directed and intense, whereas the energy of a hyperactive child is diffuse, random and sporadic (Clark, 1997).

  • The exceptionally gifted or profoundly gifted child requires an educational program which differs quite radically in structure, pace and content from that which might be offered to moderately gifted age-mates (Gross, 1992).

  • Individualization in education is essential to serving the needs of the exceptionally gifted. The higher the deviation above the mean, the greater number of possible combinations and re-combinations of abilities. No one highly gifted child can be expected to be like any other with the same score. Therefore, no single-focused program…can hope to adequately serve a population with such potentially complex profiles (Lewis, 1984).


Davidson Institute for Talent Development
9665 Gateway Drive, Suite B
Reno, Nevada 89521
Fax: 775-852-2184