Once gifted, always gifted?
The SENG [Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted] newsletter of April 11, 2007 includes this Q&A:
Q: If I was gifted as a child, am I still gifted now?… If I didn’t use my ‘giftedness’, is it gone?
SENG staff: “Perhaps. Probably the more important consideration is whether you are still developing your potential. If we think about giftedness as exceptionally advanced in a given area (verbal skills, mathematics, performing arts) and you are demonstrating these gifts at this time, then you certainly are gifted.”
How can we tell?
As we often wonder with children, however, if you aren’t involved in experiences that allow you to demonstrate or develop your abilities, then how might you know if you are still gifted?
We tend to think that giftedness doesn’t falsely appear, and it doesn’t disappear; but without the opportunity to flex those muscles of your giftedness, your strength areas may not be as pronounced over time.
Likewise, if gifted learners aren’t provided opportunities to flex their intellectual (or creative or artistic) muscles, their skills may be dormant or less visible. That doesn’t mean those strengths have disappeared; but without regular opportunities to develop, their skills may not shine.
Dismissive toward our own gifts
So perhaps one way for you to answer the question is for you to consider whether you are still shining in the area of your initial giftedness.
You may be interested in reading Streznewski’s (1999) book Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential to read more about her 10-year investigation of individuals who were identified as gifted in school and their lives as adults.”
In addition to lack of opportunity, we may self-limit our talents and high abilities as adults with the kinds of attitudes we hold about not being “talented enough” or “not really gifted” at all.
Marylou Kelly Streznewski conducted almost three hundred hours of interviews for her book [above] and comments in her article Unrecognized Giftedness: The Frustrating Case of the Gifted Adult about meeting women “who, over and over say, Oh yes, the kids are gifted but they get it from my husband, not me.”
But she adds, “My hopes were raised by the women in mid-life who have come to respect and honor their own intelligence, and are building exciting lives; and by senior citizens who have never given up enlarging their special gifts.”
Nature or nurture?
Another aspect of this is the mythology around giftedness that it is mostly or entirely a matter of genetic endowment; that we either have high ability or don’t.
In his post The Myth of Talent, Scott Young writes, “This lie of talent, of gifted-ness has to be one of the most poisonous lies people have deceived themselves into believing. The belief that certain people, maybe even us, were born with abilities that you lack the power to replicate.”
He mentions the research work of Dr. K. Anders Ericsson [at Florida State Univ] on skilled performance and expertise indicating that “talents are developed from huge amounts of conscious training, rather than gift” and adds “we are starting to see more scientific evidence toppling this myth.”
Maybe it really would serve us better to think of talents to be grown, rather than ‘gifts’ of ability we are handed at birth.
One related article: Carol Dweck on the growth mindset.
The image is also used in article: Raising Gifted Kids: Carol S. Dweck on the Impact of Mind-set.