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Peer Relationships


									                            PEER RELATIONSHIPS

       According to James R. Delisle of Kent State University, a gifted high school
student once said to him, ―‘I don‘t know what‘s more difficult about being gifted—living
up to the label for my parents and teachers or living it down in front of my friends.‘‖
When a student is identified as gifted s/he possesses a certain trait that is neither
common to, nor appreciated by, all: ―heightened intelligence.‖         Giving him/her the
opportunity to discuss the sensitive and relevant issues related to acceptance by age-
mates will allow him/her to see that others, too, may experience similar acceptance
problems. (Delisle 1992)
       For many high ability students, the number one priority is finding a friend. Gifted
students often select friends who are their mental age rather than their chronological
age. According to Roedell (1985) ―the term ‗peer‘ does not mean people of the same
age, but refers to individuals who interact at an equal level around issues of common
interest.‖ In essence, the more highly gifted a student is, the less likely s/he will find
true peers among age mates.
       Keeping this in mind, special efforts are needed to help high ability students find
companions with similar interests and abilities. ―With true peers, gifted students can be
themselves, laugh at the same jokes, play games at the same level, share the depth of
their sensitivity, and develop more-complex values‖ (Silverman 2000).         In addition,
Silverman believes that ―children learn to love others only when they have achieved
self-love.‖ This process typically involves the following stages:
   1. self-awareness;
   2. finding kindred spirits;
   3. feeling understood and accepted by others;
   4. self-acceptance;
   5. recognition of the differences in others; and, eventually,
   6. development of understanding, acceptance, and appreciation of others.
Counselors may be asked to assist gifted students find true peers, help them gain self-
acceptance, and guide them toward accepting others. (Silverman 2000)
                                                                          Sarah LeGrand

                           Columbiana Co. Educational Service Center                   35
                             WITH PEER RELATIONSHIPS

 The student doesn‘t have an opportunity to find a ―true peer‖ (Silverman 2000) due to
     heightened intelligence.
    Gifted students often struggle to balance the expectations of family, teachers, and
    High ability students often view themselves as different from their age peers--which
     can be either positive or negative. For example, ―I feel as though I don‘t have the
     same interests as my friends‖ or ―I feel out of place in my class.‖
    As children mature and become more socially conscious, they also become more
     aware of what behaviors are considered normal or regular by the majority. This
     awareness can lead to the desire for conformity.
    If the high ability student is from a minority background, ―true peers‖ may be limited.
     In addition, peers from their minority group may perceive the gifted student as trying
     to be ―white.‖


    High ability students benefit from unrestricted social interaction with other high ability
    Group      counseling   sessions    of   homogeneous        gifted   students   encourage
     understanding and acceptance from peers.
    Individual counseling sessions can foster self-acceptance.
    Mentoring and ―near peers‖ often help high ability students find their ―true peers.‖
     Near peers is an affective program where older gifted students are paired with
     younger students and serve as a mentor or a tutor.
    Share books about other successful nonconformists.

36                           Columbiana Co. Educational Service Center
   Encourage students to find an email pen pal or to join special interest clubs, such as
    chess club, model cars, or Mensa.
   Suggest students enroll in a Saturday or evening class they might enjoy.


 Parents of gifted students often put more emphasis on their social adjustment than
    with their scholastic development.
   Unpopularity and poor peer relationships may lead to maladjustment and social
    problems in adulthood.
 Giftedness is someone you are, not something you do.
 Discuss with your child why some kids are well-liked.
 Talk about behaviors that aren‘t generally accepted by other kids.
 Talk about the differences between being popular and being a friend.
 Be aware that most gifted students want to belong more than they want to be smart.

                             Columbiana Co. Educational Service Center                 37
Resources for counselors and teachers:

Delisle, J. (2002). Barefoot irreverence: A guide to critical issues in gifted child
   education. Waco: Prufrock Press, Inc.

  Jim Delisle is considered by many to be one of the most unique and influential voices
in gifted child education. This book is a collection of more than 50 outstanding articles
and essays from an array of esteemed gifted publications.

Delisle, J. (1992). Guiding the social and emotional development of gifted youth. New
    York: Longman Publishing Company.
  Jim Delisle, of Kent State University, focuses a great deal of attention on high ability
students and their peer relationships.        In addition, he includes gifted theorist
perspectives relating to this issue, as well as information about peer relationships at
different ages.

Kerr, B. (2000). Smart boys: Talent, masculinity, and search for meaning. Scottsdale:
   Gifted Psychology Press.

  This book is similar to the book Smart girls; however, in this book she gives in-depth
examples of characteristics and needs of high ability boys. She includes information
about gifted boys and their relationships with peers.

Kerr, B. (1997). Smart girls: A new psychology of girls, women, and giftedness.
   Scottsdale: Gifted Psychology Press.

  This is an excellent book that examines the gifted female at various ages. Kerr’s
examination of gifted girls begins with birth and continues into adulthood. She includes
information on peer relationships and social adjustment.

Schmitz, C. (1997). Managing the social and emotional needs of the gifted: A
  teacher‘s survival guide. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

  This book contains over 30 concrete, easy-to-use strategies for teachers to help gifted
students develop socially and emotionally, as well as intellectually.

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Silverman, L. ed. (2000). Counseling the gifted and talented. Denver: Love Publishing

  This is a compilation of authors elaborating on the various dimensions of counseling
strategies for high ability students. Pages 169-170 and 307-308 include information
about the peer relationships of gifted students.

Parent resources:

Cohen, L., & Frudenburg, E. (1996). Coping for capable kids: Strategies for parents,
  teachers, and students. Waco: Prufrock Press, Inc.

  This book includes a section on peer relationships that begins on page 84. It includes
pertinent family issues such as helpful things for parents to do, everything we need to
know about coping, and many other topics.

Espeland, P., & Saunders, J. (1994). Bringing out the best: A resource guide for
  parents of young gifted children. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

  ―Parenting a gifted child is no picnic,'' the authors state, and they write from
experience--both are parents of gifted children. They present complex information about
brain development as well as wonderful games that will challenge a child. They also
offer valuable advice on how to avoid parent burnout and remind parents that ``children
are first and gifted second.'' The book concludes with a directory of organizations for
parents of gifted children and a list of books on the subject.

Rimm, S. (2001). Keys to parenting the gifted child. Hauppauge: Barron‘s Educational
   Services, Inc.

  This book offers parents guidelines on how to prepare their gifted child for school.
Recommendations are included to ensure that gifted children are sufficiently challenged
in the classroom. The author also gives advice on dealing with emotional stresses that
intellectually gifted children often feel. She emphasizes the importance of maintaining a
child's emotional adjustment in school, and among siblings, friends, and all family
members. This new edition includes a chapter on gifted children and technology, and
expands on the topic of gender issues that can affect gifted children's achievement.

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Strip, C. (2000). Helping gifted children soar: A practical guide for parents and
    teachers. Scottsdale: Great Potential Press, Inc.

  This book includes information a parent may find helpful for handling the peer
relationship issues of their gifted child. This user-friendly guidebook also educates
parents about other important gifted topics.

Walker, S. (2002). The survival guide for parents of gifted kids: How to understand, live
  with, and stick up for your gifted child. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

  This book is complete with current information about research and legislation, tests
and testing, trends in gifted education, real-life examples, first-person stories, step-by-
step strategies, resources, and encouragement. This book is for any parent who is
faced with the sometimes overwhelming task of raising a gifted child.

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Cohen, L., & Frudenburg, E. (1996). Coping for capable kids: Strategies for parents,
  teachers, and students. Waco: Prufrock Press, Inc.

  This book includes a separate section for gifted students. It contains useful
information for many of the peer relationship issues faced by high ability students.

Delisle, J. (1987). Gifted kids speak out: Hundreds of kids ages 6-13 talk about friends,
   their families, and the future. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

  Based on a survey of 6,000 kids from 37 states and countries, this book is a candid
that reveals what gifted children really think and feel about school, their families, and
being gifted. Special "Speak for Yourself" sections encourage young readers to come
up with their own answers to questions about being gifted today.

Delisle, J., & Galbraith, J. (1996). The Gifted kids‘ survival guide: A teen book.
   Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

  This book offers high ability students strategies for coping with peer relationship

Galbraith, J. (1984) The gifted kid‘s survival guide: For ages 10 and under. Minneapolis:
  Free Spirit Publishing.

  This book examines the problems of gifted and talented students and explains how
they can make the best use of their educational opportunities, get along better with
parents and friends, and better understand themselves.

Kincher, J. (1995). Psychology for kids II: 40 fun experiments that help you learn about
   others. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

   A book of experiments based on science, but they feel like games. Step-by-step
instructions explain exactly what to do to explore questions about what makes a person
tick and explains human nature.

Rimm, S. (1990). Gifted kids have feelings too: And other not-so-fictitious stories for
   and about teenagers. Watertown: Apple Publishing Company.

  This excellent book for high ability teenagers includes true stories of gifted
adolescents - their feelings, struggles and triumphs.

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Topic: ―Maybe I really am interesting to other people‖

Grade Level: 7th – 12th

Background Information: Adolescents are often concerned that they are not
interesting, or that someday they will lose a relationship because they are no longer
interesting. They have seen it happen in their lives- perhaps in their own families. Most
worry about being interesting in connection with social acceptance and popularity.
Having the right clothes, talking about the right things, developing strong likes and
dislikes, and working hard to become good at something are issues all adolescents care
about. Many adolescents will compete for that ―interesting‖ quality; however, there are
some who feel as if they cannot compete.

    Students will describe at least one interesting personal characteristic and explain
     how that makes them unique.
    Students will compare their ideas of what is ―interesting‖ with those of other students
     during a group discussion.

1. Ask the group what makes people interesting and brainstorm a list of the criteria.
2. Have the group members name some interesting peers and interesting adults.
3. Ask the students if ―being interesting ― is a concern for them. Introduce the idea that
     we are all more interesting than we think we are. There are probably many
     experiences, situations, relatives, accidents, struggles, traumas, moments, and
     neighborhood memories that we haven‘t thought about for a long time, but which, if
     they were known, would make us come to life for someone. However, we also need
     to remember that just responding to whatever is around us, and showing that we are

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   interested in whomever we are with, is interesting enough to make us good company
   and pleasant to be around.
4. Ask the students to make a list on paper of five interesting things about themselves-
   things that few group members, if any, know. (Maybe they have a significant scar, a
   history of a dozen moves, a pilot‘s license, a musical talent not displayed in school, a
   position in their religious organization, ten siblings, an attic bedroom, a unique part-
   time job, a strange allergy, a fascination for off-beat movies, a weakness for
   chocolate, or …?)
5. Have each person share his or her list with a partner, who will ask for elaboration on
   just one of the items from the list. Re-form the group and have each person tell what
   he or she learned about his or her interesting partner. They can report on more than
   one of the 5-10 items, or concentrate on the one that was most interesting.
6. For closure, affirm them as interesting persons. Let them know that bits of history
   and habits, and quirks of personality, do make people interesting. In relationships,
   sharing the homey personal side, the idiosyncrasies, and stories make people real
   and human- and interesting. When people say, ―Yes!‖ to who they are, and where
   they have been, in addition to showing interest in those they are with, they are likely
   to be easy and fun to be around. Ask the group for comments about how it felt to
   share their interesting details. Was it comfortable, encouraging, affirming, and fun?

Evaluation: At the end of the counseling session, ask students to proudly announce
one interesting fact about themselves. In addition, anecdotal records could be made as
authentic assessment during the group discussion. As the students participate in the
group discussion, the leader records the students‘ comments in an objective (not
subjective) format, which is short and to the point.

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