It Ain’t Easy Being Smart

There are a couple of down sides to being a child prodigy. The first is experienced immediately. The child in question is almost universally despised by their peers. They are patronized by the adults around them. They are often exhibited as some kind of intellectual performer. This is enjoyable to some but not all savants, some being incredibly shy.

As time passes, the child does not necessarily progress so fast as to stay as far ahead of their peers as they once were. IQ is after all the quotient of mental age over physical age. One side effect of such normalization is the gifted child misses an opportunity to develop certain mundane skills that there peers are forced by circumstance to develop. The most prominent skill of this sort is learning how to strive to master something. When everything comes easily, you don’t learn how to try, fail, replan, try again, and so forth until you ultimately succeed.

One consequence of that developmental deficiency is that accomplishments don’t mean as much to someone if they didn’t have to struggle to achieve them. Later in life when something presents itself as a legitimate challenge, the former prodigy is often frustrated because they don’t know how to go about overcoming the challenges that they face.

And, unlike their less gifted peers, they haven’t had much experience with asking others for help. They are either stubborn, embarrassed, or else they just don’t think of it in the first place. Not having cultivated many friends, as often happens with savants, they often become anxious, neurotic adults.

This is not inevitable though. If we recognize the development patterns of the over achiever and help them with their special developmental needs, this need never happen. Unfortunately, the overachiever is often stigmatized and being quick to adapt to situations they learn to hide their talent from their peers and their teachers. These crypto prodigies present a real danger to themselves and society. They often grow up to become resentful and frustrated. They secretly view their less capable peers with secret disdain.

How ever their story works out we could prevent many of these unfortunate side effects of truly exceptional intellect by more carefully screening for talent and knowing how to help them overcome their developmental challenges.

Nobody seems to ever think that the intellectually gifted need special consideration. Many schools don’t have the budget or the staff to deal with them. This needs to be dealt with as surely as we deal with the other end of the developmental spectrum.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.