Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Asynchronous Development

There is a monster in the closet...  The monster is scary, but not because we know what it is or what it can do...  It is scary because we don't understand it or how it works...

For most teachers with gifted students, this monster is Asynchronous Development.  Asynchronous Development is the idea that the mental,  physical, and social developments of gifted children are out of sync.  What this basically means is that you can have a 3 year old with the intellectual ability of an 7 year old, physical ability of a 3 year old, and the emotional ability of a 2 year old.  Or you could have a 10 year old with the intellectual ability of a 15 year old, physical ability of a 9 year old, and the emotional ability of a 6 year old.  The more intelligent the child, the more out of sync their abilities will be.  This is why we have students that can solve great math and science problems but cry if their pencil gets broken. 

I first learned about Asynchronous in GT Training.  All teachers that teach GT students are required to take a 30 hour training about the needs of GT students.  I will be honest and say that when it was explained to me, I thought, hmm, that's interesting and that was about it.   After all, it seemed that all my JH students acted like normal jr high students and seemed to have the same maturity of development.  I needed to focus on challenging them and making sure they weren't bored in my class.

The day it all made sense....

Gavin Rayne McFarlain is my 8 year old highly intelligent son.  It seems that his actual giftedness is in math, but his personality is that of a teacher pleaser so he does well in school.  Gavin loves being challenged mathematically and often tells me "new" ways to solve math problems.  I will never forget when he told me how he added double digit numbers (when I knew for a fact that they were only adding single digits in his class).  There was also a time with I was teaching his older brother how to work 2 step equations and Gavin was solving them in his head before his brother wrote the problem down.  I found this very intriguing since I taught 8th grade Math for years and knew that most 8th graders struggled with the concept.  I could go on and on about how he works Math in his head, but that would just turn into a math nerd mom bragging about her son.  The reality is this... Gavin's intellectual ability was far above that of his emotional ability.  The same kid that was able to add double digits at age four and solve two step equations at age 7 could have a complete meltdown over the silliest things.  And better yet, he would have the same emotional response to situations that were vastly different.  My boy was out of sync.  Asynchronous Development had landed right in my living room, and the training and lectures I had heard flooded my mind.

I am thankful for two things:

  1. As gifted kids grow up, their development gets in sync.  They can actually grow into normal development!
  2. The training helped me deal with my son and understand my students even more.
How this changed my teaching:

Once I realized just how real Asynchronous development was, I looked at my students different.  I observed their actions and reactions.  I soon found that some of them seemed socially awkward because they were.  Their intelligence was way higher than their social (emotional) ability and they reacted in what most would say "weird" ways.  I think the training, experience with my students, and my experience with Gavin has made me a better teacher and mom. The coolest thing about all of this is that I have my students from 6th grade through 8th grade. I get to see them mature into young adults and watch their development get in sync.  

What is your experience with Asynchronous development? What are your thoughts about how we can help students as they grow into "normal"?  Please comment below.