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Asynchronous Development Of Gifted Children And Their Unique Needs

What is asynchronous development

Asynchronous development occurs when different parts of the gifted brains do not develop synchronously. Asynchrony results in the uneven development of different skills. Typically, an asynchronous child excels academically and in cognitive abilities ahead of their chronological age but struggles socially​1​.

Asynchrony can occur in either direction.

A child with the emotional maturity of a teenager and the physical abilities of a 7-year-old and a child with a teenager’s body and a 7-year-old mind are both asynchronous children.

Asynchronous development is widely discussed in gifted education, in which this term refers to gifted children who can master specific skills quickly while having difficulty with others.

Asynchronous brain development is a common problem among gifted students.

A lack of coordination between cognitive and affective processes characterizes it.

Despite their intellectual ability, these children often struggle with social interactions and emotional regulation.

A 7-year-old girl holding a violin and confidently playing it with focused concentration

What causes asynchronous development

In asynchronous development, two or more parts of an organism develop at different rates.

One eye might develop earlier than the other, for example.

Asynchrony can be found among many animals, including humans.

Genetic problems or the environment, or both​2​ can be the cause.

Asynchronous maturation may result in differences in different areas of development, such as intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development.

Giftedness definition

Giftedness is a term used to describe individuals who are exceptional in particular areas of intelligence​3​.

Children gifted with precocious abilities show remarkable aptitudes in areas such as math, music, art, language, and science.

Furthermore, they tend to be independent learners and thinkers.

Often, they can learn at a much faster rate than average children.

The traditional definition of giftedness concentrates on factors that can lead to higher achievements in adulthood or the possibility of becoming successful.

Unfortunately, this definition gets caught up in the metaphor of “gifts”.

Many people believe the most important part of being gifted is that “gifts” can be turned into achievements.

The notion that giftedness is synonymous with potential for success in adulthood often provokes backlash from those who believe they are denied an equal opportunity at success.

Thus, gifted asynchronous development poses unique challenges that do not generally receive sympathy or help.

What is asynchronous development in gifted students

To accurately portray the characteristics of atypical development, the Columbus Group (1991) proposed the following definition of giftedness​1​.

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.

Challenges of asynchronous development in gifted students

Unfair expectations

Parents or grownups often expect asynchronously developing children to perform in unreasonable and unfair ways.

Because they are intelligent, speak and think like an older child, adults sometimes assume they have as much emotional control as an older child, even at a young age.

This assumption leads to expectations that are difficult to meet.

Also, due to their intelligence, many parents expect their children to excel academically with no effort on their part.

When a gifted kid struggles in school, their parents find it difficult to understand​4​.

Emotion intensity and vulnerability

Gifted children not only think in different ways, but they also feel differently.

When higher levels of emotional intensity combine with advanced cognitive skills, gifted children are more conscious of life events and experience more intense feelings.

Their intelligence and compassion often make them aware that they are not emotionally ready to handle them.

These children are often called “too sensitive” because they are highly sensitive to their environment and easily overwhelmed by it​5​.

Struggle in social development

Gifted kids, often called smart children, are considered more intelligent than other kids in their age group.

Gifted children may solve problems in ways others cannot and see things differently than most people.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that these students are always better at social adjustment than others.

Sometimes they struggle to fit into social situations because their social development hasn’t caught up yet.

These kids may also have a hard time making and keeping friends​6​. Some even experience bullying because of their differences and inferior social skills​7​.

Trying to fit in

Socialization is a major issue for young kids.

Asynchronous kids often feel lonely, not because they are unfriendly by nature but because their attempts to fit in are quickly defeated.

Other kids do not talk the same way, like the same things, or think about the same issues as if bright children were destined to live in social isolation and alienation.

For the gifted child to feel “normal,” sometimes they must give up their beliefs, behaviors, and values. Intensive self-analysis, self-critique, and inability to acknowledge their limits can plague them.

Gifted individuals who are introverted, have low self-esteem, and feel helpless are more prone to develop major depression​8​.

How to parent a gifted child with asynchronous development

Gifted asynchronous children are often misunderstood and isolated.

They are commonly labeled “special” or “different” and treated differently than their peers. They possess a set of uniquely vulnerable characteristics.

Although these children feel different from their peers and often struggle in different areas of life, they are rarely offered the help they need to overcome challenging areas.

Caring for gifted children requires modifications in parenting.

Recognize that the more gifted a child is, the more asynchronous they are. Listen to them and support the child’s emotional needs instead of accusing them of being “too sensitive.”


  1. 1.
    Silverman LK. The construct of asynchronous development. Peabody Journal of Education. Published online June 1997:36-58. doi:10.1080/0161956x.1997.9681865
  2. 2.
    Wang H. Fatty acid amide hydrolase deficiency limits early pregnancy events. Journal of Clinical Investigation. Published online August 1, 2006:2122-2131. doi:10.1172/jci28621
  3. 3.
    Sternberg RJ, Davidson JE, eds. Conceptions of Giftedness. Cambridge University Press; 2005. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511610455
  4. 4.
    Morawska A, Sanders MR. Parenting Gifted and Talented Children: Conceptual and Empirical Foundations. Gifted Child Quarterly. Published online April 21, 2009:163-173. doi:10.1177/0016986209334962
  5. 5.
    Lovecky DV. Identity development in gifted children:Moral sensitivity. Roeper Review. Published online December 1997:90-94. doi:10.1080/02783199709553862
  6. 6.
    Silverman LK. Social and emotional education of the gifted: The discoveries of Leta Hollingworth. Roeper Review. Published online March 1990:171-178. doi:10.1080/02783199009553265
  7. 7.
    Peterson JS, Ray KE. Bullying and the Gifted: Victims, Perpetrators, Prevalence, and Effects. Gifted Child Quarterly. Published online April 2006:148-168. doi:10.1177/001698620605000206
  8. 8.
    Kaiser CF, Berndt DJ. Predictors of Loneliness in the Gifted Adolescent. Gifted Child Quarterly. Published online April 1985:74-77. doi:10.1177/001698628502900206


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