These myths are from an article "36 Myths and Stereotypes of Gifted Students: Awareness for the Classroom Teacher"  by Nicholas Colangelo

Stereotyping The Gifted

Below are some common myths and stereotypes about gifted students. Each stereotype is answered by fact. It should be noted that the beliefs are often directly contrary to the facts.


Stereotype: Gifted children are generally weak and sickly.

Fact: Gifted children actually tend to be physically stronger, have fewer illnesses and generally exceed their age-mates in height and weight.


Stereotype: The gifted child is different or "odd".

Fact: Studies indicate that gifted youngsters are highly stable. In fact, teachers have often failed to identify gifted youngsters because they seem so "normal".


Stereotype: Gifted students are white, middle class youngsters.

Fact: Gifted children are found in all ethnic cultural and religious groups, and they are included in all socio-economic classifications.


Stereotype: The gifted child is a bookworm, wears glasses and does not participate in normal children's activities.

Fact: Most gifted are good readers, but they engage in many types of activities and have many interests. Some actually need remedial help in reading.


Stereotype: Gifted youngsters are enthusiastic about school.

Fact: While many gifted youngsters are enthusiastic about school, others are bored and some drop out.


Stereotype: Gifted students have no emotional difficulties.

Fact: Gifted students do have counselling needs especially in the area of building self-esteem.


Stereotype: Teachers need no special training for working with gifted students.

Fact: Teachers with at least minimal awareness and knowledge of good gifted education practises have been more responsive and effective with these youngsters.


Stereotype: Gifted students will be successful whether or not they receive special attention.

Fact: This is one of the most debilitating myths. These youngsters do need special attention and have been responsive to programs tailored to meet their needs. Unfortunately, we cannot measure the talent loss of all those students who could have developed more of their high potential if they had been given the opportunity.


Stereotype: Teachers can readily recognize which children are gifted.

Fact: Teachers without any training in the area of gifted are only 50% (ie. no better than chance) effective in identifying gifted.


Stereotype: Gifted students do not have learning disabilities.

Fact: Some gifted students do have learning disabilities, yet are extremely capable in other areas.


Stereotype: Teachers like gifted students.

Fact: Generally teachers do not like gifted students in their classes. This seems to be mostly due to challenges and misbehaviour of gifted when bored.


Stereotype: Parents of gifted understand their children.

Fact: Parents of gifted, like parents of other exceptional children, are often anxious and confused because their child is not "normal".


Stereotype: Gifted children can be identified by I.Q.

Fact: I.Q. tests are culturally biased. Also, I.Q. tests do not determine characteristics of creativity, artistic abilities or leadership potential.


Stereotype: Gifted students are successful in school.

Fact: Many gifted students do not perform well academically either because they are bored or purposely do poorly to conform to peer pressure.


Stereotype: Grouping gifted children will lead to elitism or snobbishness

Fact: There is no evidence that recognizing or grouping students by ability leads to elitism


Stereotype: Gifted students with the same I.Q. have similar interests and abilities

Fact: Gifted learners are not homogeneous group. Students with the same high abilities differ in the unique expression of their talents.


Stereotype: Gifted children who are accelerated in school (skip grades) do not adjust socially.

Fact: Gifted students who skip grades generally adjust very well socially.



These myths were documented in an article several years ago by Garnet Millar, Willow Creek School Division, Alberta: "Myths that plague the development and implementation of programs for the gifted." Although the statistics may not be current, unfortunately the attitudes and reality are still prevalent.


MYTH: Special programs for the gifted are undemocratic - all men are created equal.

REALITY: It is a FACT that all men are not equal in abilities or potentialities. It is only true that each child has equal opportunity to education. Equal education cannot be justified in light of the evidence. Bright children learn at a faster rate and in more depth than non-gifted children.


MYTH: Gifted children will make it on their own without any special programming.

REALITY: It is a fact that many dropouts in high school are bright children who have found little meaning in the school experience. Some studies have shown that up to 59% of the gifted are working below the level at which they are capable.


MYTH: Won't special programs for the gifted form an "elite" group?

REALITY: It has been found that when a gifted program is provided the gifted actually improve in their ability to interact socially and empathize with their non-gifted peers.


MYTH: If the gifted are so smart, they should all be getting good grades.

REALITY: Research indicates that up to 12% of gifted children have reading problems. Underachievement in the gifted begins as early as the 3rd grade.


MYTH: Gifted students come from or represent an upper middle class elite.

REALITY: The gifted come from every racial, cultural, educational and socioeconomic background.


MYTH: Programs for the gifted are good for all children.

REALITY: It is recognized that training in divergent thinking skills is good for all children. However, the rate and depth of exploration is different for the gifted with emphasis on higher level thinking skills. (analysis, synthesis and evaluation).


MYTH: Educators are aware of the needs of the gifted.

REALITY: Some surveys indicate that 57% of all school administrators surveyed, stated that there are NO GIFTED STUDENTS in their school system. Classroom teachers, when describing the ideal pupil, list as least desirable those characteristics which would describe a creative child.


MYTH: Teachers are being adequately trained to teach the gifted.

REALITY: This is not true, as only a handful of the universities across Canada offer courses in teaching the gifted. Training in this area of exceptionality is hard to get. The whole concept of "giftedness" conjures up uncomfortable feelings of elitism within the general population. The field of education is no exception. These uninformed negative feelings, opinions and beliefs, often inhibit the services desperately needed by our gifted population, especially our gifted children.


Some of the common myths and stereotypes associated with our gifted population include:

MYTH: Gifted persons are non-athletic, weak and often wear thick glasses.

REALITY: Physically, gifted individuals have no unusual features that set them apart from others.


MYTH: Gifted individuals are gifted in all areas.

REALITY: All gifted individuals have varying strengths and weaknesses. Few are gifted in all areas.


MYTH: Gifted children are high achievers and enthusiastic about school.

REALITY: Gifted children can become frustrated, bored and turned off when they are not academically challenged.


MYTH: Gifted children will achieve no matter what, because they are self motivated learners.

REALITY: Gifted children need a differentiated educational approach if they are to develop their potential. 


- from the Resource Document, BEING GIFTED: THE GIFT; Video Study Kit, CEC, 1990.1