There are many kinds of giftedness. One of the most common misconceptions about gifted individuals is that they will excel in all areas.
Some individuals who are highly academically gifted can be very average when it comes to creativity. The reverse is also true. Some of the most highly creative individuals have gaps in their ability to thrive in a primarily academic setting.
Dr. Mary Meeker, who was given the Torrance Creativity Award (a prestigious national award given to an educator of gifted children), was concerned about meeting the emotional needs of the gifted child. She wrote, “Since the gifted have a tendency toward acute sensitivity, with feelings of being different and lonely, their motivation is easily diminished or extinguished when they are locked into an environment at home or at school which is neither supportive nor accepting.”
To ensure that gifted students meet their full potential, they need to be acknowledged for their giftedness, assisted with any learning issues, and given an opportunity to express themselves in ways that are meaningful to them. SOI (the Structure of Intellect) – the brain child of Dr. Meeker – offers a way to assist the gifted by giving important feedback on areas of giftedness and by identifying and correcting learning problems.
The SOI-LA, is an assessment tool that measures abilities. It measures multiple intelligences with the intention of empowering a person to develop their full potential by first understanding their own strengths and weaknesses. SOI has a long history in the field of giftedness. Dr. Meeker, who created the SOI assessment based on the theory of J.P. Guilford, was herself very gifted. And misunderstood.
When she began testing students in the school system in California, she discovered an interesting fact about gifted students – that many of them have learning difficulties that are seldom addressed.
With or without learning problems, gifted students have to deal with high expectations – their own as well as the people around them. When these expectations are not met, they suffer emotional upheaval that is rarely resolved in a satisfactory way.
How is giftedness identified on the SOI-LA?
Mary Meeker identifies several different types of giftedness. There is the “traditional- type gifted.” These students excel semantically and in their ability to work with numbers. They do well on the typical IQ test and will often be the ‘A’ students academically.
Then there are the “atypical gifted” students. These students may have the kind of giftedness that would make them a great engineer – gifted with spatial, figural, and symbolic abilities but not so strong in the verbal, semantic areas. They may be brilliantly creative, yet struggle with certain aspects of academics.
As a broad spectrum assessment, SOI tests 27 different learning abilities. SOI testing is diagnostic; it gives a profile of the student’s intellectual abilities. That profile shows the areas in which the student is gifted, near-gifted, above average, average, below average etc. Most important, the profile tells you how you can improve the student’s abilities.
Mountains and Valleys
When a gifted student has major highs and lows in their cognitive development, we refer to the profile as having mountains and valleys. Sometimes, just filling in the valleys through brain exercise is all that’s required for the gifted student to find their learning situation easier.
The problem with developing abilities through ‘brain exercise’ alone is that the remediation is primarily an intellectual approach. This only works if the neurological pathways to the brain are already well-developed and working efficiently. If not, we have to develop the neurological pathways as well.
If a student has problems with concentration, focusing or persevering with new material, they need more. They need the expanded SOI program called IPP. This program develops neurological pathways, visual and auditory processing, and teaches a student to stay present and on-task even when high interest is missing. What profession does not require some balance between the less stimulating and the highly motivating?
Sometimes, a gifted student has hidden visual or auditory concerns that slow them down in certain types of learning. The brighter student often finds their own limitations unbearably frustrating. SOI/IPP can help. While the gifted student is filling in the valleys in their learning, they can be challenged in his or her gifted areas.
Gifted students undoubtedly benefit from understanding their own profile – where they excel and where they don’t and why. Parents and teachers obtain a far better perspective on what their students need. Furthermore, these students can benefit enormously from the SOI/IPP comprehensive approach to filling in any valleys while providing enrichment!
written by: Connie Grist, SOI Associate