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Raising a prodigy: How to accelerate the gifted child

In a recent New York Times Article, Andrew Soloman asks, "How Do You Raise a Prodigy?" Soloman has been exploring the prodigiously gifted for years, KJ Dell'Antonia reported at Motherlode. "He emerged with a vision of parents who are bemused, stunned and even a bit battle-scarred, and children who, for the most part, cannot imagine being other than what they are: mostly musical geniuses, with parents seeming caught up in their wakes," Dell'Antonia said.

Soloman wrote about the difficulties of parenting a child who doesn't fit in well anywhere. “Genius can be as bewildering and hazardous as a disability,” he wrote. “If you dream of having a genius for a child, you will spot brilliance in your child, sometimes even when it isn’t there. Such children, despite being the subjects of obsessive attention, can suffer from not being seen; their sorrow is organized not so much around the rigor of practicing as around invisibility.”

Most schools cannot handle the needs of gifted children, so acceleration is a prime means of giving the prodigiously gifted the intellectual stimulation they need, a 2004 report by the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration found, according to A Nation Deceived.

Acceleration, however, may be harmful, the New York Times reported.

"That whole child, a child who skipped happily along through elementary school, becomes profoundly and heartbreakingly vulnerable in adolescence," the New York Times reported. "Between the onslaught of hormones and rapid physical growth, middle school is an emotional and physical gauntlet. These challenges are difficult enough to navigate for the age-appropriate middle-school students, but when students are forced into middle school before they are ready to handle the challenges, it’s a miserable experience."

Many gifted children are being "hot housed" in a way that may be detrimental to their happiness, The Telegraph reports, referring to a discussion with professor Joan Freeman, a British psychologist who has studied gifted people since the 1970s. "Child geniuses are not particularly likely to realize their potential when they enter adulthood," The Telegraph said. "Gifted children often grow tired of the pressure."

Freeman conducted a study of 210 gifted children, finding that only six achieved their potential. "Her conclusion was that gifted children should be allowed to pursue their talents in a less pressurised environment. Ultra aggressive hot-housing, in short, is often a bad idea," The Telegraph reported.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at or visit