Music & Students with Special Needs (Special Learners in Music) Special Learners in Music
Bartlett - Established 1884 in New York City


Identifying The Gifted 

Einstein was four years old before he could speak and seven before he could read.

Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school.

When Thomas Edison was a boy, his teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything.

F.W.Woolworth got a job in a dry goods store when he was 21. But his employers would not let him wait on a customer because he "Didn't have enough sense."

A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had "No good ideas"

Caruso's music teacher told him "You can't sing, you have no voice at all."

Leo Tolstoy flunked out of college.

Verner Von Braun flunked 9th grade algebra.

Admiral Richard E. Byrd had been retired from the navy, as, "Unfit for service" Until he flew over both poles.

Louis Pasteur was rated as mediocre in chemistry when he attended the Royal College

Abraham Lincoln entered The Black Hawk War as a captain and came out a private

Fred Waring was once rejected from high school chorus.

Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade.

“Nothing is so unequal as the equal treatment of unequal people.” - Thomas Jefferson

"The most extraordinary thing about a really good teacher is that he or she transcends accepted educational methods. Such methods are designed to help average teachers approximate the performance of good teachers." – Margaret Mead

"Education would be much more effective if its purpose was to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it." – William Haley

"If I ran a school, I'd give the average grade to the ones who gave me all the right answers, for being good parrots. I'd give the top grades to those who made a lot of mistakes and told me about them, and then told me what they learned from them." – R. Buckminster Fuller

"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." – John Cotton Dana

Recognizing the Characteristics of Gifted Children

ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children (1985) cites three types of characteristics of gifted children: general behavioral, learning, and creative characteristics. 

Who are the Gifted? 

Gifted children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society.

"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." The Columbus Group, 1991, cited by Martha Morelock, "Giftedness: The View from Within", in Understanding Our Gifted, January 1992

Myths about giftedness

Curriculum Modifications

"1. Gifted learners must be given stimulating educational experiences appropriate to their level of ability if they are to realize their potential.

2. Each person has the right to learn and to be provided challenges for learning at the most appropriate level where growth proceeds most effectively."

National Association for Gifted Children, "Why Should Gifted Education Be Supported?" NAGC


The compacting procedure is simple: Determine what the students already know and what they still need to learn, and replace it with more challenging material that they would like to learn (Starko, 1986). Generally, two basic principles are recommended when compacting. First, grades should be based on the material compacted (what the student has mastered), rather than the replacement material. Students may be reluctant to tackle more challenging material if they risk receiving lower grades that may reduce their chances for academic scholarships. This is not to say that replacement activities should not be evaluated. Second, replacement material should be based on student interests. Since replacement material will require greater student effort, the task commitment and responsibility necessary to work independently (which is often, but not always, the learning situation) mandate that the student have a vested interest in the content.

IEPS for students who are gifted
Center for Gifted Education College of William and Mary
Individual Instruction Plan Menu for the Gifted Child

 Recommendations are intended for consideration by those who know the child well and can make informed decisions about the relevance and practical application of a recommendation to an individual child's aptitude, interest, and needs.

Effective Teachers of the Gifted

Based on questionnaire data and needing more thorough research, effective teachers of the gifted have the following characteristics: 

  • High degree of intelligence, intellectual honesty
  • Expertise in a specific intellectual or talent area (mathematics, writing, etc.)
  • Self-directed in own learning , with a love for new, advanced knowledge,
  • Equanimity, level-headedness, emotional stability
  • A genuine interest in, liking of gifted learners
  • Recognition of the importance of intellectual development
  • Strong belief in individual differences and individualization
  • Highly developed teaching skill and knowledge

Student responses suggest effective teachers of the gifted need to:

  • Be patient
  • Have a sense of humour
  • Move quickly through material
  • Treat each student as an individual
  • Avoid being a "sage on the stage" all the time
  • Consistently give "accurate" feedback

Tips for teachers -

Tip #1: Familiarize Yourself with the Characteristics of Intellectually Gifted Students [more]

Tip #2: Let Go of " Normal" [more]

Tip #3: Conduct Informal Assessments [more]

Tip #4: Re-Familiarize Yourself with Piaget & Bloom [more]

Tip #5: Involve Parents as Resource Locators [more]

Tip #6: Learn About Distance Learning Opportunities [more]

Tip #7: Explore Acceleration ~ It's Free and It Works! [more]

Tip #8: Learning from the Experiences of Others [more]

Tip #9: Utilize Outside Resources [more]

Permission Statement
© 2003 Davidson Institute for Talent Development
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit operating foundation, which nurtures and supports profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents and to make a positive difference. For more information, please visit, or call (775) 852-3483.

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