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Exceptionally Able

Exceptionally able students are likely to show some of the following characteristics: have acute powers of observation; learn to read early (often prior to attending school); read rapidly and widely; have a well-developed vocabulary; possess intellectual curiosity; absorb information rapidly (often described as sponge-like); have a very good memory; display an ability to concentrate deeply for long periods; have very good powers of reasoning and problem solving; have intense interests; and possess exceptional imaginative powers. Students may have a great interest in ‘big questions’, such as the nature of the universe and environmental issues. Students may be very sensitive, easily upset and demonstrate a strong sense of fairness.

As regular schoolwork may not be sufficiently challenging, students may describe experiencing boredom and frustration in school. Prolonged boredom in school may lead to underachievement as the student finds new ways to absorb him/herself (e.g. by daydreaming, scribbling, etc). If this goes unchallenged for long periods, the habit of concentrating on schoolwork may be diminished and can require an effort to ‘relearn’.

Underachievement may also be related to perfectionism, where students are so afraid that their work won’t measure up to their own high standards that they avoid doing it, fearing the outcome. Some students may experience low self-esteem, stemming from a perception that they cannot live up to the expectations of parents and teachers. Also, in the pre-teen and teenage years, underachievement may be an attempt to conform and blend in with their peers.