Students with special needs are often stereotyped as having impairments or disabilities that set them apart from others, but the term ‘special needs’ has a more expansive and inclusive definition in most parts of Canada. It also includes students who are considered “exceptional” and progress at a different rhythm.

Exceptional or gifted students exhibit high aptitudes and skills leading to remarkable achievement. This achievement can manifest itself in intellectual, academic, social, athletic or artistic fields, or in outstanding leadership skills. These students require additional activities or resources not customarily provided by schools in order to fully develop their capabilities.

There are numerous misconceptions about gifted students based on stereotypes and generalizations. Here are the five most popular myths:

Myth 1: Exceptional students will always be smart and don't require guidance.
Gifted children need even more support. Since they are ahead of their classmates, boredom and unhealthy habits may ensue. They also need to be challenged in order to live up to their potential. Though they may have inherited certain traits like intelligence or talent, these need to be cultivated and nurtured throughout life.

Myth 2: Gifted children and gifted programs are elitist.
Gifted children don’t only come from white, upper class families of privilege. Many come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, cultures and socioeconomic groups. This illusion of elitism is also compounded by the fact that there is no federal funding and most gifted education programs depend on local funds or parent demand. As a result, the majority of schools that provide these services tend to be from higher economic backgrounds.

Myth 3: All gifted children get high grades, are good at everything and will succeed in life.
This is not necessarily true. Since exceptional students may get bored if they’re not being challenged in class, they may lose interest and not perform to their potential. They may also underachieve or deliberately misbehave in order to fit in with their same-aged classmates. Some highly intelligent students may event drop out of school.

Myth 4: Early entrance and grade skipping are harmful for gifted students.
Some believe it is unhealthy for children to regularly interact with older students because it may lead to social issues, yet many exceptional students are disinterested with their same-aged classmates and feel they don’t fit in. They are happier with and naturally drawn to older students. They not only share the same intellectual capacities but often the same interests as well.

Myth 5: Children with learning difficulties cannot be gifted.
It should be noted that exceptional students may also exhibit behavioural problems as well as learning, developmental or physical disabilities. These issues may range from mild to severe. Such students are referred to as “twice exceptional” or “double labelled.”

Though gifted students are blessed with talents, they also have special needs. Teachers educate and inspire to the best of their ability, but it would not be feasible to expect them to cater to each student individually. Parents will need to do proper research and find the best matches and strategies to meet their exceptional child’s educational needs.