Understanding Asynchronous Development in Gifted Children

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What is Asynchronous Development?

Children learn and acquire various skills and abilities based on developmental milestones. For example, in social and emotional development, babies and toddlers usually play by themselves or alongside other children. On the other hand, four to six year olds are starting to play with other children. Intellectually, five year olds may recognize letters, but most are only beginning to learn how to read. And, most six year olds are able to read up to a certain level.

Most children reach these developmental milestones at approximately the right time. They exhibit age-appropriate development socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually.

Asynchronous development then refers to the varying degrees and levels of development that children have in different developmental areas.

Gifted children are known to show asynchronous development. That is, they often develop various areas in their life at different rates. So, their development is “out of sync”. For example, a three year old may show literacy and numeracy skills that are equivalent to a six year old, develop physically like a four year old, and exhibit emotional and social behaviors that are typical of a three year old, which is his or her chronological age.

This asynchronous development may prove to be a challenge to manage for the child, as well as his or her teachers, parents, and other caregivers.

The Importance of Understanding Asynchronous Development

Since most gifted children exhibit asynchronous development, it is vital for parents, teachers, and caregivers to understand this state. Understanding where a child is at in their various areas of development can be very helpful in managing behaviors, expectations, and educational plans.

Let’s take the case of a five year old child who is 3 to 4 years ahead intellectually. While this child may be able to read at a 3rd grade level and do math at a 2nd grade level, he or she may still need the emotional and social support that is required for a four year old. Or perhaps, he or she may still be developing his/her gross and fine motor skills at a kindergarten level (his or her chronological age). Knowing the appropriate developmental levels of this child will enable people around them to come up with the right strategies and approach to support his or her growth as an individual.

Tips for Teachers and Parents

1. Learn to detect or diagnose gifted children’s asynchronous development in various areas. Knowing where the child’s level is at in the major areas (physical, social, emotional, mental, etc.) will help to address the right issues at the right time. Such knowledge will help in developing the gifted child’s individualized education plans.

2. Allow gifted children to grow and to develop based on their appropriate developmental levels. An academically advanced six year old, for example, will not be completely satisfied if he or she is merely given 1st grade school work. But, at the same time, it will not be fair to expect this six year old who’s advanced 3 or 4 years in his or her literacy and numeracy skills, to behave like a 9 or 10 year old.

  1. Be creative in managing gifted children’s asynchronous development. Realize that the child’s needs may not be met from just a limited source or in a certain kind of way. Parents and teachers need to be aware of different ways to come up with ideas and education plans that will address needs creatively. For example, a child may need to practice handwriting and fine motor skills in order to catch up with his or her intellectual abilities. Try to think of different ways you can help this child to do this without “pushing” too much. Activities like play, cooking, music, and the like may be good to incorporate into his or her developmental program.

4. Seek the help of professionals when necessary. Teaching and raising gifted children can be both a pleasure and a challenge. But, you don’t have to do it by yourself. If you need guidance in managing a child’s asynchronous development, talk to the appropriate professionals about it. Some people you might need to consult include, occupational therapists, educational psychologists, counselors, and speech therapists, among others.

It is very important that all parties involved in a gifted child’s life, especially having these characteristics, come together as a team to create the best learning environment possible.


  • Author’s own experience.