‘When some things are easy and other things are difficult, the kids end up feeling confused, they may see themselves as dumb and may become disruptive in class.’ – Janelle Wills.

Research conducted by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has found that the exceptional talents of gifted children are not being identified, particularly when the students also experience minor learning difficulties.


PhD student researcher, Janelle Wills, said gifted children with learning disabilities often ‘fly under the academic radar’ and may succumb to behavioural problems and low self-esteem.

‘It’s a paradox, these kids are exceptionally intelligent but find it difficult to do some academic tasks,’ Ms Wills said.

‘For example, I worked with a nine-year-old boy who had difficulty spelling, but could explain complex science concepts in detail.

‘Some kids don’t fit the usual learning profiles. In normal conversation, they can explain complex subjects, often showing great creative and abstract thinking, but they find tasks like reading difficult, so teachers can sometimes think they are lazy.

‘When some things are easy and other things are difficult, the kids end up feeling confused, they may see themselves as dumb and may become disruptive in class.’

Ms Wills, a former learning support teacher, said she was about to embark on a two-year study of gifted kids who have reading disabilities.

‘Through history, there have been brilliant people who had learning difficulties, Einstein had a learning difficulty for example,’ she said.

‘It affects children’s belief in their abilities. They may get bored and frustrated in school and tend to be self-critical.

‘They may avoid tasks at school, which further impacts on their studies, creating a downward spiral.’
Ms Wills said having a learning disability can affect the life choices of gifted children.

‘My study will track how a child’s perception of their intelligence affects their academic and daily life.’

Contact Rachael Wilson tel (07) 3138 4494 or email rachael.wilson@qut.edu.au