"Square peg in a round hole" is an idiomatic expression which describes the unusual individualist who could not fit into a niche of his or her society.
1 Wallace, Irving. (1957) The Square Pegs: Some Americans Who Dared to be Different, p. 10.
I don’t usually quote Wikipedia because it is not considered a scholarly, reliable source but I like the comment listed there about the title of this blog post. When I think of gifted learners who have great strengths in some areas and vast weaknesses in others, the image of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole is what comes to mind.
One of the common misconceptions, or myths, about gifted learners is that they are presumed to be advanced in all realms of academics and life; that if they are gifted in math or writing, they also are advanced in science, social skills, and decision-making, for example. Often, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Asynchronous development is very common in gifted learners and something many adults are unaware of. The adults have the problem, not the gifted learner, because the adult can’t figure out why a ten-year-old gifted learner who can write a beautiful piece of poetry cannot keep their desk clear so they can find their jump drive.
Many gifted learners display uneven development across developmental domains such as cognitive, physical, social and emotional. This often manifests itself in behaviors such as being able to do advanced math problems but whining and throwing a temper tantrum because they want ice cream for dessert rather than fruit salad.
At home a child with asynchronous development may be a joy and perplexing at the same time. Some parents say they love their child but “never know which one is going to show up” at any given moment. They tell me that sometimes the gifted child is present and talking excitedly about the new computer they programmed, and other times the twelve year old walks into the room and argues with her six-year-old sister about walking the dog.
At school a child with asynchronous development may lead the class in a discussion about the quest to Mars when reading a story about the International Space Station one moment and the next be absorbed in climbing the jungle gym at recess like her fellow first graders.
There is no question that gifted learners have very unique needs and gifts. The adults who know and work with these students need to learn about how to best meet their needs to help them grow and develop to their fullest potential. That may mean reading and learning for the adults. Below are a few resources about asynchronous development as a place to start. Embrace these students and let them teach you while you teach them.
Many Ages at Once, Lisa Rivero, Psychology Today, 1/24/12
Asynchronous Development, NAGC
Giftedness as Asynchronous Development, Stephanie Tolan, 2007
Asynchronous Development, Jean Goerss, SENG Update, 2005
Life in the Asynchronous Family, Kathi Kearney 1992