As a parent of a gifted child, you may have noticed that your son is a quick learner. You may have observed that he is more emotionally sensitive than some of his playmates. Your gifted daughter may find it easy to carry on a conversation with adults. She may get frustrated when things don’t go “just right.”
You have noticed these things and so decided to have your child tested at the local public school for their gifted program offerings. The results have arrived and your child has been accepted into the gifted program. Now what?
We at Gilbert Supporters of the Gifted understand that raising gifted children is an intense job for parents. As a basic back-to-school guide, we offer the following suggestions:
• Talk openly with your children about giftedness.
Explain that it is not based on grades or what they know, but rather their unique way of perceiving life’s experiences. Let them know that feeling different is OK.
Though they are “atypical” members of society, they are typical gifted children. Being gifted means that their thinking process approaches life from uncommon angles. This atypical approach impacts not only intellectual development, but social and emotional development as well.
• Look for local community support.
The Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented has chapters in the East Valley. These chapters have websites with helpful information ranging from resources for outside testing to resources for emotional support. Their members have walked the road you are on and have favorite books to recommend. Become involved and learn what resources are available in your community. You will find a list of the association’s chapters at arizonagifted.org/chapters/local-groups.aspx
• Understand the scores.
Different districts use different tests to determine eligibility for gifted services. Most of these tests are not IQ tests. Research to understand what your child’s scores mean.
There is a spectrum of giftedness -- gifted, highly gifted, profoundly gifted -- and understanding where your child is on the spectrum will help you determine your child’s needs and the types of services required for successful academic growth. You may want to consult gilbertgifted.org/advocacy.html#4 for “Interpreting the Numbers.”
• Understand local academic support.
Check your local school district’s curriculum offerings for the gifted. Specifically, ask if teachers at the elementary and secondary levels receive professional development training in gifted education or are gifted endorsed. Districts and schools vary on their type of service offerings, especially at the elementary level. At minimum, we encourage the request of a teacher who has had training in gifted education and is willing to differentiate lessons in the classroom for high ability learners.
• Create a file.
Files containing documentation of a child’s abilities are often helpful when requesting services. Besides test scores, include a record of developmental milestones -- first words, the age at which your child began reading, etc. Include samples of work that capture your child’s expression of complex ideas. Also include samples of anything that your child has difficulty with (writing, math, reading, handwriting, etc.). Many people believe that the gifted do not have academic struggles. That just isn’t true. Learners of every type will struggle to learn in their lives, the gifted struggle in “atypical” ways.
Raising gifted children is intense, hard work, yet seeing the results of them discovering their path in life is worth it. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. When raising a gifted child, or highly gifted child, this saying is also true, but it is often hard to identify the members of the village who truly understand the genuine needs of the gifted. Having such mentors and guides along the way will fuel the gifted child’s passion for learning as they explore the paths ahead of them.
Wherever my children’s paths take them, I want them to believe in themselves, to have the ability to fly high and touch their dreams, even if their path feels lonely at times, even if their angle of approach is “atypical” in society’s view.
Stephanie Newitt is president of Gilbert Supporters of the Gifted, a nonprofit organization for gifted children, their parents and educators.