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Education for the Gifted Child

Published January 08, 2008        by Kim

The challenge of educating a bright child is substantial. Parents understandably turn to schools for help with their children's education. Unfortunately, most schools are not prepared to work with either the observable or latent potential of gifted children. My serious concern is that gifted children have been ignored and neglected by the trends toward equality for all children that are currently prevalent in education. The "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001 provides no incentive for schools to attend to the growth of students once they attain proficiency. Because educators have not developed programs for the gifted, we are falling behind as a nation in many areas. The United States no longer has the finest scientists, technological wizards, entrepreneurial managers, or artists. I am sure America can do much better.

As an advocate for gifted children, I have spoken with countless principals, directors of admissions, and teachers who are tired of hearing every parent claim that his or her child is gifted. They seem annoyed or bored or indifferent to the problem of gifted children and their families. Their ignorance or indifference makes the problem of raising a gifted child even more difficult and puzzling. I conclude that the majority of educators don't want to deal with the extra problems that are created by gifted children. I can see that very few public schools have made real accommodations for the gifted child. Private schools who work with gifted children can also fall short because they fail to take into account the emotional and social needs of extremely bright children. And unfortunately, both private and public schools ignore the creative aspects of giftedness.

Parents of gifted children are stressed further because they are often isolated from the normal interactions between parents and teachers, which serve to provide direction, insight, and support about how to parent. Angela, a highly gifted mother and stellar financial manager in my parenting group, echoes my feeling about the alienation of the parent of a gifted child. Angela says "Work with the teachers to help them understand your child. Don't complain to other parents that you have special challenges because your child is gifted. Other parents will not appreciate this information and they actually may use it against you and your children by making you feel strange and outcast."

Janice, the law professor, states "The hardest thing about being the parent of a gifted child is relative isolation-their problems and mine seem so different from those of other children and parents. As a consequence it is hard to find understanding and guidance from other parents and even from many professionals. It is also easy to feel as if either my child is abnormal [defective] or I am an abnormal [defective] mother."

Developing Your Gifted Child's Potential

As a parent, your reaction to having a gifted child and your plan of action going forward is the most crucial part of the child's educational, social, and emotional development. The lack of educational support for parents of gifted children, coupled with the general misunderstanding about what it means to be gifted, leaves you out in the cold making decisions about what to do to help your child grow up and flourish. You want your gifted children to be properly educated, in touch with their passions, and able to interact with others comfortably. Without any kind of meaningful support, this parenting task is quite hard to accomplish. You need to be involved, in ways more than just reading from the home book basket.

Indeed, parents of highly gifted children have very complicated reactions to the news that their child is in the 99th percentile. This tidbit of crucial, objective information can come from different sources. Indeed the information the IQ score provides is objective reactions to it are decidedly not. Most commonly the bombshell is dropped on the mother or father by a caring teacher, a trusted pediatrician, or a relative stranger such as a mental health professional. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts often come in contact with gifted children because the gifted tend to be extremely emotional and may be having behavioral problems at school or home.

Even those parents know intuitively that their child is gifted; they have very distinctive reaction patterns when facing their unique situation and challenges head on.

From my experience evaluating hundreds of children, three types of very different parental reaction patterns are common:

1. Parents who are overly enthusiastic-just plain delighted to be told that there is giftedness in the family. This provides them with a new status symbol, another accessory to indicate their brilliance and power

2. The family who is living in denial and chooses to ignore the unwanted information that their child is gifted. For this family, other overriding family issues or values shove the issue of giftedness to the back burner.

3. The most adaptive reaction is the concerned parent who is able to realize that he or she has been given a huge responsibility. Concerned parents want to do the best job of being parents within the limits of their abilities. You already know that I wholeheartedly recommend the third approach.