Guiding a Gifted and Talented Child
What are the implications if your child has been designated as "gifted"? What, if anything, should be done about it? Or what if your child is not among those quantified as "gifted"?
Let's consider this common situation: Your school system conducted routine IQ and achievement tests early in the primary years. Your child made the cut to be called "gifted." Now you may face one or more of the following options (and this isn't an exhaustive list):
- Placement in a regular classroom track with in-school or out-of-school enrichment activities, or both
- Placement in a special track for the gifted, housed in one of the district schools, which might not be the one in your neighborhood
- Placement in a pull-out gifted program for a period of the day
- Enrollment in one or more university courses for part of the regular school day, weekends, or summers
- Attendance at a residential school for the gifted or an academically competitive private school, day, or residential
In the 1970s, the United States Office of Education provided a loose definition of "high performance capability" in broad areas including intellectual, creative, performing arts, etc., and deemed such "gifted" children entitled to unspecified special services. It is not easy to select the best educational plan for your gifted child because there is no universally correct choice. You will need to learn all you can about the available opportunities and also about your child's temperament and talents. Ask:
- What kind of training do your district's regular classroom teachers have in modifying or augmenting curriculum for gifted students? Is there pre-service and/or in-service education of teachers in individualizing learning?
- How socially disruptive would it be to move your child to a non-neighborhood school? If the gifted classes happen to be held in your school, that might make the choice simpler.
- How high is your child's score? Is it ranked among the highly gifted? Some experts suggest that such rare children are more likely to do better in special classes for at least part of the day.
Teachers and parents must be open-minded, flexible, and tuned into children's individual needs. Consider what philosophy is championed in your district before deciding the optimal placement for your gifted child. Unfortunately, the majority of districts do not provide teacher training or offer regular classroom placement with enrichment. If you want to advocate for your child and other gifted children, join with other like-minded parents and teachers.
Outside of school, help develop your child's talents and interests by offering inspiring opportunities: music; art; drama; sports; visits to libraries, museums, and cultural activities; travel; and dinner table and carpool chats in which your child's curiosity leads the way. The guiding standard is that activities be in line with her interests.
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