Gifted News

If a child is gifted she will be a model student.

Based on my experience as a SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator and the mother of two gifted children, the above statement may be true, but not always. And, in fact, not necessarily all that often.

Gifted children thrive when learning conditions are well suited to their needs. A supportive environment, deep understanding of a child’s strengths and weaknesses, a compacted and differentiated curriculum, and advanced materials are necessities that allow talented students to thrive. Yes, the same conditions are good for all students, but are critical to the success of advanced learners. Without it, talented children languish, underperform, or worse. And when that happens, the behavior they exhibit in the classroom may be far from perfect.

Consider as well that children do not learn with the same level of skill in all subject areas. Asynchrony is found in most students. For example, math may come easily to the same child who reads below grade level. Advanced learners often experience extreme asynchrony, perhaps exhibiting a firm grasp of advanced science concepts while producing disappointing written work. In a move Jim Webb calls “one label per child,” this student might be labeled “disabled” rather than “gifted.” Just imaging the effect of such a move on some of our brightest students. More accurate would be the “double label” of “twice-exceptional,” or 2E,” which can be used to designate, for instance, an advanced learner with a learning disability. 

Read more: Not Necessarily Perfect

 

Many of us have been led to believe that giftedness is a simple issue, easily substantiated through standardized test scores and academic evaluation. We are assured that teachers, school administrators, and education experts know who is gifted, and will identify such children early in their school careers—and without prompting.

 

However, many qualities of a gifted child are difficult to articulate. Tests and academic performance do not paint the whole picture. Many tests are culturally insensitive, biased against socially and economically disadvantaged children, and thus may not be true indicators of exceptional intellect. Furthermore, some gifted children are simply poor test takers. Giftedness also can come with learning issues that interfere with the verifiable expression of ability. And lastly, some children underachieve, and as a result, are denied access to testing, and forever go unidentified.

 

The fact is, giftedness is not easily distinguishable. Experts know that gifted children are neurologically atypical. Quirky, in fact. But gifted children may be brilliant in certain areas, or average and even inadequate in others. Some may have exceptional skills typically not demonstrated in school. They may feel discouraged, and so misunderstood that daily performance is significantly diminished. 

  

Read more: Giftedness More Than a Test Score

A child learns the alphabet quickly and easily, absorbs numbers with little or no repetition, or uses atypical, advanced vocabulary early. These precocious qualities can emerge rapidly, causing parents to feel bewildered by their complexity, and sometimes uneasy about how to appropriately challenge such children. They also frequently face inappropriate disapproval from others who think they are “forcing” their children to overachieve, or “coaching” them to make other children look less intelligent. Yet, the traits and skills these children are displaying represent the natural unfolding of a superior intellect at an early age, something that requires much support and attention.

 

Many gifted children start life with an extraordinary level of alertness, an unusually long attention span, advanced language development, and early motor skills. The day comes when a child has taught himself to read, counts without knowing how she learned, or paints a scene of undeniable beauty and truth. While these characteristics can be charming, they are clear signs of advanced intelligence and indicate an urgent need to support a child’s emerging gifts. 

 

Yet, many parents are disciplined to be modest and unassuming, and they find that raising issues related their children’s advanced abilities gets us into a quandary. Parents may be told school does not have resources to address, identify, or acknowledge giftedness until years after the early signs appear. Or that their children will do “just fine” without intervention.

 

Read more: Young and Gifted

 

Parents of children who are gifted or “twice-exceptional”—that is, gifted and dealing with learning, emotional, behavioral, or social challenges—often find themselves feeling isolated. That’s because children who are bright, intense, complex, and often very sensitive pose a dichotomy for parents, who aim to be understanding and supportive.

 

You may wonder why your child, who scores high on standardized, academic tests is doing average-level work. Or find it very difficult to keep your child academically challenged. Your child may have very strong feelings and opinions, be a perfectionist, or struggle socially. These and many other scenarios are daily challenges that stress our ability to help, stretch our resources, and make us wonder, “Is there a better way?”

 

You may already be familiar with SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted), a national organization that aims to “empower families and communities to guide gifted and talented individuals to reach their goals: intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.” The SENG website features articles and access to webinars that can offer much support to a concerned parent. 

 

SENG also sponsors SENG Model Parent Support Groups, at which parents of gifted children can come together to discuss topics of interest and concern. Sessions are organized around A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children by James T. Webb, Janet L. Gore, Edward R. Amend, and Arlene R. DeVries.

 

Read more: Introducing SENG

 

The good news: It’s Gifted Education Week in Wisconsin, something both Governor Scott Walker and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers have duly noted in public proclamations.

Walker’s observes that the state and the Wisconsin Association of Talented and Gifted (WATG) “recognize and acknowledge the need to increase awareness of the unique requirements of gifted and talented individuals. . .” Evers emphasizes the importance of recognizing, valuing, and developing “youth with gifts and talents in academics, creativity, leadership and the visual and performing arts. . .”

The bad news: According to the National Association of Gifted Children, the state of Wisconsin provides only $237,200 in annual funding for gifted education, the equivalent of 27 cents per student. To be sure, that’s a bit better than in Illinois or Michigan, where state funding is nonexistent. But Wisconsin’s spending lags far behind that of neighboring Iowa, where state spending per pupil comes to $73.44, or Minnesota, at $13.79. 

Deb Kucek, president of the Wisconsin Association of Gifted Children, said this week that she was hopeful that “there will be some action to go along with the words” in Walker’s and Evers’s proclamations. The kind of action she envisions, she said, includes “adequate funding to provide programs and professional development that address the unique needs of gifted and talented individuals.”

 

Priscilla Pardini is WCATY’s communications coordinator and editor of Curious Minds.

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