What do I do if I think my child is gifted?
If you suspect your child is gifted you will want to pursue testing. Although school districts are required to offer testing to students residing in the district (regardless of school setting e.g., public, independent, parochial, home) when a learning difference is suspected, they are not obligated to offer IQ or above level testing when giftedness is suspected. Generally, a psychologist will be able to perform the testing your child will need. It is crucial to find someone experienced with gifted children. Word of mouth within the gifted community is often the best source of information for local and regional recommendations.
How to best educate a gifted child and meet his unique needs?
As with all things, it depends on the individual child, learning style, resources, and level of giftedness. The gifted child needs to work at a level that is challenging. Gifted children are notoriously asynchronous, they may lag behind in one area and yet require placement several grades above their chronological grade in another area. It is important for the child not to become bored and complacent. Given the spiraling nature of our current curricula, many gifted children “tune out” after the first go through, sometimes making excellent grades, sometimes being labeled “behavior problems.” Without consistent challenge, the danger is that they may never learn to effectively grapple with challenging material, leaving them woefully unprepared to successfully navigate it once it arrives, and resulting in underachievement.
Some schools address giftedness more effectively than others. Parents of children who test well above the norm are likely to need to provide some accommodation at home. Many parents of gifted children “afterschool,” meaning they offer additional learning opportunities at home. Children may work with a parent or tutor at an advanced level in an area of interest, they may attend a camp or “super Saturday” program with other gifted children or may pursue self-directed study.
Emotional development of the gifted child is often overlooked. Gifted children often have not just more intellectual ability, but more everything- sensitivity, quirks, etc…. Most have a strong justice orientation and can become consumed with issues of fairness and equality. They can feel defeated by their inability to solve the world’s problems…now! They can become overwhelmed by frustration due to perfectionist tendencies. It is important to remember that despite their academic prowess, gifted children are indeed children and need time for play, guidance regarding daily life and social interaction, and lots of love and support.
Molly A. Isaacs-McLeod is a co-founder of Parents of Gifted Students, Inc., a support and resource group for families of gifted children (POGS on Facebook). She is a SENG Model Parent Group facilitator. Ms. Isaacs-McLeod is an attorney and provides advocacy and mediation services working with families and schools to develop plans of action to accommodate gifted students. She homeschools her gifted sons.
Helpful Resources for Raising and Education Your Gifted Child