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Is My Child Gifted? 2017-10-12T18:48:42+00:00

​What Does Giftedness Look Like?

The young gifted child may appear to be many ages at once. He may be eight (his chronological age) when riding a bicycle, twelve when playing chess, fifteen when studying algebra, ten when collecting fossils and two when asked to share his chocolate chip cookie with his sister. This variability in behavior and perception is difficult for parents and schools to handle and difficult for the child as well. It is hard to “fit in” consistently when so much of the child’s environment is structured by chronological age, an age which may be for the gifted child the least relevant aspect of his development.

Stephanie S. Tolan, “Giftedness As Asynchronous Development”, Tip Network News

Gifted or High Achieving?

Is my child a gifted learner?

A Gifted Learner…

Poses unforeseen questions.
Is curious.
Is selectively mentally engaged.
Generates complex, abstract ideas.
Knows without working hard.
Ponders with depth and multiple perspectives.
Is beyond the group.
Exhibits feelings and opinions from multiple perspectives.
Already knows.
Needs 1 to 3 repetitions to master.
Comprehends in-depth, complex ideas.
Prefers the company of intellectual peers.
Creates complex, abstract humor.
Infers and connects concepts.
Initiates projects and extensions of assignments.
Is intense.
Is original and continually developing.
Enjoys self-directed learning.
Manipulates information.
Is an expert who abstracts beyond the field.
​Guesses and infers well.
Anticipates and relates observations.
Is self-critical.
May not be motivated by grades.
Is intellectual.

* Not all gifted learners exhibit all of the above traits.

Is my child a high achiever?

A High Achiever…

Remembers the answers.
Is interested.
Is attentive.
Generates advanced ideas.
Works hard to achieve.
Answers the questions in detail.
​Performs at the top of the group.
Responds with interest and opinions.
​Learns with ease.
Needs 6 to 8 repetitions to master.
Comprehends at a high level.
Enjoys the company of age peers.
Understands complex, abstract humor.
Grasps the meaning.
Completes assignments on time.
​Is receptive.
Is accurate and complete.
Enjoys school often.
Absorbs information.
Is a technician with expertise in a field.
Memorizes well.
Is highly alert and observant.
Is pleased with own learning.
Gets A’s.
Is able.

Dispelling the myths around gifted education

How often have you heard, “Gifted students will do fine on their own”? This is just one of the many myths that become barriers to properly educating millions of high-potential students. The following is a list of the most prevalent myths in gifted education, accompanied by evidence rebutting each of them.  (National Association for Gifted Children)

Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach? Gifted students need guidance from well-trained teachers who challenge and support them in order to fully develop their abilities. Many gifted students may be so far ahead of their same-age peers that they know more than half of the grade-level curriculum before the school year begins. Their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits. The role of the teacher is crucial for spotting and nurturing talents in school.

Although teachers try to challenge all students, they are frequently unfamiliar with the needs of gifted children and do not know how to best serve them in the classroom. A national study conducted by the Fordham Institute found that 58 percent of teachers have received no professional development focused on teaching academically advanced students in the past few years. What’s more, 73 percent of teachers agreed with this statement: “Too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school—we’re not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive.” This report confirms what many families have known: Not all teachers are able to recognize and support gifted learners.

Average or below-average students do not look to the gifted students in the class as role models. Watching or relying on someone who is expected to succeed does little to increase a struggling student’s sense of self-confidence. Similarly, gifted students benefit from classroom interactions with peers at similar performance levels and become bored, frustrated, and unmotivated when placed in classrooms with low or average-ability students.

It is certainly true that all children have strengths and positive attributes, but not all children are gifted in the educational sense of the word. The label “gifted” in a school setting means that, when compared to others his or her age or grade, a child has an advanced capacity to learn and apply what is learned in one or more subject areas or the performing or fine arts. This advanced capacity requires modifications to the regular curriculum to ensure that these children are challenged and learn new material. Gifted does not connote good or better; it is a term that allows students to be identified for services that meet their unique learning needs.
Academically gifted students often feel bored or out of place with their age peers and naturally gravitate towards older students who are more similar as “intellectual peers.” Studies have shown that many students are happier with older students who share their interests than they are with children their own age. Acceleration placement options such as early entrance to kindergarten, grade skipping, or early exit should be considered for these students.
Gifted education programs are meant to help all high-ability students. Gifted learners are found in all cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups. However, many of these students are denied the opportunity to maximize their potential because of the ways in which programs and services are funded, and/or flawed identification practices. For example, reliance on a single test score for gifted education services may exclude the selection of students with different cultural experiences and opportunities. Additionally, with no federal money and few states providing an adequate funding stream, most gifted education programs and services are dependent solely on local funds and parent demand. This means that, in spite of the need, higher-income school districts are often the only ones able to provide services—giving the appearance of elitism.

Underachievement describes a discrepancy between a student’s performance and his actual ability. The roots of this problem differ based on each child’s experiences. Gifted students may become bored or frustrated in an unchallenging classroom situation, causing them to lose interest, learn bad study habits, or distrust the school environment. Other students may mask their abilities to try to fit in socially with their same-age peers; still others may have a learning disability that masks their giftedness. No matter the cause, it is imperative that a caring and perceptive adult help gifted learners break the cycle of underachievement in order to achieve their full potential.

Many gifted students flourish in their communities and school environments. However, some gifted children differ in terms of their emotional and moral intensity, sensitivity to expectations and feelings, perfectionism, and deep concerns about societal problems. Others do not share interests with their classmates, resulting in isolation or being labeled unfavorably as “nerds.” Because of these difficulties, the school experience is one to be endured rather than celebrated.

Some gifted students also have learning or other disabilities. These “twice-exceptional” students often go undetected in regular classrooms because their disability and gifts mask each other, making them appear “average.” Other twice-exceptional students are identified as having a learning disability and, as a result, are not considered for gifted services. In both cases, it is important to focus on the students’ abilities and allow them access to challenging curricula in addition to receiving help for their learning disabilities.

While AP classes offer rigorous, advanced coursework, they do not constitute a gifted education program. The AP program is designed as college-level classes taught by high school teachers for students willing to work hard. The program is deficient in its service to gifted and talented students in two major areas: First, AP is limited by the subjects offered, which is only a small handful in most districts. Second, it is limited in that, typically, it is offered only in high school and is generally available only for eleventh- and twelfth-grade students. The College Board acknowledges that AP courses are for any student who is academically prepared and motivated to take a college-level course.

Offering gifted education services need not break the bank. A fully developed gifted education program can look overwhelming in its scope and complexity. However, beginning a program requires little more than an acknowledgement by district and community personnel that gifted students need something different: a commitment to provide appropriate curriculum and instruction, as well as teacher training in identification and gifted education strategies.