First thought: my kid is gifted and talented! Like, actually super smart and inquisitive, creative and awesome! I so knew this!
Second thought: what do I do now?
And right before you PCS, you’ll have this third thought: what happens when we change states?
It’s going to be ok! But you do need to know a few things before you rush down the gifted and talented path.
1. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open.
Just because your child has been identified as gifted and talented doesn’t mean that school will automatically be easy-peasy. In fact, for many kids it’s exactly the opposite.
Many students can be bored in classrooms that don’t have material or projects at their ability levels. This can cause them to drift off, seek out other activities and seem like they are being a troublemaker or disrespectful.
Gifted qualities can also coexist with other academic concerns. Some students identified as GT are also on the ADHD and autism (ASD) spectrums. ADHD and ASD can mask a child’s innate gifts. Children diagnosed with ADHD and ASD of need non-gifted special education instruction or in classroom assistance to work through behavioral or other academic concerns.
Let’s be clear: having ADHD or ASD does not mean a child is NOT also GT. Many kids are both, or twice exceptional. And they should get services to meet their strengths and weaknesses.
Often, “smart” kids are bullied or picked on simply for being intelligent or quirky or a minority. If you suspect that this is happening, see number 5.
2. Don’t be afraid to speak up, in person.
If you have questions or would like something addressed, speak up sooner rather than later. Teachers try their honest best to meet the needs of all their kiddos all the time. With 20 or more students in an elementary classroom, it can be hard to hit all the buttons all the time, at the same time.
Ask your child’s teacher(s) how they structure math, reading and writing so that all students are challenged and assisted. Request a meeting to discuss your concerns about other needs your child might have, like ADHD or ASD or pure boredom.
If you think your child, gifted or not, is being bullied or harasses, speak up ASAP! Teachers, and school admins, need to know right away to squash the problem. Most schools have a zero tolerance bullying policy!
3. Give a little to get a lot.
Your best bet to get your child additional enrichment materials is to play the quid-pro-quo card. Ask the teacher if you can do something or supply something to the classroom. You could volunteer to lead advanced writers or readers in a small group. Or buy copies of BrainQuest workbooks or flashcards to be used by students wanting a challenge.
If you show that you are willing to put your money or time into it, teachers will almost always go the extra mile to make even more amazing things happen. You can also inspire other parents at your school to volunteer or donate supplies!
Parental involvement can be a big contributing factor to student success. And it never hurts to have more facetime and connections with the teachers!
4. Know that the teachers can’t do everything.
Yes, teachers are there to guide young minds toward knowledge. Absolutely, this is true.
However, this is YOUR child and you should be involved in that guiding process, too. By creating hidden learning opportunities at home, you are assisting your child in discovering new things and helping the teacher by covering areas that might be out of their reach.
Take a trip to anywhere. Visit historic battlefields. Go to museums of everything! Do experiments, cook, build, sew, craft, paint and explore other interests.
5. Understand that GT doesn’t look the same in every child.
We all have the picture in our brains: a Sheldon or a Leonard or Raj or Howard from Big Bang Theory. Classic “nerds,” every one of them. They are all way into science, math, and comic books. They sometimes have a hard time functioning in the real world with us mere mortals.
GT could mean exceptional artistic abilities or musical talent. It could mean being able to think up complicated stories or ideas. Students could be way into history, the arts, reading, writing, or, yes, math and science.
Gifted students might just have average grades, too. It doesn’t mean they are not gifted or not trying. All A’s does not make a gifted child either.
There are as many ways to be gifted as there are GT students.
However, there are certain criteria used to qualify students for GT services. If you think that your child is GT, but s/he didn’t make the cut because of poor testing, speak up (see #5). Ask for a reevaluation or alternate assessment to determine GT status. Get the teacher on your side, and ask her to provide a written narrative of your child’s potentially gifted qualities.
6. Be ready to let your child make their own path, or offer your support as needed.
Many GT students are ready to fly from the nest early and often. They create their own projects at home and/or school. They speak up for themselves in class or on the playground. Some children just know how to advocate for themselves!
Congrats, parents, you can take a (small) step back and observe your child running their own show.
All children still need parents to speak up on their behalf, at least some of the time. So don’t be afraid to point out concerns, issues or lack of services where you see them. Just try to do it politely. You are more likely to get what you want if you act as a team player rather than a bulldozer.
7. Know when to step off the field.
Here’s the main thing: GT students have shown ability or aptitude in one or more academic areas. How they use these gifts is, ultimately, up to them.
So totally keep on gently pushing your child to achieve to his or her highest potential in all areas of academics, and especially with their special talents. Keep on making those phone calls, advocating for better differentiation in the classroom and researching the next school district.
How do you help your gifted child? Tell me in the comments!