Academically Gifted?

by Jodie Lynn

What signs do parents look for when they think their children may be academically gifted? How can we be proactive with our children's teachers and school system in general when they refuse to offer tests and/or any other accommodations?

I have two sons. The firstborn was tested and enrolled in gifted programs. He could learn his academics easily, was musically and artistically talented, began reading before he was two and was friendly and social.

Our second son was tested both for the gifted program and for ADD -- he didn't quite fit in either category. He struggled with academic learning and it eroded away his self-confidence. He worked very hard in school. He was more athletic but because of his lower self-confidence, he balked at any kind of competition. Through having to focus and work, he learned a lot about himself and graduated on the honor roll. The firstborn was used to things being easy and barely got through high school. Motivate gifted kids but do not push.
- C. C. in Texas

From Jodie: Your child may show signs of being different from day one. Some kids are highly alert but do not say a word while others begin to talk and converse in sentences at a very early age. Many creative and smart teachers are puzzled and threatened by gifted students. For example, if the teachers are not trained in teaching them, the students may be seen as bold, disruptive or even a smart aleck. On the other hand, some are perceived as reserved, stuck up or even stupid for not participating in class. Either way, the attention that is needed to move forward is not there.

Here are a few things that might help some parents better understand about the concept of a gifted child:

#1. Your child's teacher does not have to be the one to suggest to have your child tested. You can request it on your own.

#2. If your child tests better on a one on one basis, request it. Stick to your guns and stay positive.

#3. A gifted child can have ADD and/or ADHD.

#4. He may not excel at everything. He may be highly talented in reading and writing but may do poorly in math and science or vice versa.

#5. If the school refuses to test, you can have your child tested by a group of private psychologists who are experienced in doing so. If his score meets the district's criteria (usually a sum of 133 or above on a battery of tests) they will have to find a place for him in a gifted environment.

#6. It is never too late to have your child tested. He can be in middle school and due to total boredom, can be failing every subject and still be tested for the very first time.

#7. There are various ranges of giftedness. If your child is at the top of the chart, he will usually feel better about himself and his abilities if he is in a group of children with the same or similar thinking patterns for some, most or all of the time (especially as he gets older).

#8. Raising a gifted child is a challenge. They will say and do things that will make them a target to their peers and just about everyone else.

#9. They not only think differently but also need to feel appreciated and loved for who they are, what they can do and are quite sensitive.

#10. Validation and respect is the sole key to their success. While this stands true for any child, gifted children make up the largest portion of today's completed suicides.

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