Educating the Gifted and Talented

“People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of educational experience they want their children to have.” -John Holt-

Friday, April 07, 2006

Don't ignore signs of unhappiness

It took me too long to realize that being intellectually gifted can be more a burden than a blessing. As a parent I marvel at my daughter's capabilities and intellect. Up until 9th grade she was a straight "A" student, but then her grades started falling dramatically. Since coming to a new town, starting midway through 6th grade in a new school, my daughter had not been happy. She had no friends who were mentally her equal or classmates by whom she felt understood. School too had become uninspiring.

Though seemingly coping for all that time, the burden, of not being accepted and resenting school ever more, became too heavy to bear. She slipped into a depression and confided to me she had considered suicide!! After one of her frighteningly dark moods I could no longer sit back and hope things in school would improve, so I acted and wrote a letter to all her teachers to share about her situation.

After several conferences and continued persistence on my part she was screened and qualified for special education and an individual learning plan was developed. My daughter was to get differentiation of homework and assignments, but the intervention came too late. Due to incomplete homework she had already failed a total of five classes which included honors geometry. She took that course again during summer school, and finished two weeks early with an "A". The teacher was in awe about her math capability and did not understand why she was in his class in the first place!

It should not come to a crisis before teachers are willing to differentiate, or for parents (myself included) to take action. I have learned, almost too late that as parents we need to be alongside our gifted children every step of the way to support and speak out for them! Parents as well as teachers need to be sensitive to the early signs of stress so that a full blown depression can be prevented.

Talk to teachers until something gets done for your child! Start a support group in your school for parents of GT identified kids to exchange experiences. There is strength in numbers. Together parents can think of solutions or compromises for the problems gifted kids may encounter. Don't hesitate to meet with the Director of Elementary, Secondary or Gifted Education when there's a problem you feel is not getting resolved!

Become visible and show that your child's education and well being is important! No child, gifted or not, should be ignored when school performance falls.


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