I believe that we should be doing more to inform and support the parents of our newly identified students. I came to this realization during a recent encounter at, of all places, a car repair shop. I was passing the time waiting for my car to get serviced by playing a game on my iPad when a mother and her two elementary aged daughters walked in. It didn’t take long for the oldest girl to casually take a peek at my game. I noted that she was intensely interested in her surroundings and, like most children, she was seeking out mental stimulation in a boring place. I mentioned to the mom that I was a teacher and shared one of the interactive books that I had downloaded onto my iPad. Soon, mom and I were in a discussion where she shared that her little girl had been recently identified as a gifted second grader.
What happened next formed the inspiration for this post. Within minutes of telling the mother that I was a teacher of the gifted, the questions came pouring out. “My second grader was just identified at the end of last school year, what should I be doing now?” “Should I have known she was gifted before she was identified?” “Was there something that I wrote that might have hindered or helped my child during the process because I felt like I was being tested, too.”
These questions indicated to me that this parent 1) was probably not given any information other than her child’s test scores 2) doubted her own parenting skills since she didn’t know that her child was gifted before testing 3) and she wasn’t informed of her role in the identification process. I believe that all these questions symbolize the lack of information and support that should have been provided by the school staff or private testing service to the parent before, during and after the identification process. This interaction led me to reflect on what I do to inform and support the parent of a newly identified gifted child.
In the qualification letter that I send home to the parent I include links to my district’s resources and my own online website. This assumes that the parent has time to look at these resources. I am hoping that they do because there is an incredible amount of resources online which was not available 20 years ago when my own children were identified. I also ask the parents to tap into my News Flashes to keep abreast of the next parent support group meeting or seminar offered in the area. I had four successful parent support group meetings last year and a local college hosted a parent’s seminar partnering with TxGifted. We discussed things like perfectionism, making friends, academic achievement (or lack of academic achievement) and opportunities outside of school hours. I hope to continue offer these discussions again this coming year. But is this enough?
I tried to assure the mom at the car repair shop that she may not have known that her daughter was gifted before she was identified. Parents know their child very well but may not know how they compare intellectually to other children. It’s likely they see some characteristics about their child that are different but ‘chalk it up’ to individual preferences, not giftedness. I look back at my own experiences with my son and daughter and I recall some characteristics that might have indicated giftedness. Maybe I will spot them in my grandchildren but I’m guessing that I won’t. Many times, it’s not until the child is placed in an environment such as a classroom where their characteristics and behaviors become evident. This is where the professional educator comes in. We have to rely on testing and observations by a professional who is trained to identify the gifted learner to confirm that we are dealing with a gifted learner.
This brings me back to the setting that inspired this piece. The guys who service my car are professionals who are trained to determine whether my car is functioning at its peak performance. I have to trust that they are qualified to do their job and that they are reliably informing me what needs to be done to meet this goal. It’s the same with the job of the professional educator. Educators are professionally trained to determine and should be meeting the needs of each child whether they be special needs, on-level or above level.
The mom at the service station was concerned that something she wrote about her child during the identification process could have hindered her child from getting “accepted into the gifted program.” She felt like she was the one being tested. I first heard a similar comment during one of the parent support group meetings that I held last school year. I remember being asked to write about my children during their identification process over 20 years ago. I was just happy to let someone else know all about the wonderful things my children were doing at home. What parent wouldn’t want to do this? I didn’t even think about how it affected his or her acceptance into a program. I know that today’s parents need and want more information so they can “do” the right thing for their child.
I decided to ask one of my parents what she needed but was not provided during those first few weeks of finding out that her child had been identified as a gifted learner. I appreciated her honesty and perspective and found her suggestions very enlightening. Her first comment was that “both her and her husband are college educated and she has a teaching degree” and yet she didn’t truly know what the test scores meant and what should she be doing now for her child. Sound familiar? I loved it when she wrote, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Some of her other suggestions included an initial conference to explain the results of the testing, a book list of recommended reading and a mentor-like seasoned gifted parent for exchanging parenting stories. These are all things that I can implement easily next school year.
My encounter with the mom at the repair shop in a way parallels my experience as an educator of gifted children. I understand that those who know how cars work are better equipped to service and maintain them. They give me advice on how to make my car function at its best. Likewise, parents of gifted children would greatly benefit from understanding the identification process and how to support their gifted children throughout their school years. As ‘mechanics’ of a sort, gifted educators are a vital part of equipping the parents of identified gifted children to service and maintain their little gifted engines so they obtain peak performance in the classroom and throughout their educational careers.
Part of the International Year of the Gifted Child Blog Tour
How important it is for educators and parents to be a team — to each work to stay informed in their roles and to share pertinent information with each other.
I love the car owner analogy. I know some people act puzzled about why gifted people would want to think about or learn about giftedness.
Parents may not see their child as “gifted”, they will see their child resembling other family members, not only in appearance but in actions and personality, and yes, intellectual ability. I am a little troubled that “educators” and “parents” are separated here. Parents ARE their child’s first and most lasting educators. ALL children need parenting first, and parenting includes educating. If “educators” hang labels on children and determine that they need to be set apart, that is a problem. Yes, groupings exist for a good reason but ALL children, parents and educators first need to serve the needs and then worry about labels. Yes, they may need different educational methods. I appreciate the comparison with the mechanic, knowing full well that most of the time, your car/child will be just fine, but sometimes, you need a specialist. btw, I am a parent of gifted children AND an educator of all, including gifted.
One of the best ways I’ve found to support parents of gifted children is to suggest they read the book, A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children by James Webb, et al. We also offer SENG Model Parent Discussion Groups where parents can discuss this book over a period of 6 to 10 weeks. Being a Trainer and Facilitator for these groups, I have observed parents bond together as they come to a much deeper understanding of what it means to have a “gifted child.”
Hi! I was wondering if you have ever used any of the College of William and Mary materials that are available through Kendall Hunt with your gifted students? Thanks.
I haven’t specifically used in the past few years College of William and Mary materials but I’ve looked over their materials frequently. They look well done. My teaching situations just don’t lend themselves to using these materials.
Fantastic to read your post and other blog entries! I found this post from Google, after looking for resources on parenting emotionally intense gifted children. However, my five year old kindergartener has not been tested yet. The school psych wants to test her which is fine, but I’m a little uneasy about doing. See, she was deaf up until she was 18 months old and had grommets put in her ears, then again between 2 and 3 years old, so she was incredibly behind in language development. She has been undergoing a lot of speech therapy and working with an educational assistant at school to help her catch up and she has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. However….. the teacher and EAs are frustrating me as they tell me she is overly emotional, hyperactive (labelled with ADHD), distractible and has difficulty socially. From a baby, she has always been this way. Her behaviour is ‘me’ as a child. I was identified as gifted very early on, however I did not have the development setbacks. I only recently found Dabrowksi’s overexcitabilties and FINALLY have had an AHA moment – there is nothing wrong with me at all! I am a total perfectionist who is incredibly emotionally intense, constantly hyperactive and in sensory overload. She is exactly the same. She comes up with some profound comments and understands concepts very much above her level. She rarely sits still and multitasks constantly. She absorbs other peoples’ burdens like an emotional sponge. She laughs and cries at the same time. A simple frown in her direction or a firm word can cause her to shatter and start crying. My parent’s nicknamed her “Chandy” for chandelier because she is so fragile. I have been fretting about trying to build resilience in her because I am so frightened that she will experience the same emotional devastation I was subjected to by my peers at school, which has left scars to this day.
I am worried about getting her tested. I am worried that if it comes back negative due to her language problems, that she will be labelled. The teacher already pushed me to take her to a Paediatrician and wants me to contact Child and Adolescent Mental Health as they think she has an anxiety problem. She has an Educational Assistant with her to help her focus and overcome her perfectionist tendencies of not trying unless she gets it right the first time. But honestly, when you have 30 other kids running around and a plethora of visual, auditory and kinaethestic stimuli around the classroom; how could you expect a student who has a sensory overexcitability tendency to be able to concentrate? I am a teacher also, albeit of secondary school students, and it frustrates me how everyone seems to want to pigeonhole everything. They have tried to label her with ADHD, Aspergers and Anxiety and its getting ridiculous! Thanks for listening!
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