PARENTING THE GIFTED CHILD
You have noticed your infant is unusually alert, has a lengthy attention span, and sleeps much less than other children his age. As a toddler, he displays a high energy level, an almost photographic memory, and he is developing an extensive vocabulary. Perhaps your child has intense reactions to noise, pain and frustration, and she seems sensitive and compassionate beyond what is usual for her age. As a preschooler, your child is fascinated with books and demonstrates a vivid imagination, which may include imaginary friends. She displays an active curiosity and a keen sense of humor. Your child thrives at using abstract reasoning and problem solving skills. All of these qualities may be signs that your child is gifted.
If you suspect your child is gifted, it is important to take steps to verify your suspicions and then form a strategy to nurture your child’s unique gifts. Below is a plan of action to ensure early identification of your child’s giftedness, and to provide the understanding and challenges that your child will need to flourish.
1. Speak with the Pediatrician
Keep an open dialogue with your child’s pediatrician. They will be able to provide you with information about whether or not your child is developing at an advanced rate. They are also a good source of information concerning local parenting groups for parents with gifted children. The doctor will also help you to brainstorm ideas about how to handle your inquisitive little one when it comes to skills and sleeping patterns.
2. Help Your Child Discover Their Interests
Help your child to discover new interests by providing them with numerous opportunities to explore their creativity. Reading is a crucial part of expanding any child’s mind, and allows them to develop their imagination. Pretend play allows children to explore ideas and situations they are learning about from their books or witnessing in real life. Also, provide scaffolding opportunities where you demonstrate a difficult activity, such as putting together a puzzle. Discuss each step as you go, and then allow your child to explore it for themselves. Provide your child with access to a multitude of opportunities, such as art, music, sports, dance, etc. As they try new experiences, they will develop their own interests and learn new skills.
3. Keep an Open Dialogue with the School
Once your child has reached school age, it is important that they spend time with other students who have similar abilities. Gifted students function best in an academic setting where they are allowed to progress at their own rate. This helps them develop independence by allowing them to make their own choices and use their unique creativity.
Become involved in your child’s school, and speak with the teacher(s) and administration about the best way to help your child thrive in that setting. Many schools have gifted programs that allow gifted students to spend part of their day with other students with similar abilities. If your child seems unchallenged, you may want to consider early entrance or acceleration. This is a decision that should be thoroughly considered because it may not be the right method for your child. Grade acceleration is usually best done, at least from a social perspective, before the child reaches an age where they are established in their peer groups. If your child shows an interest in advancement, they are most likely ready for it.
4. Ask for a Gifted Individual Education Plan (GIEP)
If you believe your child’s educational needs are not being met, you have the right to ask for a Gifted Individual Education Plan (GIEP). The school will first assess your child to determine their giftedness. This is accomplished using achievement, I.Q. and ability tests. Once giftedness is ascertained, a meeting is scheduled between the parents, regular educators and gifted educators and administration to determine a plan of action for your child. This is a working meeting where all members brainstorm ideas to meet your child’s unique needs. Together, this group will produce a roadmap for your child that encompasses not only the pullout gifted program, but also their regular education courses. It is important to remember that at the end of the meeting, you have the final approval of the proposed plan.
The GIEP addresses your child’s strengths and needs and assesses any modifications needed in their regular education classes, as well as any additional measures to be taken. It includes your child’s present levels of educational performance, their goals, short term learning outcomes, and specially designed instructions. At the end of the meeting you will be asked to sign a Notice of Recommendation Assignment (NORA). The NORA allows the District to implement the GIEP.
As the school year progresses, make sure that the plans incorporated into the GIEP are being implemented into your child’s educational experience. If you have concerns, or if the plan is not working for your child, ask for another GIEP meeting to discuss changes. You may ask for this meeting at any time, not just once per year.
5. Be an Advocate
As in any other situation, it is important for you to be your child’s advocate. Meet with teachers early in the school year and continue regular communication throughout the year. Stay involved by volunteering in your child’s class, if you are able to do so. Join a parent’s group focused on parents with gifted children. This is important because it can be difficult to know how to best handle your gifted child. Having the support of others in the same situation will provide you with a solid foundation of knowledge and comfort during the trying times.
It is important to keep in mind that raising a gifted child comes with a unique set of triumphs and challenges. Providing ample opportunities for exploration and problem solving will nurture your child’s uniqueness. By accepting and respecting your child’s individuality, creativity, and curiosity you will instill a love of knowledge and strengthen their self-worth. If you feel as though your child may be gifted, but that your school district is holding him or her back, you may want to consider hiring or consulting with an education attorney. Your child is afforded certain legal rights with respect to their education and attorney intervention is sometimes the appropriate solution. To learn more about gifted education check out the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education’s Website. Joseph Montgomery proudly serves as their legal advisor.
To learn more about your legal rights when it comes to obtaining appropriate gifted education services for your child , give us a call at 215-650-7563.
Note, nothing in this article or on this website is to be considered medical or legal advice.
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