Finding a Qualified Person to Test Your Child
Parents have a variety of reasons for wanting to have their child tested. Some want to better understand their child’s strengths and get recommendations for providing the best educational environment. Some need to supply a certain aptitude score for their child to enter a gifted program. Still others see that their child is very bright but also has some pretty significant problems. They want to see if there is some type of diagnosis and get suggestions for helping the child. Finding a qualified person to provide an appropriate evaluation for any of these dilemmas may be a difficult hurdle.
Typically, a psychologist will administer necessary tests and interviews, but it is best to find a psychologist who really understands gifted issues, including various levels of giftedness and the pros and cons of the spectrum of tests available. I receive e-mails from parents asking for recommendations of people they might contact in their area. While I cannot give specific recommendations, I often refer them to their state gifted association
or the gifted arm of their state education department. Another resource for parents to consider is a list on the Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page
When considering a specific psychologist, find out what tests he or she offers and how information will be presented to you. Will the tester make recommendations? Make certain that the psychologist has experience working with gifted children who are of the same age as your child. Find out as much about the tester as possible, including his or her fees. If your child needs to provide a score on a specific test to be admitted to a gifted program, make certain the appropriate assessment will be administered.
Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth After 35 Years
What does it take to create an intellectual leader like Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking?
A report based on 35 years of research from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth was published on December 18
and reflects data collected from more than 5,000 participants. The report, from Vanderbilt University, reveals that a complex mix of factors is necessary to create these leaders: cognitive abilities, educational opportunities, investigative interests, and old-fashioned hard work. Both personal attributes and learning environments are required that are truly beyond the norm. While mathematical gifts and a variety of aptitudes have significant impact, special educational opportunities and commitment can dramatically increase this impact.
Researchers found that differences in ability exist even among the very top of this elite group. Researchers also found that the majority of the highest performers at age 33 were willing to work more than 65 hours a week.
Differences were revealed between men and women in types of abilities and interests. Female participants were more likely to prefer careers such as the social sciences, biology, and medicine, while men were more likely to prefer engineering and the physical sciences.
It will be interesting to follow the impact of this report and see if it has any influence on educational opportunities made available to students with top cognitive abilities who are also willing to work very hard.
Learning Disabilities Podcast Interview with Rich Weinfeld
The LD Podcast
is a fantastic resource for those of you who parent or teach kids with learning difficulties. The site offers information and support in the form of a blog and an ongoing series of podcasts on various issues related to learning difficulties. While the LD Podcast bills itself as a resource "for parents by parents of kids with learning disabilities," I think it also offers some great information for teachers, as well.
Recently, the LD Podcast featured a podcast with one of Prufrock's most popular authors, Rich Weinfeld. Rich is a coauthor of Smart Kids with Learning Difficulties: Overcoming Obstacles and Realizing Potential
, and Helping Boys Succeed in School
. In the interview, Rich discusses how we identify kids with learning disabilities, how parents can talk with teachers and administrators to make sure their child is getting what they need while forging constructive relationships, and when a parent might want to consider an educational advocate.Click here to listen to the LD Podcast's interview with Rich Weinfield
on the topic of helping kids with learning disabilities.
Grade Acceleration of Gifted Students
The debate on acceleration continues. Is it helpful or detrimental for a student to skip grades?
Dr. Kevin Leman, a Tucson psychologist
, feels that “there’s not a lot of wisdom in pushing kids ahead, even kids who are gifted.” He thinks that enrichment, both at home and at school, is a better alternative. Dr. Leman states that a child may not be as mature socially as he is intellectually, especially if the child is a boy and, therefore, acceleration may stack the deck against the young person.
The Ohio Department of Education believes that acceleration allows a student to excel.
School districts in Ohio were required by law to adopt an acceleration policy this school year for advanced learners. Districts could either use a model policy developed by the state or adopt a similar one. According to Tom Southern, a Miami University educational psychology professor who has studied acceleration for 20 years, kids who are accelerated tend to operate at the head of the new placement. In addition, he states, there is no documentation that shows harm to the student socially or emotionally. In addition to benefits to the child, acceleration is often an economical way for school districts to meet the needs of students.
Is Homeschooling an Option for Gifted Children?
HomeEducator.com recently ran a short article titled, Gifted Children and Homeschooling by Kathi Kearney. I think the article offers a balanced and thoughtful overview of the topic. From the article:
Not every parent should consider homeschooling for a gifted child and not every gifted child should be homeschooled. That said, homeschooling is an excellent alternative for many gifted children at some point in their development.
Homeschooling is an especially important option in situations where a child’s school can’t—or won’t—provide appropriate services and, as a result, the child’s social-emotional development, behavior or school achievement starts to deteriorate.
Kearney feels that homeschooling can offer greater flexibility in curriculum pacing (acceleration strategies) and in the depth and type of enrichment activities that can be offered gifted children. She also points to some of the pitfalls that homeschooling parents may experience. For example, she says that many homeschooling families may find the "canned" curricula offered for sale to homeschooling families fall short where gifted children are concerned.
When Parents Feel Their Young Child Is Gifted
I can hear cries of blasphemy before I even begin to write this blog entry, but I have to say it anyway. There is a fine line to walk when you are the parent of a young, precocious child. Although we may hear that it is important to identify a child’s abilities at an early age, parents also need to be careful not to “wish” their children into giftedness.
We certainly hope that all parents love their children dearly, but that doesn’t mean that one should jump to conclusions about the perceived skills that a child has and how those skills will be applied to the rest of his life. I see parents of very young children (sometimes just a year or two old) list all the skills their young person has acquired and enthusiastically declare that the child is gifted or even a genius. The expectation is that the child will continue to perform at this accelerated level the rest of her life. When the child is still a toddler, the parents are already imagining that he will have his choice of any college he wants to attend and most likely be enrolled at an early age. Parents may even imagine that the preschooler will eventually save humanity through medical research, implement important social changes in the world, or becoming a famous musician. Why, one might ask, are the parents putting themselves and their child through this? Think of the possible scenarios that they are setting up for failure. If the child doesn’t continue to perform, whose fault will it be? The parent’s? The child’s? The school’s? Think of the pressure that will be felt by the child to always be a top performer.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that a child’s strengths should be ignored. But, at the same time, don’t assume that your child is operating at a level far above his age peers or that he will always perform at a very high level. You may not be qualified to properly assess your child’s abilities. Let others who have experience working with many young people make that determination. And, you need to know that it is not a common practice to assess the intellectual abilities of children at a very young age.
Meanwhile, let your young person enjoy her childhood and not feel pressured with expectations to change the world. Offer her a solid base of a loving family. Expose him to a wide variety of experiences and definitely support his interests. But please, don’t burden him with the expectation that he will always be the shining star of academics, the arts, or sports.
A piece from a South Dakota Public Broadcasting program
warns parents not to try to live their fantasies through their children. When children see priorities belonging to the parents and not to themselves, they do what comes naturally: they either find a way to resist, however illogical it may seem to the parents, or they strive extra hard to win their parents’ approval, even at their own expense.
Meeting the needs of one’s child without imposing unreasonable pressure or transferring one’s own dreams onto him does not mean we cease to have expectations for the child. We simply put those expectations into a framework that respects the child’s needs as much as it respects the child’s abilities.
Holiday Gifts for the Gifted: Part 2
Thiago Olson’s interest in science
began with mixing things together in the kitchen (his mother thought he would be a cook), a simple chemistry set, and the ability to meet other science enthusiasts on the Internet. His friends now call the 17-year-old, “the mad scientist.” In the basement of his parents' home, Thiago spent more than 2 years and 1,000 hours to research and build a machine that, on a small scale, creates nuclear fusion.
I’ve been thinking more about gifts for the holidays that encourage lifelong skills—that chemistry set that Thiago received certainly helped him to develop his love of science.
There are many presents out there that are self-limiting and hold one’s interest for only a short time. There are also presents that can have a real impact on one’s life. We can give presents that support an interest that is already established or we can give a young person a present that may introduce him to something new and interesting. I surveyed family members and friends by posing the question: “What are your memories of your best holiday presents—ones that really got you interested in something that you continued to pursue?” The following is a synthesis of responses:
Computer—played games, learned simple programming, figured out how computers work—this person went on to make computers his life work. He now builds and maintains computer systems for individuals, companies, and governments.
Video camera—used to make very creative movies. Learned movie editing skills. Gained a lot of positive recognition from friends for this creative activity. Encouraged creativity in all aspects of life.
A basic stereo—parents showed that they supported his love of music. His career became work in radio.
Erector set—This mechanical building set taught him principals of mechanics and helped him to develop manual skills. Eventually this person became an orthopedic surgeon.
Diary with a lock and key and lots of stationery and pencils and pens—learned to love to write. As a teenager, had pen pals all over the world, so he also learned a lot about geography and different cultures.
A simple chemistry set with a rocket that could be launched with vinegar and soda, and also chemicals and directions for making invisible ink, fake blood, and other mixtures—Parents did not have much money and this was a sacrifice for them to purchase. Child was sensitive to this and appreciated it. This person went on to become a psychologist and high school counselor—always sensitive to the needs of others.
An adult received a copy of Writer’s Market—It was a personal signal that she should take her writing seriously and has since published numerous articles and her second book is now at the printer's.
Twenty-gallon fish tank—turned into a lifelong hobby.
Hopefully, when choosing presents this holiday season, you will consider ones that will help your young person develop a skill and encourage creativity. One never knows how this might translate into a lifelong endeavor.