Starting a Support Group for Parents of Gifted Students
Parents of gifted students often have unique concerns, and having someone with whom to discuss these issues can be very helpful. If there is not already a parent support group in your community, you may want to start one. There is much help available to aid you in this process. By setting up such a group this summer, it will be up and running when school opens again in the fall.
How to Start a Parent Group
takes you through an 11-step process for forming a group, including finding other parents, determining the scope of the group, and advertising the group. This site also offers a number of very helpful tips.
Start a Parent Support Group
lists suggestions and links for creating a group that is proactive and has a positive influence. This page is part of the website for the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).
From my personal experience, the most valuable tip for parent support groups is to be careful not to allow meetings to become complaint sessions. The most successful groups that I’ve seen are those that share general information and excellent resources and also offer a forum for brainstorming realistic solutions.
Conflicts in the Definition and Identification of Giftedness
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) periodically issues position papers having to do with gifted education. For a list with links to current position papers you can click here
. I would like to highlight a couple of the current position papers, including what I see as conflicts that can be confusing about the definition of giftedness and the identification of students.
Defining giftedness has been a controversial topic as long as I can remember. I believe that a lack of consensus in the field has often impaired progress. Different school districts adopt different definitions and different methods for identifying children who might benefit from advanced services. Misunderstandings result and parents and teachers are frustrated. This NAGC position paper feels more inclusive to me than some other definitions. For instance, the paper defines outstanding competence as “documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer)” instead of the 3% figure that used to be in vogue. The paper also states that those competencies may take place in one or more domains. Although it lists possible domains (e.g., mathematics, music, dance), it does not limit the definition to only those domains listed.
The position paper recognizes the development of ability or talent as a lifelong process. “As individuals mature through childhood to adolescence ... achievement and high levels of motivation in the domain become the primary characteristics of their giftedness.” In previous definitions, the emphasis often was placed on “potential” rather than accomplishment. We can see and recognize accomplishments. Potential is not as clear. How does one really know a person has potential if he doesn’t demonstrate it?
Educators need to adjust educational materials and methods for students who demonstrate that they can do more difficult work. I think that’s a premise that is difficult to argue.
Students who experience poverty, discrimination, cultural barriers, physical or learning disabilities, or motivational or emotional problems may be much more difficult to spot, so we need to lighten up a bit and consider more deeply if, given the right opportunities, these kids might be able to raise their levels of accomplishment.
I question whether this position paper should be rewritten to more closely align with the position paper above. In Redefining Giftedness for a New Century, I think the reader is being told that each gifted student should be provided an educational experience that matches his or her needs. In The Role of Assessments in the Identification of Gifted Students, we are told that assessments should be used that align with a program’s goals and objectives. So, should we be figuring out what modifications a particular student needs or should we only be finding and serving students who fit into a particular program that we have designed? In The Role of Assessments in the Identification of Gifted Students, it sounds like the latter is true.
This second position paper also gets into the discussion of using alternative assessments (i.e., nonverbal ability tests) for students who are under-represented in gifted programs. It is my understanding that nonverbal ability tests have the potential to identify students who can solve unique problems. One cannot automatically come to the conclusion that a student who does well on these tests will be capable of handling the advanced language arts or math program that a school has created. If these types of tests are used, the school must carefully examine what types of programs need to be created that will be meaningful.
Under best practices for using assessments for gifted identification, the position paper states: “the choice of assessment tools must match the definition of giftedness that has been determined by the state, district, or school.” Here we’re coming back to the muddled conception of giftedness again. As a family moves across the country, parents may find that their children were “gifted” in one state or city, but not in another. No wonder there is such confusion.
So we need to figure out which comes first—the horse or the cart. Should we be figuring out which students have very strong abilities and then design programs around those abilities or should we be designing programs to match our state, district, or school definition of giftedness and then trying to find students who would be a good match for those programs? I personally like the slant of Redefining Giftedness for a New Century, and would like to see NAGC better align their position on identification.
Is Your Gifted Child a Visual-Spatial Learner?
Sit that kid down in front of a computer and she can do anything. She doesn’t need instructions to figure it all out. She not only plays computer games, but she creates them. She also blends video and music together effortlessly. She likes to take things apart, but there is no guarantee that she will put them back together in the same way. Building with Legos was always one of her favorite activities when she was younger. Now, she likes to create her own inventions and loves the cartoonist, Rube Goldberg
. Drawing comes naturally to her, and she is constantly producing her own cartoons and comic strips.
Young people who have a strong visual-spatial ability visualize and retain images in their minds and then mentally manipulate those images. Kids who have this ability may be very smart but, because they learn in a style that is different from the usual sequential and verbal style of the classroom, they may not be a good match for the typical school.
Don’t lose heart if your visual-spatial child struggles academically; instead, support his or her strengths at home and through enrichment classes. At the same time, there are techniques you can use to help your child adapt to school. For some of these suggestions, check out the Visual-Spatial Resource
. You also can find a series of articles for both parents and teachers on a variety of topics related to visual-spatial ability at Visual-Spatial Learners
. In addition, much more information can be found at the Visual-Spatial Learners
web page at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page
So, take heart. Your visual-spatial child has talents that will serve her well. She may not learn in the same way that many other kids learn, and she may need help with compensation techniques at school, but because of her strong visual-spatial ability, she will excel in areas in which others have difficulty.
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs—For Gifted Kids
The year I was born, my parents built a cabin in a remote area of northeastern Minnesota. Every August, we vacationed there. As long as I can remember, I was told to beware of the lumberman beetle. It was called a lumberman because it came out in droves when people were cutting down trees. The large insect was so light and so quiet; it could land on one’s clothes or skin without the person being aware of its presence. The beetle had a reputation for inflicting a painful pinch. When my children were young, they had many questions about the insect. We were not able to find the answers to their questions in any of our books (this was in the era before the Internet), so we placed a specimen in a bottle and took it home with us to Denver. Once home, I contacted an entomologist at the University of Colorado. The scientist was more than happy to meet with us. (As a parent or teacher, you should never be afraid to contact a specialist in any area. Specialists are usually very happy to find someone else interested in their field.) This was our own little field trip and was very interesting. The entomologist had never seen this particular beetle and was pleased to have it for his collection. He pulled out drawers and drawers of similar long-horned beetles that were carefully mounted and labeled. He provided us with a fascinating education on similar beetles. He also admonished me to never instill fear in my kids about insects; instead, he said that insects should be considered a wonder to be observed and respected.
Most young people have a natural curiosity about bugs of all sorts, and they should be encouraged to learn about them. You can start by providing children with a magnifying glass and going out in the yard to observe these creatures up close. Visit displays of bugs at museums. Go to the library and take out books on the subject. There also are many resources on the Internet that can help your child learn about bugs. Here are just a few.
Amateur Entomologists' Society
—This site from the U.K. tells how to collect and care for bugs, provides activities to learn about insects along with lots of interesting information, and talks about how to become an entomologist.
—Sponsored by the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University, this site helps you identify and classify all types of bugs. It has an incredible number of wonderful photographs.
The Lost Ladybug Project
—This site provides all kinds of activities and lesson plans about ladybugs. Scientists also ask students to help find various types of ladybugs in different areas of the country and share that information. Instructions for collecting and sharing this information are listed.
—YouTube continues to be an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and students. (Adults should always first screen content at this site for young children.) In the search box, type in words such as entomology
, and insects
, or type in specific names of bugs. You will find videos from many reputable sources.
—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find a variety of educational videos, pictures, and articles.
—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find colorful slide shows, thoughtful articles, videos, and more.
—Find photos of bugs that you are interested in by doing a search using relevant words.
Some offshoot topics to consider when studying entomology include insects as a food source, forensic entomology, and medical entomology.