Did you know that Gifted and Talented Children are considered Special Ed?
When the topic of special education comes up, the higher profile and more typically thought of programs are those that address issues like learning disabilities, attention disorders or autism. In these cases, laws exist and specific services are required to ensure an optimal learning environment is being provided.
However, in many states, the category of special education also extends to include another group of children, those classified as “gifted”. In our current culture of competitive child rearing, sometimes the idea of a gifted child can seem like the brass ring of parental accomplishment, but the label comes with it own set of controversies and challenges.
Currently, significant debate surrounds every facet of the concept of giftedness.
The term and definition of gifted and talented are questioned because its application in education typically revolves around a child’s intellectual potential, but can fail to recognize children who display high aptitudes in a specific subject area, the arts, or athletics.
There is uncertainty about which tests should be used, whether those tests are biased against genders or minorities, and then at exactly what age the tests should be administered.
Some experts believe earlier identification is necessary to cultivate a child’s full potential while others argue that it is impossible for such potential to be fully developed until at least the middle of elementary education. Moving beyond the issue of identification, one encounters further disagreement about exactly how schools should accommodate gifted and talented children.
There is one point of view that gifted learners should remain in a typical classroom to avoid social stigma and misallocation of resources. On the other hand, evidence suggests that gifted students will do better emotionally and academically when placed in special gifted classes that move at an accelerated pace and allow them interact with peers of similar ability.
For parents, the conflicting information can be confusing and leave them wondering how to best advocate for their children. It may cause some to keep their children from being tested or offered special programs for fear the child will become isolated from their peers and a target for bullying.
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Other parents, feeling that a “gifted” label is a social status symbol will pay to have their children coached for the tests or even have private tests submitted when the outcome of the school testing does not meet their desired results.
Those who avoid these extreme scenarios are just looking for some simple answers….
How Do I Know if My Child is Gifted and Talented?
Every parent knows that each child is special and unique, and giftedness is just one of many talents and strengths that a child can possess. While none of the following are definitive, many experts in the field of gifted learning identify these as potential early signs:
- unusual alertness in infancy
- less need for sleep in infancy
- long attention span
- high activity level
- smiling or recognizing caretakers early
- intense reactions to noise, pain, frustration
- advanced progression through the developmental milestones
- extraordinary memory
- enjoyment and speed of learning
- early and extensive language development
- fascination with books
- excellent sense of humor
- abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills
- vivid imagination (e.g., imaginary companions)
- sensitivity and compassion
Children may exhibit all or many of the signs above, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that a parent should run out and pay the hundreds of dollars it would cost to have their child privately tested the minute they hit a milestone early.
The National Association of Gifted Children estimates that 6 percent of kids in
kindergarten through 12th grade are gifted and the recommended ages to test
for giftedness are from ages 5 to 8.
The evaluation process will be initiated and provided at no cost by many schools when parents, teachers and other school officials are in agreement that a child is a likely candidate and gifted programs are available. Unfortunately, due to a large variation in support and funding for gifted programs from state to state, not all schools will offer options for gifted children. In such instances, parents should seek out other support resources.
How Are Gifted Children Identified and Tested?
The federal definition of gifted and talented means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.(Title IX, Part A, Section 9101(22), p. 544).
While States and districts are not required to use the federal definition, many states choose to align with the federal definition. Currently, 37 states have some sort of a mandate to address the needs of gifted and talented children in the public schools. As a result, several state laws are in effect to protect the rights of gifted students, to ensure they have access to the type of education required to meet their needs and that parents play a role in deciding what the right educational options are for their children.
These laws include:
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- Florida Statutes and State Board of Education Rules pertaining to education for exceptional students
- Special Programs and Procedures for Exceptional Students (Each local school system has a set.)
Important to note though is that while these state laws require local public school districts to provide services designed to allow gifted children to meet their goals and make progress, they do not mean that a school has to provide the best possible services.
How a student is determined to be eligible for gifted service is usually based on a process that includes the following steps, but this can vary state to state:
- Referral for individual evaluation
- Individual evaluation
- Eligibility determination
- Development of the first EP (educational plan)
- Consent for placement; services begin
- Development of new EP and EP review
Parents should be notified and required to give consent before a child can begin the process. Additionally, there are mandated procedures and forms for communicating with parents at each step in the process. A primary component of the gifted evaluation will involve some type of standardized IQ test, the most common being The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Stanford-Binet. A licensed psychologist or practitioner administers these tests, and while some other factors come into play and variation does occur, the common minimum required score will usually be a full scale IQ of 130 or greater to qualify.
When it comes to the world of a gifted child there are not going to be easy answers, despite the fact that the child may be certain they have them all. Additionally, resolving the ongoing debate around what it means to be gifted and how to appropriately meet the needs of this special population of kids is unlikely to occur anytime soon.
As a parent of a gifted child, you can serve them best by staying informed and involved, trusting your instincts, and remembering that a label does not define the person they will become. Ultimately, the character of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series provides wise council, when he once tells Harry:
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
If you would are interested in learning more about giftedness, gifted education or state specific programs, the links and books below should be useful.
The National Association for Gifted Children
Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential
Prufrock Press – Resource for the Gifted, Advanced and Special Needs Learners
101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids
American Association for Gifted Children
The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way
Do you have a child that has been identified as Gifted and Talented?
What have been your biggest challenges?
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My Kids Is Gifted, That Doesn’t Mean Your Kids Is Stupid
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