More commonly, parents and pediatricians, are trying to figure out what to do with kids who are underperforming at school. But sometimes, we are faced with a child who is obviously advanced or gifted and who also needs help to meet his or her full potential.
It is easier to find help for an older gifted child, as schools usually have programs for gifted children, often starting in kindergarten.
Recognizing and knowing how to support a younger gifted child can be more of a problem.
Now most parents think that their own children are special or gifted, and I am sure they all are in their own way, but the gifted and talented children we are talking about are advanced in many areas of their development. The official definition of being gifted by the U.S. Dept. of Education is 'children or youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities.'
In younger children, some signs of advancement are easy to see, such as a nine month old who is already walking, a two year old who knows all of his colors, a three year old who is already counting, or a four year old who knows how to read.
Other signs are more subtle, such as having a long attention span, extraordinary memory, vivid imagination, curiosity, sensitivity, compassion, enjoying learning and learning things quickly.
An evaluation by a child psychologist can also help you get your child evaluated for signs of giftedness.
Encouraging your Gifted Child
If you are a parent of a gifted child, the Educational Resources Information Center recommends that you:
- Read aloud to your child. It is important that parents read to their gifted child often, even if the child is already capable of reading.
- Help your child discover personal interests. Stimulation and support of interests are vital to the development of talents. Parents should expose their child to their own interests and encourage the child to learn about a wide variety of subjects, such as art, nature, music, and sports, in addition to traditional academic subjects such as math, reading, and science.
- Encourage the support of extended family and friends. As an infant, a gifted child can exhaust new parents because he or she often sleeps less than other babies and requires extra stimulation when awake. It can be helpful to have extended family in the home, grandparents who live nearby, or close friends in the neighborhood who can spend some time with the child so the primary caretakers can get some rest and to give the infant added -- or different -- stimulation.
- Speak and listen to your child with consideration and respect. From the time he or she can talk, a gifted child is constantly asking questions and will often challenge authority. "Do it because I said so" doesn't work. Generally, a gifted child will cooperate more with parents who take the time to explain requests than with more authoritarian parents.
If your child isn't in school yet, you might look for a preschool program for gifted children or make some effort to support your child at home. This might include frequent visits to a museum, zoo, bookstore, nature center and other field trips. Home use of educational programs, including books and computer programs, might also be helpful.
Once your child starts kindergarten, you might have to consider advanced placement vs. participation in a gifted and talented program. It doesn't make any sense for a child who already knows how to read to attend a regular kindergarten class and get bored as the other kids are just learning to read.
Your state or local gifted education association (see the Internet Links above) should also offer some help and additional resources for your child and school counselors/psychologists can offer advice on the best placement for your gifted child.