Unfortunately, most schools group students by age, not ability and make very few accommodations for students who think and learn differently. As such, parents of gifted children often find themselves serving as advocates. Although advocating for your child's education can be difficult and stressful, it can also be extremely rewarding.
If you and your child are fortunate, you will have understanding and helpful teachers and school officials who are flexible. If that's the case, as it was for Jill in Genius Denied (Chapter 4), your job as parent will be much easier. Jill's teachers were interested in helping any way they could, and although they could not accommodate her abilities entirely, Jill was allowed the flexibility to attend pull-out programming one day a week while she homeschooled on other days.
However, teachers and administrators are not always open to accommodating the unique educational needs of the gifted. Daniel's experience (Chapter 7) is an unfortunate demonstration of these obstacles. When Daniel worked ahead, his teacher sent home notes saying he "Must stay with class." The school librarian refused to let him check out books because she felt they were too advanced for him. Even the district's "best" middle school failed to accommodate his abilities.
As your child's advocate, there are many things you can do to change attitudes and find a solution that will optimize your child's education. The advocacy tips provided in this article are tried-and-true strategies parents have used to maximize results and minimize stress.
Obtain an Assessment
The first step in arranging appropriate services for your child is gaining a clear understanding his or her abilities. In addition to anecdotal information, the best tool you can have when advocating for your child's education is a comprehensive assessment. A widely accepted IQ test (WISC-III or -IV, or Stanford-Binet 4 or 5) typically is not sufficient by itself. In fact, an IQ score by itself may actually prompt resistance from the teacher or the school. You will need both and IQ test and current achievement tests, such as those published by Woodcock-Johnson. These tests are generally administered by a licensed psychologist.
Before going to meet with your child's teacher, you need to do your homework.
Schedule a Meeting
If your child has had a comprehensive assessment, the results may have already prompted some accommodations by the school. If this is not the case, or if you feel more needs to be done, it's time to ask for a formal meeting. These steps can help you have an effective meeting:
If you have taken the steps to prepare yourself and applied the proper tools in the meetings, you have optimized your chances for success. If you are still facing resistance, move up the chain of command at the school and at the district. Keep in mind that there is likely to be someone along the line who is sympathetic to your child's needs. If nothing acceptable can or will be done by the time you have reached the superintendent, you may have to consider alternative schooling arrangements, such as changing schools, homeschooling or taking your child out of class for part of the day.
Advocacy is an ongoing process. There are no perfect schools, perfect classrooms or perfect teachers. As your child continues to grow and learn, additional accommodations will need to explored and implemented. We recommend accessing the Davidson Gifted Database for additional information on Educational Advocacy.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.