Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
If you are experiencing difficulties with finding the appropriate educational placement for your gifted child, you are not alone. In Infinity & Zebra Stripes: Life with Gifted Children, Wendy Skinner, a mother of two gifted children, shares her personal story of the hurdles she and her family faced while working with the school system as they searched for educational placements that best fit her children’s academic needs. As a former chairperson of a local chapter of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented, Wendy also provides tips on how to best advocate for your student, how to engage in polite persistence with school administrators and staff, and how to develop and promote shared goals with educators to achieve the best solution for your student. In addition, she touches on many issues gifted children and their families experience, such as assessments, sensitivities, perfectionism, writing difficulties, and friendships. An up-to-date resource guide is also available at the end of the book for readers who are interested in reviewing and utilizing supplemental resources.
A description of what Wendy and her family experienced is pieced together with hilarious accounts of her children and their demonstrations of giftedness, such as her daughter’s beliefs about Santa Claus and God, and her son’s thoughts on infinity and zebra stripes. She discusses that her oldest child, Ben, first complained of boredom while he was in nursery school. As a result, he was enrolled in kindergarten at a Spanish immersion school. Wendy had high hopes that it would stimulate him; however, his demeanor continued to spiral downward. When tested by the school district, she was told that his scores were higher than his age peers and, therefore, ability grouping was not an option. Eventually seeking professional testing, Wendy and her husband, Brian, learned that at 7 years old, Ben had a mental age of a 12 year old. Upon realizing that the Spanish immersion school was not meeting his needs, Wendy and Brian decided to put Ben into a different school that had the capacity to meet his needs for first grade. When 2nd grade rolled around, he was placed into a mixed grade classroom of 2nd and 3rd graders, and was later accelerated to 3rd grade.
Wendy thought that the challenges she experienced with her son had prepared her for her daughter’s entrance into education. She was proved wrong when her daughter, who had a personality completely opposite of Ben’s, brought along a whole new set of challenges. Wendy quickly realized that one general educational path for all students did not exist.
At the end of Chapter 7, Wendy provides a thoughtful section entitled, “Magic and Mysteries Revealed.” Here, she talks about what she has found to be important when advocating for a student. First and foremost, she suggests becoming involved in the school community, either through volunteering in your child’s classroom or working with the gifted community at the state level. She gives credit to the wonderful school district they worked with, saying their hopes would not have become a reality without them.
An easy read, this book will feel familiar to many families with gifted children and will provide helpful insight into what has worked for her family. She notes, from experience, that each child is unique, and what worked for her and her children may not work for someone else’s child. With the helpful advocacy pointers she provides, Infinity & Zebra Stripes: Life with Gifted Children is a valuable read for families with gifted children who are struggling in the educational system.
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.
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