Commissioned by The Davidson Foundation
This writing is an introduction to a series of three articles by Dr. Julia Osborn in which she examines the processes that parents go through as they raise their profoundly gifted child. First parents try to understand the exceptionality of their child by having the child assessed. Then parents go through the process of grasping the educational issues as they plan for their child's education. And finally the parent must deal with the challenge of being an advocate for their child to see that the child's educational needs are met.
This overview is an introduction to a series of three articles, this one on the assessment of gifted students, another on the educational issues of exceptionally gifted students and a third on advocacy for gifted students. The first article in this series was based upon my experiences assessing a wide range of gifted students. The second and third articles are based upon the parent perceptions of the experiences of twelve exceptionally gifted students. In the second article, there is a presentation of the educational controversies that their parents confronted and a discussion of the educational issues these students experienced. Some of the common educational responses to these issues are also described. In the third article, the parent's experiences with educational advocacy are presented, along with their advice and cautions. While there is wide variability in the group of students called exceptionally gifted or profoundly gifted, the general information about a carefully selected group of these students can be helpful to many parents.
The study that was the basis for the second and third articles, was undertaken to provide a realistic picture of what happened to twelve students who scored over 160 on the SB: LM. At the time that the students were tested, they ranged in age from 6 to 11 and were in first to fifth grade. At the time of the study, they ranged in age from 8 to 15 and were in third to tenth grade. They were enrolled in ten different schools and two were homeschooled. All of the students were in good emotional health; none had behavioral problems or psychiatric diagnoses. Of those who took either the PLUS test or the SAT for the IAAY talent searches, all qualified to attend programs. Of the five students who took the SAT, two qualified for SET, the Study of Exceptional Talent.
Parents go through several processes as they try to understand their child, to plan for the child's education and to advocate for an appropriate education. In three linked articles, I have discussed these processes separately, yet they are constantly intertwined. In the first activity, assessment, parents gather information about assessment, common tests, and best practices and finally, take the child for an evaluation. It is important to remember that assessment occurs continuously, every time a parent receives additional information about the child. The first article, provides some information on one aspect of assessment, the individual psycho-educational assessment of the child (Assessing Gifted Children).
In the second activity, interpretation, parents take in the new assessment information, try to understand it and to use it productively. During this activity, parents seek out information from other parents, from researchers and from anyone who can offer them some guidance. Some read everything that they can about EG/PG students, others join support groups and still others join Internet groups. It is a vulnerable time for parents as they try to evaluate the quality of the information and the advice that they receive. Some of the educational issues the parents of twelve students have faced in this process and how they and the schools have responded to those issues are presented in a second article (Issues in Educating Exceptionally Gifted Students). As you read through this article, perhaps you will have the experience of one parent who said, "In reading material on kids over 160, I knew we were not alone."
Once parents have assessment information and have an understanding of their child's educational issues, then they need to advocate for their child. Notice, the advocacy is for the child and not for the educational plan. In the process of advocating for the child, the educational plan may and usually does undergo some revision. This can often happen when the school contributes additional plans or when the child's needs change. In the third article in this series, twelve parents of exceptionally gifted students share their collective wisdom about advocacy. Their advice is direct and straightforward. As you read through this material, remember the advice of one parent, " take a deep breath, you don't have to do anything instantly. This is a long process and 1 or 2 decisions aren't going to be the end of it. This is the beginning of a long process in dealing with the child's education, really, the child's life." (Educational Advocacy for Gifted Students)