Davidson Institute for Talent Development
This article, written by Jan Davidson, Ph. D. of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, includes advice on the process of identification of giftedness and how to provide a nurturing learning environment for your child. Both those unfamiliar and experienced with gifted education can benefit from this information.
As parents we naturally seek the best for our children, particularly when it comes to education. Parenting a gifted child, however, provides a distinct set of challenges and circumstances for which parents may not be prepared. While raising a gifted child is a unique experience, there are steps parents can utilize to help children develop their talents and abilities.
Parents may find it difficult to tell if their child is gifted. The article “Parenting Gifted Preschoolers", explains how gifted children often reach developmental milestones at a younger age than other children. Some basic characteristics of giftedness include:
- An extreme need for constant mental stimulation
- An ability to learn and process complex information rapidly
- A need to explore subjects in depth
- An insatiable curiosity; endless questions and inquiries
- A need for precision in thinking and expression (often answering questions with "that depends...")
- An ability to focus intently on a subject of interest for long periods of time
- An inability to concentrate on a task that is not intellectually challenging, including repetitious ideas or material presented in small pieces
Gifted experts recommend testing to establish intellectual ability, which is typically done once a child is old enough to attend school. The article, "A Place to Start: Is My Child Gifted?" answers a multitude of questions about assessment, including why and when to test. When a child has an I.Q. 120 or above (depending on the test), he or she may be identified by a school district as "gifted." This means the child requires an appropriately challenging educational program. Students at the extreme end of the intelligence continuum, or those referred to as profoundly gifted, will need an educational program that is modified even further from the norm to accommodate their special learning needs. When you receive your child’s intellectual assessment, it is important to carefully review the tester’s recommendations for home and school accommodations included in this report.
Research shows that parents play a more important role in a child's development than do schools. A supportive parent can often make the difference in creating a meaningful education and offering a nurturing environment for students who feel misunderstood at school. Whether or not your child is gifted, there are activities that parents can do with their children, such as these suggestions from a mother of gifted students:
- Help your child explore his/her passion (whether it’s maps, art or dinosaurs) as it develops and changes.
- Foster a love of reading by reading aloud to your child, subscribe to newspapers at home, or take your child to libraries and bookstores for reading material.
- Offer music lessons. Research shows that the study of music enhances brain development. Children enjoy a sense of accomplishment as they learn to play an instrument.
- Encourage your child to be kind and respectful of others. Also, encourage them to take an interest in helping the community around them.
Unchallenged bright students are at risk for frustration, depression, underachievement, and often give up on school as a place of learning. Here are a few techniques to keep these students from falling through the cracks:
- Keep them challenged by providing opportunities to learn subject matter that is commensurate with their abilities.
- Teach them organization, planning, time and resource management, and other skills to make effective use of their abilities.
- Explore opportunities where they can be accepted for who they are, such as being with their intellectual peers.
Parents can also learn more about giftedness, advocacy, gifted education policy and local resources by visiting the Davidson Institute’s website.
Your life together will be a great adventure if you value your child for who he or she is and what he or she has to offer. As parents, we are truly blessed to be so intimately involved with such marvelous people, our children.
About the author: Jan Davidson, Ph.D., and her husband, Bob, founded the Davidson Institute for Talent Development in 1999, after a successful career as educational software pioneers. They are the co-authors of "Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds", published by Simon & Schuster in 2004. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a national nonprofit foundation created to support gifted students, their parents and teachers with free services and resources.