Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Joan Franklin Smutny wrote Stand Up for Your Gifted Child with the intent to provide tangible information about giftedness and gifted education, and also provide the tools parents need to become successful advocates for their gifted students. This resource is easy to read, and arranged so that topics may be referenced quickly. The well-defined chapters are arranged in three main parts: Starting at Home, Going to School, and Moving Into the Community and Beyond. Each chapter begins with real-life examples that parents have shared with Smutny over the years. The Find Out More sections point the reader to useful resources. Important questions and ideas are highlighted in separate text boxes. Chapters close with Take a Stand! sections containing suggestions and tips for parents to help advocate for their children. At the end of the book is a helpful Glossary of Terms that defines words related to giftedness.
Smutny begins the book with an informative introduction that includes a definition of advocacy, rights of a gifted child's parent and benefits of advocating. Part One, Starting at Home, focuses on advocacy at home. Smutny explains that the first step to effective advocacy is gathering information. This may include what it means to be gifted, signs and characteristics, and what parents can do to support their child's giftedness. A chart explaining the differences between being bright versus being gifted, and a checklist of traits are provided. Smutny emphasizes that advocacy is also about helping children learn to deal with feelings and friendships. The author provides a clear reminder that the parent is the child's first teacher. Making the home a fun and challenging place to learn, tuning in to the child's interests, looking for teachable moments and doing things as a family are great ways to set the stage for success in school.
Part Two of the book, Going to School, offers ideas on how to communicate with the school. Smutny writes, "An effective advocate is an informed advocate" (p. 64). Things to know include state guidelines, district and school philosophy and/or mandates for gifted education, and what gifted programs or services are available. She advises parents to form a positive working relationship with their child's teacher and school administrators. While advocating, she recommends that parents maintain open communication with their child. By asking questions, parents can remain current on what's happening in the classroom and how their child feels about it. This section also provides ideas on how to arrange an advocacy conference, including examples of goals for before, during and after the conference.
Sometimes it is necessary to take advocacy beyond the doors of the school. Part Three, Moving Into the Community and Beyond, explores various ways to advocate within the community. Examples include connecting with other parents, joining a parent group or starting a parent group. Smutny also provides suggestions on how to approach the school board should the need arise. Being an advocate can often be frustrating and tiresome. Many parents become so immersed in helping their children that they forget to take care of themselves. The author encourages parents to recognize this and take the time to meet their own needs as well.
This book is a great resource for parents and educators of gifted children. Practical advice points you toward effective solutions. Real-life examples show how a parent, in any situation, can become a successful advocate for his or her child.
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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