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Any discussion of gifted children should probably begin with the statement that in one way or another all children are special. Each child is unique, and each child will give a parent both joys and challenges. What defines being gifted in more common usage tends to refer to high IQ, learning skills like reading long before other children, or displaying a special proclivity toward a certain artistic ability. A child like Mozart for instance, was composing music before he was five. Other children may have extraordinary perception in mathematical skills, or just perform well on standardized tests. Being gifted has numerous definitions, and it is important to remember that a child who doesn't meat the specific criteria is just as special as one who does.
For the sake of standard definitions, we can examine some aspects of giftedness. The child may reach developmental milestones in infancy far earlier than his or her peers. For example, some children talk fluently at six to eight months, or learn to walk and crawl long before their first birthday. The child may learn to read, count or do mathematical calculations long before reaching school age. Tests of IQ normally show the extremely gifted child with an IQ measurement over 140. Children with an IQ between 120-140 may be considered moderately gifted.
Young gifted children may also exhibit hypersensitivity and be difficult to please. They may become frustrated or bored easily, and since they often think outside the box, they may find lots of new and creative ways to cause hazards to themselves. These children tend to exhibit intense curiosity, soaking up new knowledge like a sponge.
Some children may show interest in philosophical issues. They may be highly sensitive to hearing the news, and may be more disturbed by news that depicts suffering or death. They often have intense fears and may exhibit excessive “existentialist” interest in death.
Giftedness may be limited to one area of development. A child may be an early reader but show poor gross motor coordination, taking longer to learn to ride a bike. They also may resist activities that they can’t immediately do well. Since many children are praised for these special qualities, they may have anxieties about not performing perfectly, and will refuse to do things they can’t do well.
Some gifted children are also socially challenged. If they have advanced vocabularies and interests, relationships with their peers may be boring to the child. It is not unusual for a gifted child to struggle with forming friendships, because their active minds are often identified as having learning disabilities like ADD or ADHD. Generally, these children are not truly hyperactive, but their attention span may not be held by grade level material.
Though most gifted children are motivated to learn, they may be only motivated to learn on the subjects that interest them. This can also lead to classroom boredom, which is actually helpful to the child. Teaching such a child to work outside his/her realm of interest and fulfill requirements of a school, or in the home, is a valuable life lesson.
Other gifted children are extremely motivated to learn and excel. Fear of failure can lead to anxiety, and self-criticism can be very high. Even a supportive parental environment may not stop the child from having very rigid standards regarding personal performance. Pushing the child to excel can be equally as damaging because it never allows the child the chance to learn by failing, or to understand that failure is a necessary part of life.
One can get a child tested for gifted qualities; in some cases children as young as three or four are tested for giftedness. The results of these tests will fall into the defined parameters of the testing center. Even if a child is not considered gifted by one test, he or she may be considered so by another.
However, if all tests show a child not to be gifted, as a parent you still may see your child as special. He or she has his or her own unique qualities and will gift the world with his or her individual prospective. Many parents find these sufficient reasons to consider their children both wonderful and special.
It's important to realize that the proper measures of "giftedness" are really unrealistic. Taking into account the data, an IQ of 130, which most gifted and talented programs around the U.S. use, represents the top 2 percent of people. It's known that in counties with students who have a lower average IQ, the threshold may be lowered by up to 10 or 15 points and still these students are considered significantly talented. The problem with the educational system in America is that we tend to have an elitist point of view.
We believe that those who are truly considered "gifted" are those in the top 1 or 2 percent but really, all this does is raise a class of elitist adults who believe they're much better than the rest of humanity while really, the only thing they may actually ranked much better at is an IQ test.
So what's the solution? I believe that first of all, gifted and talented programs should be a bit more inclusive and provide more help to a wider variety of students. For example, instead of just basing this "giftedness" on intellectual capacity, include other skills, such as artistic talent, and other fairly under- appreciated skills.
Second, cafe41 is right in that more stimulation is necessary, but in fact, more stimulation should be mandated in the public school system, since the environment can account for up to 80 percent of IQ and what allows the environment to do that? Stimuli! What's also important to remember is that the public school system, in its present state, was created based upon the needs of the industrial era and with the end of that about 60 years back, it's about time for a new system, since the fastest growing sectors right now involve more creativity and a sense of individuality, not uniform factory jobs.
We need a system of public education that can cater to more students while at the same time, embrace each one's individuality. One way of doing that is treating school like an actual workplace: with a cubicle, access to a computer, breaks, etc., just like a real job. Maybe then we'll have fewer students aspiring to be the janitor at McDonald's!
So back to the point, what's the third thing? That would be student interaction. Maybe gifted and talented programs won't even be necessary if more collaboration and individuality were encouraged. But for the time being, these kids should be encouraged to help their fellow students, whether it be through extracurricular or volunteer work. As long as they have that interaction that they need (and probably crave) they will succeed in school and most likely, in life since EQ is just as important as IQ (possibly even more) in terms of success.
That said, the need for a special class of students to be raised as what could be considered the "cognitive elite" is preposterous. These kids shouldn't be told to be completely separated from the rest of their classmates just because of IQ and any effort to do so is basically just asking for more introverted elitists. Also, I definitely agree with this article in that an IQ of 120 starts the "gifted" range since the top 10 percent (equivalent to an IQ of 120) is usually regarded as almost a gold standard for measuring individual students' knowledge and capabilities. Why wouldn't it apply for gifted and talented programs? Personally, I've always been told I was gifted and talented, but my IQ of 125 falls short of that 130 threshold. I did take the test in adverse conditions and never applied for the gifted and talented program since, like other gifted children, I hated doing things that I wasn't good at or did not like and tests were definitely one of those things.
Though I may just be an anonymous voice on the internet, I hope that mine was heard. I didn't want to post with a username since I hadn't registered yet and going through my email is just dreadful for me.
GreenWeaver-It is really important to get gifted kids tested in order for them to have the chance at the best possible education that would be fulfilling to them.
This site offers a wealth of information regarding gifted programs online and various summer camps.
For example, Stanford University and John Hopkins offers online courses for gifted children. These courses could supplement a regular school education or it could be part of a home school curriculum.
Usually these schools require copies of transcripts as well as I.Q. or school standardize testing results.
There is so much information and support for parents of gifted children that it is a goldmine. With the cuts in gifted education funding, it is really important to pursue online courses like these. It also looks great on a college application.
I know that Duke University offers a talent search starting in fourth grade in which they identify exceptionally talented children. Duke also offers summer programs for these students and many of these students receive scholarships to attend Duke University.
Cupcake15- There is a great site called Hoagies Gifted in which it gives parents all sorts of resources to educate their gifted kids.
It also offers you tools in order to identify if your child is gifted and even offers information for children that are profoundly gifted with an I.Q. of over 145.
I have gone to the Hoagies Gifted site. It really gives you a lot of information. For example, if offers a gifted identification checklist to see if your child might be gifted. Some of the characteristics are that they have an excellent memory, a long attention span, and a perfectionist attitude, shows compassion, and is very intense.
The site says that parents are a really good judge if their children are gifted and often about 85% of children in which their parents identified them with the possibility of being gifted are.
Cafe41-Gifted a talented education is identified for children that have an I.Q. of at least 130. That is really the cutoff in order to be considered for gifted and talented education.
The problem with gifted kids is the socialization of these children. Often their intellect is several years beyond their current grade level, but socially they are immature and will not blend well with older children.
For example, if you have a third grade student that is has the gifted identification and has the ability to do sixth grade work, it would not be a good idea socially to place the third grader in a sixth grade classroom because those kids are going through puberty and their topics of conversations may not yet be appropriate for the third grader.
Gifted kids really need gifted education to stay interested in school. Usually these children become bored with traditional material offered at their grade level.
Full time gifted schools would be best for such a child, but if that is not an option, the pull out programs that many schools have are better than nothing.
The problem with the pull out programs is that they are only for a few hours a week and are not long enough to stimulate a child.
In that case a teacher can offer differentiated coursework and offer the student a totally different assignment within the classroom so that they don’t get bored.
Boredom is the biggest challenge with gifted students because if they are not challenged enough, they run the risk of disliking school and equate learning with boredom.
In addition, they will not put forth their full effort because it is not necessary and they will usually do the bare minimum to get by and never work to their potential.
I had a cousin that was gifted and talented and this very thing happened to him. His parents did not want to advance him to another grade because they wanted him to stay with his friends and as a result, my cousin remained a B-C student and never went to college.