Identifying a musically, athletically, or artistically gifted child is often less difficult than identifying the intellectually gifted child. An intellectually gifted child is characterized by a pattern of attributes in her/his approach to learning. The gifted child challenges generalizations; sees relationships between diverse subjects; has a curious, questioning attitude; shows a propensity for creative thought; has an intense sense of justice and morality; has multiple and varied interests; exhibits a strong commitment to task; is persistent and tenacious; has keen powers of observation; has the ability to abstract, conceptualize, and synthesize; is skeptical and critical; has rapid insight into relationships; and often has a keen sense of humor.
Gifted children learn to read earlier, often before entering school, sometimes on their own, and with a greater comprehension of the nuances of the language. They usually have large vocabularies for their age. They learn basic skills more quickly and need less practice. They display an ability for abstract thinking in advance of their peers. Their concentration and attention spans are longer. They often have a wide variety of interests and experiment with them. They have a highly developed sense of curiosity and a limitless supply of questions. They are good guessers. They can construct relationships between things that are not readily obvious. They can retain a lot of information.
The ideal school program for the gifted child fosters his/her ability to evaluate facts and arguments critically; to create new ideas and originate new lines of thought; to reason through complex problems; to associate and interrelate concepts; to understand other situations, times, and people; to work independently on research projects; and to develop an interdisciplinary approach to subject matter.
Intellectually Gifted with Learning Difference
Some intellectually gifted children also have learning differences and become particularly frustrated with their inability to produce in the classroom in exactly the same way as their peers. Parents must be strong advocates for their children in order to enable these young people to find satisfying expression of their special gifts.
The Gifted Preschooler
As there are strong indications that mature intelligence is developed between conception and 4 years of age, it is important for gifted and talented youngsters to be exposed to a high-quality learning environment as soon as possible. Parents play an important role in identifying the gifted preschool child, as they can supply developmental information and other data not readily observable in more structured situations.
Some characteristics parents and teachers should look for in preschoolers:
* The use of advanced vocabulary for their age;
* Employment of spontaneous verbal elaborations with new experiences;
* Ability to construct interesting or unusual shapes or patterns through various media;
* Ability to assemble puzzles designed for older children;
* Sense of humor used in general conversation;
* Understanding of abstract concepts, such as death and time;
* Mastery of new skills with little repetition;
* Demonstration of advanced physical skills;
* Demonstration of advanced reasoning skills through the explanation of occurrences.
Children’s perceptions of their peers also can be a revealing source of information. To find out how children who possess unique abilities are perceived by their peers, the following types of questions can be asked:
* Which child in class can make a broken toy work?
* Who in the class can make up the best new game?
* Who is the very best at following directions?
* Who asks the most questions?
Tips for Parenting
Gifted and talented children challenge traditional ideas and attitudes about being parents. Sometimes the responsibility of helping children become all they can be weighs heavily; but giftedness should be looked on as a challenge and not a problem, and parents, hopefully, will enjoy the experience. These children are wonderful treasures.
Parents can help meet the needs of their gifted and talented children by providing them with a wide variety of experiences. Take children to museums, airports, the library, and musical and dramatic performances. Play new games, do experiments, engage in sports together. For children enrolled in a structured educational or enrichment program, parent participation, input, and support are vital.
It is important to provide a variety of stimuli and experiences geared to the child’s natural interests. In addition to books, toys, stories, puzzles, and games, parents should also provide materials and experiences that encourage the use of imagination, challenge the child’s abilities, and encourage the development of perceptual and motor skills. The computer can become a fascinating source of learning. Encourage your child to record his/her ideas in some way, even if the written word is not yet fully developed. Allow ample time for thinking and daydreaming. Assign household tasks that coincide with interests. Encourage your child to translate her/his interests into specific products, e.g., stories, pictures, collections, inventions, tools. Accept and use your child’s tendency to see things differently and encourage active rather than passive learning. Play all kinds of word games whenever possible.
Parents should develop the habit of asking the children as many questions as possible. For example, “What would happen if…?” “How does it work?” “How would you change it?” “What else can you do with that?” “Why?” “What will it be like a (week, month, year) from now?”
It is important to remember that gifted and talented children are children first and gifted and talented second. Like all children, they need and respond to love, caring, interest, and guidance from their parents. Sometimes, however, being gifted and talented becomes a burden, especially if their environment does not meet their needs and expectations, or if peers react negatively to their abilities. The gifted child may become insecure, withdraw, or act out frustrations in the form of disruptive behavior. It is not uncommon for gifted and talented children to achieve at levels lower than their capabilities if lack of challenge in school produces disinterest or if giftedness is accompanied by learning disabilities. Meeting these problems will require a cooperative effort between parents, school officials, and, in some cases, a professional counselor.
Gifted and Talented Programs
In addition to public school programs, the following special programs for the highly gifted are available:
Governor’s School for the Gifted at Mary Baldwin College
Students are selected from all high schools in Virginia to attend an intensive 4-week summer program of interdisciplinary studies in the arts and sciences. Past topics have included the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the Idea of the Modern. Virginia residents abroad can inquire about being identified by their schools for this summer program by writing to:
Director of Governor’s School for the Gifted
4100 Grace Street
State Department of Education
Richmond, VA 23230
Johns Hopkins Talent Search
The Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY), which is part of the Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth (IAAY), conducts an annual talent search to identify academically able students. The Search invites students who are in the 7th grade and who have scored at the 97th percentile or above on in-grade standardized tests in either mathematics, verbal, or total test battery to take the SAT I. Students may seek to qualify after the 7th grade, but qualifying scores rise with age from under 13 years up to 17 years. SAT scores are reported to CTY which recognizes ability according to a scale of scores that takes into account the recent “recentering” of SAT results. New applicants taking the SAT I after April 1995 must score at-or-above- 510 on Verbal to qualify for humanities courses and at-or-above 530 on Math plus a combined Math and Verbal of 1040 for math and science courses.
Those who qualify receive eligibility for special academic programs offered by CTY every summer at college campuses on the East and West Coasts of the United States and through
cooperative programs in Europe. Students have the opportunity to study challenging liberal arts subject matter and be stimulated by their academic peers. In addition, CTY provides information on other U.S. advanced academic programs and guidance on getting the best pre-college education for able students. A variety of other services are available including newsletters, research findings, and publications and resources to guide parents and students as they plan an appropriate education.
Overseas students should request assistance in entering the talent search from their overseas school and have their SAT I scores reported to the Center for Talented Youth (CTY).
CTY also conducts a Young Students Talent Search and academic programs for students in grades five and six. This initiative is directed to stateside students or those overseas students who receive testing stateside and return for academic programs. Information is available from CTY.
Center for Talented Youth
The Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
Web site: www.jhu.edu/~gifted/
Mary Baldwin Program for Exceptionally Gifted Girls
This program enables a girl to complete 8 years of high school and college in 5 years. For more information, contact:
Program for the Exceptionally Gifted
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA 24401
Talent Identification Program (TIP)
Talent Identification Program
PO Box 90747
Durham, NC 27708
Outside the metropolitan Washington area, the Talent Identification Program at Duke University uses the SAT test to find gifted youngsters at about age 12. Participants are located across the United States and overseas. The most capable students are invited to supplement their education in a 3-week summer residential program offered on the Duke campus each year. The students can then be enrolled in TIP’s By-Mail course, which provides a textbook, lessons, and supplemental materials in such courses as calculus, Latin, American history, biology, chemistry, English language use and origin, literature, physics, precalculus and writing. This program includes students from across the country and overseas students.
Other Summer Programs for the Gifted
In addition to those listed above, a number of summer camps and programs are designed especially to meet the needs of gifted children. Some of these programs are described in the following publications.
Computerized Database of Summer Programs for Gifted and Talented Students
This service is available in two formats. You may request a search, specifying a particular region or state, topic or focus, grade level and/or other criteria or you may order the entire diskette and do your own search. For cost and more information, contact:
The Council for Exceptional Children
1920 Association Drive
Reston, VA 22091
Fairfax County Association for the Gifted (FCAG) Newsletter
Washington area summer programs for the gifted are described in the spring issue of this newsletter. Listings include county recreation, private school, and university and public school programs especially designed for the gifted. The FCAG Newsletter also lists suitable summer enrichment programs for teens throughout the United States. http://www.fcag.org/newsletters.htm
This newsletter put out by the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony Association, lists more than a dozen summer music camps, mostly in the eastern and mid-Atlantic states. http://www.ayporchestras.org/
Parents often need to act as advocates for their gifted child, especially when overseas. Unfortunately, often parents may find themselves in adversarial relationships with school personnel. This can be avoided if the parents are careful and sensitive in their advocacy. The following guidelines may be helpful:
Be supportive in any approach to the school; demonstrate concern for quality education for all children.
Get all available information about educating gifted students, including how your school system identifies gifted and talented children.
Get to know the child’s teacher; be a volunteer.
Be sure of information before suggesting changes.
Become a member of the school advisory committee or school board.
Be persistent but polite.
Depersonalize efforts on behalf of gifted children whenever possible; gather a group of parents concerned about the same issues.
Parents should be careful in their approach to the school. Start with the person most directly involved. Try the “I have a problem” approach and describe it in calm and polite terms. Telling about your problem invites other people to put their creative ideas to work in solving it and then puts them in the position of approving or helping to implement their solution. Do not blame the teacher or coordinator of the gifted program for all its shortcomings. These individuals are usually the strongest advocates of gifted education in the system.
Inclusion, also called cooperative learning, is a movement gaining support in the United States that opposes taking students out of regular classrooms either for enrichment or remediation. It is appealing both to those who feel gifted programs discriminate against minorities and those who hope to cut budgets by eliminating special services.
The Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-4363
Tel: 410-516-6900; for book orders, call 410-516-6998
Web site: http://www.press.jhu.edu/press/index.html
The Gifted and Talented Child Overseas
Gifted and talented programs are available in many overseas schools, but the programs vary widely. The best information on any school will be found on the Office of Overseas Schools (A/OS) web site. http://www.state.gov/m/a/os The Advisory Committee for Exceptional Children and Youth, sponsored by A/OS, has developed a special project to encourage the establishment of Gifted and Talented Programs in A/OS-assisted schools abroad. Parents concerned about their gifted child in an overseas school should contact A/OS for advice. Often the supplementary education allowance can be used to set up Advanced Placement courses.
Parents must take the initiative to learn more about both educating the gifted child and about portable enrichment materials geared toward gifted youngsters, particularly at the elementary level. All families, but particularly those with special learning agendas, should consider taking a home computer and software to post. It is reassuring to know that even when there are few or no structured programs available overseas, the local environment can offer compensating riches in exposure to new languages, cultures, and different physical environments.
Development of Family Resource Library Overseas – Publications and Computer Software
One disadvantage of living overseas with a gifted child is the lack, at most posts, of the resources of an American public library. Parents should invest in a family resource library to include standard reference materials such as a good encyclopedia, thesaurus, almanac, current atlas, and other reference books for young people, such as history of art, companion to music, books on mammals, books on astronomy, classic works of literature, and materials on the area of the world you will be living in. Parents may wish to subscribe to one of the publications on gifted and talented learners listed in the reference list and be aware of new services as they are published. Several publishers, including the New York Times, regularly update recommended books for younger readers.
In addition, a computer which can be used by the child should be moved from place to place. As new materials are provided they should be added to the software collection.
Program Opportunities for Academically Talented Students, The Gifted Learning Disabled Student, and Periodicals
Center for Talented Youth
Publications and Resources
The Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
Web site: www.jhu.edu/gifted/edplan
The Exceptional Parent
Gifted Child Today
The Gifted Child Quarterly
Education Resource Information Center (ERIC)
Clearinghouse on Disability and Gifted Education
1111 North Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22201-5705
Web site: http://ericec.org
Links to federally funded centers and sites: http://ericec.org/faqs.html
Fairfax County Association for the Gifted (FCAG)
2831 Graham Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
Northern Virginia Council for Gifted/Talented Education
P.O. Box 705
Falls Church, VA 22046
by U.S. State Department