Health > Kids > Gifted Child
IT ISN'T EASY BEING GIFTED A CHILD
If you're raising a child with profound intellectual, artistic, or physical skills, you already recognize the challenges, one of which is providing stimulation and support. Experts advise parents of highly gifted toddlers to give a gifted child ability-appropriate, rather than age-appropriate, experiences. If your son speaks with a complex vocabulary then you should respond in kind. If your daughter seems to enjoy the company of older children, facilitate those kind of relationships. Or if your child wants to spend all his time reading, provide him with a range of books on various topics.
UNDERSTANDING AND HELPING
When your child has exceptional abilities, helping him develop can be an enormous responsibility. Make sure your child is in an environment that provides the appropriate stimulation for his particular abilities and skills. Nurture and encourage questions and explorations. And remind him that the more he develops his special talents, the better he can share his special understanding of the world with others.
The gifted child can be many ages at once. While a child's intellectual or artistic talent can appear very mature, emotional development often matches that of her age peers.
Many parents of gifted children were themselves gifted children and are able to empathize greatly with their children. "I was excited to see Mimi develop a love of art," says her father, a talented filmmaker himself, "but remembering my own need for independence as a child, I've tried to simply direct her passions, rather than foist upon her my own way of doing things."
Gifted children are apt to see ordinary things in very different ways and to make connections between disparate ideas, or see things that others simply cannot see.
Giftedness is defined very broadly by education experts, using six general categories identified by the National Research Center for the Gifted and Talented.
General intellectual ability and talent - wide-ranging fund of general knowledge, excellent memory, ability for abstract reasoning and extensive vocabulary.
Specific intellectual ability and talent - a specific academic aptitude or talent in one area such as math or language arts.
Creative and productive thinking - openness to experience, ability to play with ideas, a preference for complexity, and the ability to become completely involved in a task.
Leadership ability - keen interest in problem solving, an ability to readily adapt to new situations, and a tendency to dominate social situations.
Visual and performing arts - giftedness in music, dance, drama, photography, or other related studies.
Kinesthetic motor skills - psychomotor ability characterized by spatial, mechanical or physical skills (not often used as a criterion for gifted programs).
WHAT KIND OF SCHOOLING IS BEST ?
The educational system is age-structured and implicitly assumes that most children develop similar abilities at the same time. Gifted children often don't fit into what we normally think of as age-appropriate activities.
If your child is identified as gifted, you will probably want to talk with her teachers and administrators to find out what kind of special programs are available.
A child who demonstrates knowledge of certain subject matter and superior abilities can skip ahead a grade or two. This, however, can create social adjustment problems. While their cognitive or special abilities are advanced, kids who skip grades might not be in sync socially, which can cripple achievement.
An alternative is to limit acceleration to particular subjects. The child stays with his classmates, but takes advanced classes in the subjects where he shows exceptional ability. This way she maintains her relationships with her friends, but gets to explore mathematical concepts that challenge her.
Not all public schools have the funding to provide special programs for the gifted. After a few frustrating years in the local school system.
Parents who can afford to take the time and have the ability and patience can educate their own children.
PROGRAMS OUTSIDE SCHOOL
After school programs and special summer schools can also provide gifted children with engaging and stimulating experiences to help them develop their talents and realize their potential.
MAKING FRIENDS AND SOCIALIZING
Children who have a special gift often feel different and misunderstood. They may find it difficult to meet kindred spirits or feel there is no one their own age with whom to share this special part of themselves.
One way of dealing with the issue is to explain that there are different kind of friends, and that they can share different parts of themselves with more than one person. You may want to explain that although their school classes have people of the same age, it's all right to have friends that are older and younger.
Allowing your child to take the lead here is probably the best course of action. You can jump in with a compassionate explanation if problems start to develop.