As a librarian and a parent of two “profoundly gifted” children, I often get the wonderful opportunity to meet other parents who are wondering if their children are gifted, and if so, what to do about it. Usually, I find that if the parent suspects that their child possesses unique learning abilities, they are most often right. Parents are very intuitive that way.
My husband Jamie and I began our journey into the land of parenting children who are outside the box about 8 years ago, when our son Ian turned 2 and began memorizing the lyrics and music of entire albums such as Paul Simon’s Graceland. This was admittedly surprising, and was only the first of dozens of examples of a mind (then later minds, after our daughter Eva came along) that learned differently than most people.
I would love to say that these gifts have made things easy for us and for our children, but as most parents of gifted kids will report, this has far from been the case. Although our children and their abilities are delightful, we have struggled, screamed, cried, and pulled our hair out when it came to educating them in the public school system. Most parents I believe will find that if their child has special needs on the lower end of the academic spectrum, public schools will bend over backwards to make sure they get the support they need, even providing full-time aids to go through the school day with them. This is wonderful to see, and is what schools should be doing for children of all special needs – both above and below the IQ center.
This, sadly, is not the case. Perhaps in another blog entry, I will share more details of our story. It’s an important one, I think, because we had one child who “got left behind” despite our nation’s promises to ensure this doesn’t happen. And I know for a fact that our story is far from unique. The good news is, that after struggling, screaming, crying, and pulling our hair out for four years in the public school system, we have finally found a happy balance for both children. Now Eva has been accelerated one full grade and goes to school part-time, homeschooling the rest. After Ian was accelerated two full grades in public school, we finally made the decision to homeschool him full-time. He participates in the public middle school band, and loves this. Though he’s 10, he plays in the 7th grade band, the 8th/9th grade marching band, and the 7th-9th grade jazz band. We are super grateful that North Dakota is one of the states that allow these part-time homeschool arrangements.
Just last week, we had dinner with a fantastic Bismarck family that includes two delightful children, one of whom the parents suspect is gifted. As he taught himself to read at the age of three (the parents didn’t even know he knew the sounds of the letters), I tend to believe that their intuition is correct. We shared our story with them in the hopes of sparing them the same experiences. I also had several resources to share to help them understand giftedness on a national perspective. I’m going to share these resources in this blog now, in the hopes that they will help other people as well. These are the titles that were the most beneficial for us in the past few years. In particular, the Davidson Institute has been an absolute life-saver. They are the only national “support” group for families of gifted children, though “support group” in no way describes the myriad of services they provide. Jamie and I would be lost without them.
If you are a lucky parent, friend, or advocate who believes that a child in your life might be gifted, I am more than happy to talk to you personally. The worst part of our experience is that we felt so alone for so long. But we have found that this does not have to be the case.
Resource Recommendations for Educators and Parents of Gifted Children
Books (all of the following are available at Bismarck Public Library)
Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds by Jan Davidson
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by James Webb et al.
A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students by Nicholas Colangelo (also available as a free download on their website)
Iowa Acceleration Scale: A Guide for Whole-Grade Acceleration, K-8 (a testing tool to help determine the appropriateness of grade acceleration; Bismarck Public Schools have purchased a copy)
Sir Ken Robinson (watch his talks online)
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