Is Your Child Gifted or Talented

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that approximately 300,000 U.S. school children are gifted and/or talented. Students are usually defined as "talented" if they have remarkable abilities in the visual or performing arts. Some individuals are talented in these areas, but do not excel academically in other subjects. Other individuals are gifted in a particular academic area, such as math. Some of these gifted students may also have a learning disability or special need in other areas.

The following guidelines will help you determine if your child is gifted and/or talented, provide ideas to enhance skills and help you advocate for programs in your school, if they're not available.

Defining the Term
Experts have yet to agree on definitions of gifted and talented. IQ tests, while still used as a chief indicator, are no longer the only criteria. Consequently, different states and even neighboring school systems may have different interpretations of the terms.

The National Association for Gifted Children has developed a list of characteristics of a gifted and/or talented child, which includes:

  • leadership ability, self-confidence and good judgment in decision making;
  • outstanding sense of spatial relationships;
  • exceptional ability for expressing self, feelings or moods through art, dance, drama, music or good motor coordination;
  • creative thinking in oral and written expression, as well as problem-solving;
  • good memorization skills, advanced comprehension and high academic success in one or more areas;
  • ability to process information in complex ways; and
  • strong observation skills.

Developing Your Child's Potential
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Gifted and Talented suggests the following tips to help children fulfill their potential:

  • Provide a variety of experiences geared to your child's interests.
  • Encourage your child to tell you his ideas.
  • Permit ample time for thinking and daydreaming.
  • Encourage your child to translate her interests into stories, pictures, collections and inventions.
  • Accept and use her tendency to see things differently.
  • Do not be anxious about single-mindedness.
  • Ask your child as many questions as she asks you.
  • Ask the teacher to allow your child to move through the curriculum at a pace that accommodates his knowledge level.

Parental Advocacy
Fostering your child's gifts and/or talents requires a cooperative partnership between home and school. But if a problem occurs, such as a lack of programs in school that are specifically tailored to your child's unique learning requirements, you need to understand how to be an effective advocate. The following tips can help:

  • Determine what gifted and talented programs are currently available in your school district.
  • Plan how and to whom you should present your request for an appropriate program, and how you will get the votes needed for approval.
  • Join an advocacy group. A unified group voicing shared concerns can be more effective than the complaints of one or two people.

© Parenthood.com, used with permission.

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