Family Forum

When your Child is Bored in School . . .  Challenging the “Gifted” Child

September 2003

Scott Turner was reading and writing before he reached Kindergarten. His parents had him assessed and placed in the Utah school district’s gifted program. April Davis, who lives in Texas, was relieved when her 2nd grade daughter went directly to 4th grade, but when an educational psychologist recommended Brette McWhorter Sombre’s daughter skip a grade, the New York family was prompted to move to a district that would better suit her needs.

All of these children were identified as “gifted” or talented, but the parents of each child opted for very different solutions. Because there are no nationwide standards for testing or implementation of special programs, assessments and programs vary from state to state.

“I don’t think there are any advantages to one program more than another – it’s a very individual thing,” says Peter Rosenstein, Executive Director of the National Association for Gifted Children, a non-profit organization that addresses the unique needs of children with “demonstrated gifts and talents.”

While a teacher may recognize a child with skills beyond his or her grade level, often times it’s the parents who worry their child is not being challenged. They may appear bored, or their frustration manifests with displays of temper, tears or anger. For some parents it’s a gut instinct, and the question becomes finding ways to ensure their child’s best interests are served.

Begin with the Teacher

According to Rosenstein the only reason to identify a child as gifted is placement. “It’s not to give him a gold star. The identification is done to determine appropriate placement within the school system.” Make an appointment with the teacher. Ask if they’ve noticed anything about your child. A teacher may think a child’s failure to participate in discussion reflects a lack of comprehension when in fact it’s boredom. Discuss what the child has done at home, and bring in writing samples, or books he’s read. Talk politely, says Rosenstein. “The worst thing a parent can do is attack a teacher without even having this discussion.”

Explore your Options

Because programs vary from state to state and even within school districts, it’s important to explore your options. Find out what the school does to keep children challenged, and what options exist outside the school as well as within. “School systems have a responsibility for  telling the parents what is available. Parents should be asking how the school system identifies the various needs kids have and what you do with them,” says Rosenstein. While one school district may have enrichment programs within the school, others direct gifted children to particular schools. Still others may recommend accelerating the student, or institute a pullout program in the school.

Consider your Child

Once you know what is available consider which option is best for your child. April Davis welcomed the suggestion that her daughter skip third grade. “Before this their idea of creatively solving her restlessness was to mentor other kids who were behind. She was frustrated because she felt it was her responsibility to motivate kids who were decidedly unmotivated.” Davis’ daughter was allowed to observe the fourth grade during the second semester of second grade to ensure a smooth transition.

While acceleration works fine for some children, many children are not socially or emotionally prepared for that leap. “We felt that skipping a grade would make things difficult for her socially,” says Brette McWhorter Sombre. “In the end, we felt it was better to vove to the highest rated school district in our area where she could get the special programs she needed without skipping a grade.” welcomed the suggestion that her daughter skip third grade.

Be Prepared

If the teacher is unable to answer your questions or make the appropriate adjustments talk to the principal. “It’s not one person’s decision,” Rosenstein points out. “You’re weighing academics and the child’s social and emotional growth.” If necessary, talk to an educational psychologist or a counselor and sit down with the teacher and principal together.

Some parents feel uncomfortable asking for something special for their child. One of the primary reasons the Sombres looked for another district was their school’s refusal to cooperate. “The principal made it clear that it was going to be completely up to him. We were not given any options and were treated as if we were causing trouble.”

Rosenstein reminds parents they are not asking for anything extra. “Every child deserves to be challenged to reach their full potential in school. If your child is not being challenged, then they’re getting something less than the other kids and you’re only asking that they be given that opportunity as well.”

Follow Up

Once you find the option that’s right for your child, don’t think the battle is over. Your child’s needs change as they grow older. While a solution might be found in first grade, down the road he may end up being so far ahead of peers something new needs to be done. Most kids are not gifted across the board, and programs should be flexible. Be ready to re-evaluate every year.

“Most parents of  kids with gifts and talents fight to get their child into a program and then walk away thinking they took care of it,” says Rosenstein. “Then they’re shocked a year later when the program goes out of business because of no support.”

Rosenstein compares gifted programs to other programs for children with disabilities or other special needs. These parents know they face lifelong battle issues, he says.  With talented or gifted children “it’s a constant battle and parents have to stay involved.”

For more information visit www.nagc.org, or call the National Association for Gifted Children at Bus: (202) 785-4268

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