Helping Your Gifted Child Excel in School
Let's start out by saying that all children are gifted. Whether it is being able to paint, being able to make friends easily, or being able to make a parent smile at the end of a long day -- these are all wonderful gifts. And it is important that we, as parents, recognize and appreciate our children's unique talents and wonderful qualities.
The school system, however, defines giftedness differently, and each state has its own definition based on the needs and priorities it has identified. Generally, giftedness refers to advanced intellectual development or an advanced ability in some specific area. In schools, IQ tests are often used to determine giftedness. Once identified as gifted, a student has access to more advanced learning opportunities, sometimes provided as enrichment services and sometimes provided in a classroom comprised entirely of gifted students. The services generally focus on higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills.
It is important to note that in the last several years, there has been a push to redefine our concept of intelligence. Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has introduced the idea of multiple intelligences, which includes intelligence in musical, kinesthetic, and naturalistic domains. Daniel Goleman, author of "Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence," has popularized the idea of emotional intelligence (coined EQ), which refers to one's emotional and social competencies. Many state school systems have yet to catch up with these new ideas and still focus on more traditional definitions of intelligence.
If you believe your children are gifted, you might want to find out about their school's policies and programs, including if the school screens all students or if they only test students who have been referred by a teacher. You, as the parent, always have the right to seek an outside evaluation, which can be submitted to the school to be considered for determination. Be aware that students of a minority group are routinely underidentified as gifted -- make sure that nonbiased tests are used.