Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gifted students and challenge: A parent talk with Jerry Schecter, PhD

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Hi everyone, this is Veronica from Viva la Feminista and I'm blogging a gathering at Kim's place with Jerry Schecter, Ph.D. Despite what Kim says, this is a party...A party of parents, mostly moms & one lone dad, coming together to learn more about how to "best" raise our children who have academic gifts.

Dr. S's background includes being a school psychologist in CPS and was at the ground floor for the CPS gifted program. He helped work with underachieving gifted students - those who can do the work, but weren't.

Dr. S's definition of a gifted kid is someone with an IQ in the upper 5-10% of the population. That's one way, but more typically we are talking about upper 2% - 130 and above. Upper 5% - 125, you are bright, quick and still relate well. When you get to 140 - you are a little bit more different - harder to fit in, see the world differently, get labeled as ADD 'cause their minds are racing. You should ask the school if your child is "getting it" before accepting the ADD label. They might gifted!

They are also dramatic - feel things deeply, worry about justice, etc. Nervous habits. Imaginational. Great fantasy life. Hyper-sensitive to sound, touch, noise. Intellectual - Deep curiousity. Emotional - going from one extreme to the next.

Asynchronistic development: Unevenness in development. Could be 6 one minute, 8 the other, back to 6. If you ask a gifted child to tell you 3 wishes, they will usually list one thing that is altuistic.

High degree of perfectionism - They also need to be in control. If there is something out of control in their life, they know that their academics are something that they can control. Perfectionism takes a lot of different turns - intolerant of others making mistakes, it's an all or nothing thing (get an A or not try at all), always need to be right, or the workaholic.

Kids who have it too easy in the early grades and then get to junior or senior high and they fall into the imposter syndrome, don't know how to study, and think they aren't really that smart. (That was me!!)

As parents we need to remember that just because they are bright, they are not always bright in everything. When our kids are challenged, they are not as challenged as other kids because so many things come easy. Thus our kids have a hard time learning grit and academic frustration.

Linda Silverman wrote a piece about being a 6yo girl, but reading at a 3rd-4th grade level. "A child would have to learn how to explain things to her peers, learn to wait patiently while others catch up or something challenging, how to delay gratification by not answering all the questions the teacher asks." When you are that different in an environment where others aren't as bright, it is lonely.

Thus, there are a lot of reasons why we need to be our child's advocate. Getting all A's and getting by is not good. We need to help them learn that falling on their face isn't the end of the world.

It is not always better in the more affluent school districts - They can be less willing to work with parents for gifted students. You should get your child evaluated & then work with the teachers and administrators to get your child what they need. YOU have to push the school.

When your child does "fail" you have to help them learn how to deal with frustration, learn from their mistakes and more on. Don't focus that they know the material - lazy mistakes are learning moments. (My HS freshman algebra teacher would never accept my quizzes or tests before I checked it at least 2 times.)

Some insensitivity that parents get is that by the 3rd grade they will all be the same, we don't have gifted children here, don't push your child, teacher has child help other children when they are done early, there is no need for grouping, gifted children are role models and need to be spread out between classes.

A lot of gifted kids are better at adapting to skipping grades and being in with older peers than staying in their original grade and not fitting in. Will they ever fit in? It depends. If you can't be in a school with supplemental programs, seek out other programs like at Northwestern & National Louis so that they can be with students who are like them.

What can we do as parents?

When they are frustrated, you can't rescue them. You really not want to take ownership of the problem. Validate their feelings and listen to their words not just their actions. A parent is adding in: If your child has meltdowns, talk to them later when they are calm, and help them learn self-soothing. This was taught to me by a very wise person. How do you praise them without over praising? Praise the work not the final product. Acknowledge your own mistakes and role model for them.

A parent suggests a book called "Mistakes that Worked." It really shows kids that mistakes are ok and sometimes actually are better than the original destination.

What do you do with a child who seems ok, but there are signs that they really aren't ok in school? They are happy staying under the radar...You need to ask the school to step up and provide the challenge. It's harder when you do it, than if the school does it.

What is our goal? Is it achievement? Are they happy kids? A parent responds with I want my child to be happy/independent/at peace with themselves, if they happen to get good grades, that's great, but that's not my goal. We need to listen to our children. That's the best form of communication. It is also a sign of respect and when you give them respect, they will give it to you.

Dr. S. leads parent support programs in the mornings. No evening sessions. A lot is based on the book "???? ." Also does evaluations for children who are underachieving and will write a report for the schools. Also suggests "Teaching Gifted Children in Regular Classroom." There is no easy answer, each school district is different.

What about homeschooling? It all depends on where your child is when they are ready to enter school. A lot of parents of gifted students do homeschool, but it may not be the best option. You need to be in a group that is supportive.

Is there a good time to start the process? Skipping kindergarten? Skipping later grades? Some have been encouraged to skip kindergarten, but some parents didn't want to do it based on socialization issues. Skipping all depends on the school. You should have them tested when you are ready to make a decision about schooling. One principal told a set of parents that she could enrich him, but could not give him a group of peers. Another told a set that you need to remember that your child is gifted all the time.

Parent: There is no such thing as a perfect school. There will always be something that you are homeschooling. This country doesn't support arts.

-Veronica- And that was the jist of our discussion.

5 comments:

InTheFastLane said...

Interesting conversation, but I have to say that it is nothing I haven't read or heard before. The hardest part of advocating for gifted kids is that there is not always once right answer. And dealing with public schools is often hit or miss.

In my experience with my oldest, who is now in 8th grade, it is soooo much about the teacher and their willingness to differentiate and not try to make all their students fit into the same boxes. This is not an easy task that we are requesting in public schools.

I have found that ability grouping was what was most beneficial for my daughter. But, that is sometimes hit or miss as well. She has a very abstract mind and I can name on two fingers the teachers that taught to that strength (a 4th grade teacher in a gifted program, and her current GT English teacher). BUT, the majority of students are not capable of abstract thinking until High school, so teachers are not trained to teach abstractly. And they would lose most of their classes if they tried. This is why, even if we chose to send our kids to public schools, so much of the "extra" stuff has to be taken care of at home, anyways.

CanCan (MomMostTraveled) said...

This is some great information. I'm not fully convinced that my son is gifted, but every time I read something like this I have my suspicions...

Kim Moldofsky said...

Inthefastlane- thanks for stopping by. I think the program was most valuable for the parents whose kids are still preschool-early elementary. The "gifted veterans" have heard much of this.

Still, some of it (like many parenting advice books) was just a good reminder and it's nice to be with a group of parents who understand and share common struggles.

It's hard when the teacher matters sooo much, because there's a new teacher each year. We also have an abstract thinker who is feeling bored and underchallenged...

CanCan. It's good to read up on this. Kids can be quirky with out being gifted, but many gifted kids are a bit quirky, esp. the higher up the IQ scale you go.

People, and teachers, are not aware that giftedness exists on a continuum, mush like autism does. Not all gifted kids are created equal. I wish schools recognized this more.

Kim Moldofsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhoda said...

We moved our 8.5 yr old son from a private gifted school to our local public school this year and so far, we have been happy with our decision. Our district has a gifted program and offered to give additional tests for our son to further know which areas they needed to modify in order to accommodate him. They offered to accelerate him one grade level, and hooked us up with families who had gone with acceleration in the past, to learn firsthand how grade-skipping has worked for them. The gifted coordinator seems very knowledgable in recent research/methods in gifted ed and they keeps close tabs on our son. There is a separate accelerated Math class everyday for those who qualify into the gifted program. If he has covered Science material before, they give him a pretest and if there is mastery, he is given a special project to apply/further his knowledge. There are also Self-science classes to address emotional issues related to giftedness. The administration has been more than helpful and open about what they can do for our son. He is quite happy and it seems like a good fit for him. It also helps that his homeroom teacher was herself a gifted/accelerated student. So far, so good!