Friday, February 29, 2008
Posted by Manisha Pandit
Being an exception in a world that prizes sameness is never comfortable at first. - Linda Silverman, Ph.D.Gifted, to describe talented children, was not a word I was familiar with until I came to the US. I was more used to brilliant, extremely intelligent, exceptional and of course, talented. It took me a while to understand that gifted was different from special. A child with disabilities is special. A child with talents is gifted. And, both need special attention.
What is gifted, anyway? According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), a gifted person is someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression. There are many more definitions, none clearer than the previous one.
Some define gifted as having an IQ of 130 or more. Others feel a child is gifted if they can perform at 2 or more grade levels above their age. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 has its own definition. No matter what the definition, the first step is always identifying that a child is gifted. Understanding the difference between a bright child and a gifted learner is also critical to forming misconceptions about one's child.
I was largely in the 'my child is bright' camp until recently. It was first brought to my attention that my child might be more than bright when she started reading at the tender age of 3. There were times when I thought she was dyslexic because was and saw appeared to be the same to her. She read from left to right and from right to left without any discrimination. Most kids belted out the alphabet song ABC. She belted out ZYX because ABC had been done to death. It was when she started writing messages in mirror image on our living room window so that it could be read properly from the outside, that I finally took note of the fact that we may have something going on here. Still, I was unwilling to get her tested privately as, by then, I had heard many negative things about being labeled as gifted. She showed signs of intelligence and I felt that that was all that needed fostering. I didn't think she was ahead of her grade because quite frankly, within the Indian context, she was not. She was average. But, we were not in India and the truth was that she was not learning much in school. To her, school was a place for social interaction, not learning.
The school district she was in did not have anything besides the ISAT for student assessment. Since she was off the charts on those assessments, her kindergarten school sent her to a reading specialist so that she could read instead of learn how to read. Her teachers were very enthused by her and looked forward to challenging her. As long as there was at least an attempt in that direction, I thought she would be fine. As time passed, it became clear that she needed more than what the local public schools could offer her. There were no private schools in the immediate area at that time. We decided to move to the Boulder area in Colorado because the public schools were known for being as good as, if not better, than focused private schools. Homeschooling was not an option even though it seemed like most of her learning occurred at home.
Boulder Valley School District has a Talented and Gifted Program (TAG) where children are tested using nationally accepted tests like the CogAT, Naglieri Non-verbal Ability test, Ravens tests, amongst others. It took nearly 2 years before my child was tested for the TAG Program, the primary issue being funding for testing. The No Child Left Behind Act was taking its effect and while 3rd grade and up took the CSAP, testing for TAG had been suspended. Change came in Spring 2007, when both houses of the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill that was then signed into a law by Gov. Bill Ritter in June, that made it mandatory for all state administrative units to adopt and implement a program plan to identify and serve gifted children. Thank you, Bill Ritter! My child was tested in October 2007, after first having been suggested as a potential candidate in March 2006. She is now labeled as gifted.
A lot of this may not be relevant to your particular situation but this is an indication of what you might face from the public school system in the US should you feel that your child's educational needs are not being met and that perhaps he or she is gifted. An alternative is private testing from centers like Linda Silverman's GDC.
We have had interesting run-ins with several parents who believe that their child does not get the attention he or she deserves as teachers' energies are focused on children on the extreme end of the spectrum: those who need help learning and those who need to be challenged. They don't say it to our faces but they believe that TAG programs are elitist because schools with gifted programs offer special treatment for "smart kids" that already have it going for them, especially in the classroom. Whereas I believe that every child has a right to education and that gifted education is more about meeting the academic needs of students whose abilities and knowledge exceed what is being taught in the regular classroom.
This is the first of a series of articles on giftedness. My next article will focus on why you should get your child tested for giftedness. Do share your thoughts and experiences as we could learn from your experiences. You see, this is a journey we embarked on several years ago - we just didn't know that we were traveling or where we were headed.
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This Post was written by Manisha from Indian Food Rocks.