Labeled as Gifted

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.

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Manisha from Indian Food Rocks.


It is wonderful to know that Medha has been recognized as being gifted!
I only wonder: do children ever feel like they are under undue pressure once they get this label? do they ever feel like they are superior to their peers?
The reason I ask is that gifts come in all shapes and sizes. I learnt as I was going through grad school that sometimes perseverance and emotional intelligence can be more valuable than IQ alone.

Nupur said...
February 29, 2008 at 1:44:00 PM GMT+1  

Nupur, initially I was worried about much the same things. It has, in fact, had the reverse effect. She is now free to be herself rather than give in to the pressure to conform. Feeling superior is not an attribute that I have seen thus far. Most of these children are unassuming and even diffident. Some have a lot of energy that sometimes just needs venting, apart from being channeled properly.

You are so right that perseverance and emotional intelligence are key. And that is what we hope to achieve in the long term. Because gifted children have a different learning process and their needs are usually not met in the classroom, they tend to lose interest in learning, develop behavorial problems (talking and disrupting the class is one of the first signs), and there are worse things that can happen as they go through stressful years in middle and high school.

Manisha said...
February 29, 2008 at 10:09:00 PM GMT+1  

G'day Meg,

Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog.

I've enjoyed my frist visit here. I could not agree with you more about the needs of both kids. I have three kids and they are my universe.

And as someone who grew up in India, the word `tiffin' in your blog name was irresistible.

Cheers and do keep in touch


david mcmahon said...
March 1, 2008 at 1:32:00 AM GMT+1  

I'm not sure what being "gifted" is in the US. We have been having problems with our 11 year old daughter at school. She does well academically and reads a lot among other things and has no social or behavior problems. She is losing interest in school.
She was in a school (till the 3rd std/ grade) where the approach to teaching was to teach student s by encouraging them to explore things on their own with lots of help from the school. We had to move due to family reasons and in the new school (among the best here) she finds it difficult to study within the structured system . She still does well academically and in other activities and her teachers are very happy with her at school. But she is just not interested in school as it doesn't excite her or stimulate her mentally. She now finds her classes boring and staying at home more fun! She is slowly withdrawing from creative activities she used to enjoy and was good at.
We are now moving back so that she can go back to her earlier school from the coming school year and hopefully things would be alright.

Aparna said...
March 3, 2008 at 7:22:00 AM GMT+1  

My daughter is in a very small (and new) private school in which her class has only 7 kids. In fact, the best school I went to had probably 10 kids in my class. At that class size (and this is probably true up to maybe 15 or so?) all kids can get the level of teaching that they need. I don't think it is just a matter of the gifted children (though I suspect I have one myself!) but ALL the children needing more hands-on or specialized education. In a classroom of 30+ kids (as in most schools around here), how in the world can the teacher even KNOW the individual reading levels and needs of all the students? Much of what you do with 30 kids is just crowd control! And beyond that, you try to deal with those who are not doing well, and the trouble makers (often bored gifted kids, of which I was one, at times in large classes!). I wish there was more we could do to reform our schools and change the whole model on which they're built. I think smaller schools with smaller classes is the way to go, but with the focus always on the bottom line (financial considerations over what is best for the kids), this will never happen.

Steph said...
March 4, 2008 at 8:56:00 PM GMT+1  

Great article. I suppose it is different in the US where you have all the facilities for testing etc. My wife and I have both on numerous occasions wondered if our son and daughter are 'gifted' as they sometimes display knowledge/behaviour way above their age. However, I also feel that the knowledge/behaviour a child displays depends a LOT on what they are exposed to - and so they may not really be 'gifted'. I will be tackling that in another article at a later point in time too...(I hope)

Dharm said...
March 10, 2008 at 10:02:00 AM GMT+1  

Hi Manisha, I read your post with interest. We live in a somewhat upscale suburban Cleveland, Oh town.(Suburban public school) My oldest daughter- now 25- was labeled as gifted in early kindergarten. There were some strange ideas floating around at the time she was tested. For example- she was deemed gifted, but supposedly her fine motor skills were poor, so they recommended maybe holding her back a year. I'm so glad we refused to do this and just to let you know, she was later such a good athlete that she excelled and lettered in sports starting in sophomore year of high school.
I would agree that there are pros and cons. Yes, she did have freedom to spread her wings and be with like children, but in my daughters case, as much as we tried to reamin lowkey- she would pressure herself.
In my opinion, a lot of the pressure came from the fact that her guidance counselor in freshman year told her that she was on target to be the valedictorian of her class. It was at that point that she felt pressure to keep it up. (Up until that time she had no idea whatsoever how she ranked)She toyed with the idea of manipulating her classes to maintain her rank, (she was always in advanced classes- with straight A's
and band) She wanted to drop band- which she loved - we talked her out of that, thank goodness. She did end up being #1, but I do have to say, that she felt that some peers viewed her as a having a target on her back- she was always the one to beat. So yes, there was definitely undue pressure. As socially active as she was- she still to this day has a perfectionist attitude, which can be be a hinderance emotionally.

Fran Z said...
March 24, 2008 at 12:47:00 AM GMT+1  

Post a Comment