Raising a gifted child can feel like a lot of responsibility; supporting
them and ensuring that they reach their full potential can be harder when
they have a lot more potential than most children to reach! Other challenges
might include them becoming bored more easily than their peers.
Additionally, a lot of resources for parents of gifted children focus on the
early learning stages, and don’t provide much help on continuing to support
them as older children and teenagers.
In this blog, we take a look at what you can do to ensure that your gifted child is supported, encouraged, and above all, happy.
We need to cater for their intellectual needs. Generally, bright children learn more quickly than their peers, require less reinforcement of a topic and are able to study things at a greater depth. How we cater for the academic needs of these children is a matter of heated debate.
Gifted children tend to remember more and solve problems faster than their peers. In order to engage with them effectively it is crucial that you keep this in mind, along with remembering that although they may read and solve problems at an advanced rate, they may not be able to understand some of their learning materials, if extended too quickly.
Gifted and talented learners require opportunities that offer stretch and challenge. They like to understand 'the big picture'; to know the context and purpose of their learning. Investigative tasks where outcomes are not fixed or limited provide valuable and stimulating learning experiences.
These opportunities can be provided by offering experiences that provide breadth of learning and go beyond the prescribed curriculum. Providing gifted and talented learners with these types of enrichment activities increases their experience outside of the school curriculum. Enrichment activities may include school provision or access to experts and classes outside of the school day. However, to make them worthwhile they must include content and experiences that sufficiently stretch learners.
Extension activities offer depth of learning. These encourage the student to work with either more complex tasks (i.e. which combine or apply learning objectives in less familiar contexts) or to provide them with a greater degree of complexity or abstraction.
Gifted and talented learners can be presented with opportunities that accelerate their learning through content.
They should be encouraged to work independently; to set their own tasks and to have a range of material and routes to work through. However, they must also be 'taught' and should not be left alone to work through set activities.
It is important to encourage learners to reflect on their work, to clarify their understanding and to consider what they have achieved and their next steps.
Activities like Tangram puzzles and invention boxes are great activities that you can share with your gifted child. For younger children, fill the invention box with supplies like yarn, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, pom pom or cotton balls, large beads, popsicle sticks, and any other crafts you or your child loves! During play, encourage your child to use their creativity to “invent” or build something using the supplies in the box. Both you and your child will be amazed at what your child can create!
Gifted children often have specific interests and it may be difficult for them to look beyond these. It is also recommended to encourage students to attempt things that they are bad at. If they don’t have these opportunities, when they do eventually encounter other things in life where they can’t succeed easily (when they go to university is often the time when this kicks in), they will find it much more disheartening. Few people’s enjoyment in life comes solely from the activities that they are outstanding at; it’s good to know that you can have fun at something even if you’ll never be the best at it, and this can be a message that gifted children miss out on.
COVID-19 has dominated life for the past few months and we should be under no delusions about its long-term impact; as such we need to be prepared to plan long-term. In fact, things may never be quite the same again. Could this be the time when we move from what is still in many ways, the Victorian era of schooling to a new era for the 21st century? One which explores what we need to learn and how to teach with the benefits of technology and students in the years to come.
We have been submerged with COVID-19 stories. But very few of those have told the tale of what is happening to our highly able young people. Anxiety and stress from staying at home, coupled with a lack of coping mechanisms for dealing with open ended learning can lead to gifted students not knowing when their school day ends and their down time begins. Students who suffer from perfectionism will be particularly prone to overload, when no time constraints are set on their learning. 700 million days of education were lost between February last year and summer, with alarming disparities in access to resources and support at home likely to further entrench and widen gaps in educational attainment between groups of children. Some Gifted young people will have had access to the resources they require to enable them to continue their learning, others will not have been so lucky. All will have had less support than they have been used to prior to the pandemic. As schools endeavour to bridge the gap, it is inevitable that gifted students will be the last to benefit from additional resources and support. It will be the responsibility of parents to try to ensure that their children have the individual support they require to achieve their potential.
There are two contrasting views about giftedness. One is that giftedness enhances resiliency in individuals and the other is that giftedness increases vulnerability. Gifted children often feel and experience the world far more intensely than their non-gifted counterparts. Rapid mood-swings, physical sensations which emphasise their feelings, apprehension over what may happen, feelings of inadequacy, and over empathising with others may all be apparent. Social connection is shown to be very important to esteem and moods. If your gifted child seems prone to social isolation, work to help them find peers they feel alike. If they have hobbies or other interests, extracurricular groups can help.