Raising Gifted Children: Help Me, Kim

People often ask me for advice on getting services for their gifted children through their public schools. I'm pretty much a failure in that area myself, so I'm not sure why anyone would bother to ask me; I think it's because of this blog. At any rate, for I'm neither a doctor, a lawyer, nor successful advocate for gifted children, but here goes.

(Please note I've edited this request down a bit.)

I'm in need of some help. I recently put my children in public school after 2.5 years of homeschooling. I consider my kids gifted, since at age 4 my son taught himself to read by listening to me teach his older sister to read.

Once in school I told his teacher that while "emotionally" and "attention span" wise he was on the same level with his age group, he was ahead academically.

The first few weeks, he got in trouble for talking out of turn because he was done with his work early, so I told him to try to keep busy and not to distract others, so now he putzes around and takes just as long as the other kids to do his work but he's bored. The teacher says she can't/won't deviate from the curriculum because she has no "proof" of his being as "smart as I claim". He's spelling words far above his spelling list and acing every test, and even bringing books to class to read that are far above 2nd grade reading levels.

What I need is a way to talk some sense into her without turning all psycho on her! How do you all do this? It was such a struggle to get him in 2nd grade, since we homeschooled (I used a non accredited program, and so without any test scores or "proof" it was a struggle). Any advice would be appreciated!



Thanks for writing, J. Like your son's teacher, I have no idea is your child is gifted, but unlike that wizened woman, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

And let me tell you, in my experience, teachers appreciate you letting them know how bright and advanced your child is almost as much as they love you asking to come and observe them teaching, which is to say, not much. Not much at all.

I would recommend getting your son tested for IQ and achievement in order to have objective measures of his abilities and levels to show the school. You can ask the school to provide such testing and they may do it. Or not. In some states the school may actually be mandated to provide these for you. Even so, private testing (through an educational psychologist) though expensive (several hundred to well over a $1,000), is, in my experience, so much more thorough and may be worth pursuing.

Of course, the scores are only half the battle because the school still needs to be willing to accommodate your child. Prepare to have a meeting or three with the teachers, school psychologist and/or the principal.

A friend of mine home schooled and eventually sent her son to public school as a 4th or 5th grader. I think it took a year or two to for him to fully adjust to school and find his academic groove. Some teachers and administrators tried to lay a guilt trip on my friend that she had essentially screwed up her son up by having him at home. I would not be surprised if you experience the same. That said, somewhere along the line you will find a teacher or administrator who is more sympathetic and willing to advocate for your child. Grab on to this person and don’t let them go!

The plain, hard truth is that is that public schools work most efficiently if everyone stays in line. You will likely be chastised for having your child work above grade level and will be encouraged to keep him “in line” with the curriculum. Happens all the time. It just makes their jobs so much easier if your son is in the "right" box. *sigh*

If you can get any accommodations this year, huzzah! It's almost March, so more likely, you will be laying the groundwork for next school year. Things tend to move slowly in bureaucracies. Then again, in some states the school code spells out time lines for testing and implementing interventions; know your laws. You can start by looking at the state-by-state map at Davidson Institute for Talent Development.

Even more likely, the advocacy you do for your child will help other students down the line. Though honestly, that’s a source of cold comfort if you feel that your own child’s needs are not being met.

It's tough being the new mom in school. Volunteer, join the PTA and whatnot, so the school staff can see you are contributing to the greater good. Involvement in the school community will also help you connect with other parents who may have similar struggles. They may give you advice on how to work the system, what teacher your child will do best with a gifted child, etc.

As for the psycho part- vent to your spouse, your best friend, your private journal (there's no such thing as online privacy and anonymity, so be careful what you blog) so that you can be at your calmest and most rational when talking to the teachers and school staff.

Dear readers, do you have any other advice for J?
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