Parents of Gifted Students and Parents of Special Education Students Share Similar School Concerns

Volume 15

You may not think parents of academically advanced students and parents of students who require special education services would have much in common, but both groups of parents share a number of concerns about their child’s school experience. Here are a few I hear about on a regular basis in my work supporting both parent communities.

“Schools Are Not Designed for My Type of Child”

Public schools in America do a fairly good job of educating children who fit into the typical mold. These kids can sit for long periods of the day, they master material after 5-6 repetitions and they benefit from a spiraling curriculum which covers the same topics year after year. These kids generally ‘go with the flow’ of the typical school program. But if you have a child who can’t sit still, needs fewer or more repetitions of material, who doesn’t learn best from rehashing the same subjects over and over or who requires individualized support, school can quickly become a hard place for them to be. Children at either end of the IQ spectrum, and children who have special learning disorders, often end up bored or overwhelmed (or both) at school. This can lead to disengagement which can lead to behavior issues, poor self-esteem, school refusal or a host of other challenges.

“There Isn’t Enough Budget for Services”

I have heard parents with gifted children gripe, “All the money in our district goes to special needs kids.” And I have heard parents in the same district who have special needs children gripe, “All the money in our district goes to gifted programs.” The truth is, both special education and gifted services are often underfunded in public schools. Even in cases where there are 504’s and IEP’s in place for special education students, parents hear from administrators, “Yes, we think these are the right accommodation for your child, but we don’t have the budget to provide the services your child needs.” Parents with academically advanced students are likewise told, “Your child needs enrichment but you will have to provide that outside of school at your own expense because we just don’t have budget to offer those programs here in school.” Both sets of parents are required to expend large amounts of money to private providers for services that, ideally, would be integrated into their child’s school curriculum.

“Teachers Don’t Receive Adequate Training”

In order for teachers to truly understand atypical children, they need training on the intellectual, social, emotional, physiological, neurological and developmental characteristics of the various subpopulations of students they support. Even within broad categories of students, there are nuanced differences between children. A profoundly gifted child, for example, may have very different social issues than a moderately gifted child. A severely autistic child may have different needs in the classroom than a mildly autistic child. Teachers need training on how best to support, motivate, manage, calm, inspire and challenge every type of learner. Sadly, most general education and specials teachers receive little, if any, training on children who fall outside the norm.

“Social Connections are a Challenge”

If a child is different from his peers in any way, it can make it difficult for that child to make and maintain friendships. There is little time in the day for teachers to help children develop social emotional intelligence and many gifted and special education students require extra help to learn to read social cues, mediate conflict and to verbalize their feelings. Bullying can also become an issue when children have interests and abilities that are very different from those of their peers.

School can become a hostile environment for special education and gifted students. Both populations have the potential to develop mental health issues as a result of not feeling like they fit in with same-age peers. Parents of special education and parents of gifted students would benefit from banding together to advocate for more support for their children at school.


Guest Blogger

5 Pet Peeves that Drive Us Teachers Nuts!

Submitted by Sebastian Carlisle

Volume 14

Before I begin, thank you for taking the time to read this. I am a parent, as well as a teacher, so I see both sides of the relationship. Sometimes communication flows smoothly between school and home, sometimes…not so much. I’m sharing this advice with you in a tongue-in-cheek way, but this is true insider information straight from the teacher’s lounge. That’s why I am using a pseudonym – to protect the identity of the innocent. My goal is to help you effectively team up with your child’s teacher, so the student has a successful and enriching school year.

Pet Peeve #1 – If parents have questions regarding a due date or an assignment, they email the teacher, call the school or ask for a parent-teacher conference.

Do This, Not That: Check the school webpage or teacher’s social media Twitter feed first to see if the answer is out there. This saves the teacher a great deal of time and energy. Many teachers manage 25-100 students each year, depending on the grade level, so these “quick question” emails quickly multiply and overwhelm teachers who are already stretched thin. The answer to your question is probably already out there so check the available resource before contacting the teacher or asking for a conference. Make sure you ask your child too…they may have written down the answer in a planner or in their notes.

Pet Peeve #2 – Parents don’t come to back to school night and, instead, ask the teacher for a personal presentation.

Do This, Not That: If you do have to miss an informational meeting, please ask for copies of the slides or video so you can see what took place. Don’t corner the teacher after school, in the carpool line or at Target to ask for a detailed briefing on what you missed.

Pet Peeve #3 – At parent teacher conferences, parents stroll in late and unprepared.

Do This, Not That: There is nothing I like more than seeing a parent arrive for a parent teacher conference with a notepad full of questions. Even better would be to email me the questions before the meeting so I can come prepared to discuss the areas parents are most interested in covering during our short time together.

Pet Peeve # 4 – When problems arise at school, parents take charge and try to solve them…but without all of the information.

Do This, Not That: We expect you to advocate for your child – you know them best at home. However, children act different at school. It’s important to encourage your child to approach the teacher first about any concerns before a parent jumps in. I love it when children approach me or email me about feelings or experiences they are having. It is good for their social and emotional development and will help them self-advocate in the future. Resist the urge to be dismissive of a teacher who mentions behavior that is unfamiliar to you. Instead share with the teacher that the behavior they are describing is something you haven’t seen before. Work together to address the issue but trust the teacher to take the lead.

Pet Peeve # 5Parents often don’t understand what it’s like to work as a teacher in today’s educational climate.

Do This, Not That: Remember when you are advocating for your child that he or she is one in a class of 25 or more students and every child deserves to have their learning needs met. This is a daunting and difficult task for teachers. Read a few teachers blogs online to see if you can develop greater empathy for teachers or, better yet, get into the school and help! Volunteer to guide a group or provide resources to assist on class projects. Come in and talk about your field. If you can’t get into school to help during the day, offer to prepare materials at home. You can save hours for a teacher by simple organizing papers for them. These hours are invested back into class time by the teacher.

Communication. Trust. Respect. Empathy. These are the hallmarks of any good relationship. Following some of my suggestions here should help you to maintain an excellent partnership with your child’s teacher throughout their academic year. Thank you again for reading!

About the Author

Sebastian Carlisle is a fictitious name for the public school elementary teacher who wrote this blog post. They wished to remain anonymous.


5 Tips for Parents of Gifted Children During Back to School Season (aka “Advocating Season”)

Volume 13

The start of the new school year usually means new teachers which likely means a fresh round of discussions to advocate for your asynchronous child. Whether it’s differentiation, acceleration, being allowed to read when finished classwork or other requests, we parents start each year with our ‘wish list’ of ideas for how our child’s teachers can make the classroom more enriching (or at least tolerable) for our kids. Here are a few suggestions that might help you get ready for those discussions.

Bring your child to the meetings. As you consider going in to meet with your child’s teachers, administrators, gifted specialists and other adults at the school, I recommend having your children participate in the discussions. There are many reasons why having your child in the room makes sense including, a) you are modeling effective advocacy skills will help your child learn how to advocate for themselves in the future, b) having your child attend the meetings puts a face to a name for the adults around the table so they remember they are talking about, “a person, not a problem,” and c) your child will hear you going to bat for them which helps them to know you really do understand their needs.

Ultimately, your child is a stakeholder in any discussions about their education so it’s important that they have an opportunity to participate in their own advocacy. If your child is easily bored, you might have them engage in an activity in the room, i.e. playing with a puzzle on the floor, while the meeting goes on around them. That way they can listen in and feel included without getting too squirmy.

Go in with a wish list but be open-minded to new ideas. It’s a good idea to do a little research prior to asking for differentiation or other “special treatment” for your child. Does your child’s school telescope the curriculum for advanced students? Do some kids jump up a grade for math or language arts? Has the school allowed other children to type answers on tests rather than write in long-hand? Bring some suggestions that you think might help but also come in open-minded to hear what the school team thinks might work well. I have often been surprised at the creativity (and, frankly, brilliance) of some of the ways my children’s teachers have offered to support them in class. The school team members are the experts in educating children so let them try a few things that they have seen work well for other children. Try their ideas first and book a follow up meeting on the calendar before you leave the meeting, so you can all regroup and discuss how it’s going.

Elicit participation from people who understand your child. Finding advocates in the school who know, understand and like your child is critical to your child’s success at any school if the child has unique education and/or development needs. Invite previous teachers, the assistant principal, a gifted resource teacher or other staff member to attend the new teacher meeting with you. While this may strike the teacher as odd at first, you can open the meeting by explaining that these educators know your child well in the school setting and you’ve asked them to attend so they can help brainstorm ways to make sure the school year runs smoothly for both teacher and student. In my experience, having another educator around the table helps bridge any differences in language or ideology between classroom teacher and parent. Plus, your child’s new teacher will know others in the building are invested in your child’s success.

Know the law and district policies. While most teachers are genuinely open to learning more about how best to support the unique needs of your child, there are some people out there who just don’t ‘get’ that gifted children require a difference education approach in order for them to engage the curriculum. It’s always a good idea for parents to know their state’s laws surrounding gifted education and to fully understand their school district’s policies on identification and serving gifted students. A quick web search can arm you with the information you need to protect your child. If you just can’t get the teacher to budge, ask them if they are aware that gifted children are a protected-by-law population of students who are entitled to an appropriate education. That should get their attention.

Be nice, even if you are fuming on the inside. If you meet resistance from new classroom teachers when you ask for support for your child’s unique needs, remember that sugar attracts more flies than vinegar. This teacher is going to spend a lot of time with your child for the next 9 months so remember to be considerate and empathetic, even when they say, “all children are gifted” or “your child can’t be gifted because he hasn’t earned all A’s.” There are so many myths out there about gifted children and most teachers have little to no training on kids like ours. With so many helicopter parents claiming their snowflakes are special, the teacher may not yet realize that your child truly is different. If the meeting isn’t going where you want it to go, adjourn with the promise that you will be back in touch when you’ve had time to think more about the best approach. (Then call me right away and we can set up a consulting session to strategize how best to proceed!)

The majority of educators in classrooms are eager to do whatever it takes to support the growth and development of bright students. Often it takes teachers are few weeks to really understand how advanced some students are so be patient and think of the school year as a marathon, not a sprint. It may take several meetings for you and the teacher to develop a model that works well for your child. I’m here for you if you want to brainstorm ideas. Good luck advocating! You’ve got this!


Interview with Wendy King, Supervisor for Gifted Education at Loudoun County Public Schools (Virginia)


Behind the Scenes at a Public School Gifted Services Office

Volume 12

What is your role in the Gifted Services Department? The role of the Supervisor for Gifted Education at Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is to carry out the Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students as established by the Virginia Department of Education and to provide leadership to ensure that gifted education programs remain responsive to the needs of children. This includes a wide variety of responsibilities, such as implementing procedures for identification and placement of students in appropriate programs, revising procedures as necessary, developing curriculum in association with gifted resource teachers, coordinating professional development, providing support for gifted resource teachers and responding to inquiries regarding the gifted program from parents, administrators and community members.

Ultimately, the work of the supervisor is to collaborate with stakeholders to provide gifted learners with programs that will challenge them and enable them to make continuous progress in school.

How many students does your department serve? LCPS serves over 80,000 students. The LCPS Gifted Education Department provides services for more than 28,000 of those students in grades K-4 and more than 7,000 students in grades 4 and up who have been formally identified for gifted services.

How big is your staff in Gifted Services? In addition to the supervisor of gifted education, we have an Elementary Gifted Coordinator and a Secondary Gifted Resource Teacher to support the gifted program.

Can you share with us how your staff spends the majority of their time? The work of the Gifted Education Office is seasonal. In the fall, much of the work is focused on professional development for teachers and communicating with parents through events such as gifted information sessions. Late fall and winter keep the office busy with preparing for special initiatives such as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology entrance exams and the Governor’s School nomination process. The spring is devoted to the gifted eligibility process. As summer begins, the team concentrates on gifted appeals. Other summer projects include curriculum development, planning professional development and preparing for the new school year. The one task that is consistent throughout the year is responding to parent, teacher and administrator inquires.

What are some of the projects you are working on locally in your district to improve identification and delivery of gifted services? The Gifted Education Advisory Committee recently partnered with the LCPS Department of Special Education to co-host a community presentation on meeting the needs of twice-exceptional learners. The Office of Gifted Education has been working to expand programs that nurture and challenge students with gifted potential from historically underrepresented populations.

What do you wish more parents understood about your department? If parents have questions about gifted services, we want to make sure there are a variety of ways they can get answers to their questions. We always encourage parents to reach out to the gifted resource teacher at their child’s school if they have questions about the gifted program. Gifted resource teachers have the expertise to guide parents through the gifted eligibility process. Parents also can attend gifted information sessions to learn more about program options, check the Gifted and Talented webpage on the county website and/or contact our office by phone or email. We also have a Gifted Advisory committee where parents and teachers collaborate.

What is the #1 complaint you hear from parents? One concern I hear from parents is they would like to see their child challenged more in a particular subject area. I urge parents to share this concern with their child’s classroom teacher and, when appropriate, invite the gifted resource teacher to join the conversation. The gifted resource teacher can provide resources that may be helpful in differentiating instruction for high-ability learners. When the classroom teacher and the gifted resource teacher work together, it is a win-win situation for students.

What is the #1 compliment you hear from parents? I’m always pleased to hear parents share that the gifted resource teacher at their child’s school is dedicated, enthusiastic and takes time to answer their questions.

What do you wish more teachers understood about gifted children? Gifted learners are not all the same. They have a variety of unique characteristics and needs. There are so many resources available to help educators differentiate instruction for gifted learners and support their social and emotional needs in the classroom.

Are there other counties/states who do a good job of identifying and educating gifted children and other countries you keep your eye on? Our team looks to a variety of organizations and resources to keep abreast of best practices and trends in the field. Of course, our office is in regular communication with neighboring districts. We also review important reports such as the National Association for Gifted Children’s State of the States in Gifted Education and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities, to see which states are taking a lead in the field of gifted education.


Are Gifted Children More Prone to Digital Addictions?

Volume 11

“Are gifted children more prone to digital addictions?” is a question that has been plaguing me for the past few months as I hear more stories from parents about bright kids abandoning books for smart phones, video game consoles and personal computers.

“What exactly constitutes ‘addiction’ to technology and is it even a real thing?” I started to wonder. My own boys play games online for hours at a time and often have their noses glued to their phones when we leave the house. So, the mama bear in me wanted to learn more about what I can do to keep my kids healthy.

I learned there are three forms of addiction that fall under the overall umbrella of ‘digital addiction’: Social media addiction, which primarily affects females, video game addiction, which primarily affects males, and Internet addiction, which affects both males and females.

The definition of digital addiction is characterized by, “Excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviors regarding computer use and internet access that lead to impairment or distress.” (University of Iowa, Shaw & Black).

Behaviors associated with digital addiction (also called ‘tech addiction’) include many of the behaviors we already see in our gifted children: Emotional dysregulation, feelings of profound loneliness, social skills impairment and poor executive function. Researchers also noticed that Internet and video game addicted teens have lower gray brain matter density suggesting that over time, bright kids could lose intellectual abilities because of too much screen time.

To me this suggests that gifted children may suffer from even greater social delays and developmental issues than neuro-typical children if they become addicted to tech.

Experts say there is little differentiation between digital addiction and substance addiction in terms of impact on the brain. We know from reading insider information from tech executives that social media apps and video games are intentionally designed to get kids hooked. See my summary of the book, “Glow Kids” for examples. Last week, The World Health Organization officially identified video game addiction as an official disease. I hope this means insurance companies will cover treatment because with the explosive growth of the game, “Fortnite,” many children are going to need help to break the addiction to that game. I read a story last week about a 9-year old girl who was so addicted to Fortnite, she stopped sleeping and wouldn’t leave the game even to use the bathroom. She is now in digital addiction rehab.

What can we parents do to protect our children? The answers are not easy ones, especially with schools across the country rolling out “BYOT” (Bring Your Own Technology) programs. Not only are our children exposed to digital media during their down-time but they are now accessing these “digital drugs” on the school bus, in-between classes, at lunch and even in some cases under the noses of their classroom teachers. If parents threaten to take away the device/computer, we quickly learn that our children can no longer access their homework, study guides or research they need to complete school assignments.

Here are a few quick and easy ways to at least counter-balance your child’s time spent on devices.

  • Instill a ‘no-phones-at-meals’ policy in your home (one expert with whom I spoke recommends putting a basket in the kitchen where all family members deposit their phones before they come to the table)
  • Limit video game time by turning off the router in your home every night
  • Encourage (force, if necessary) your children to socialize with friends offline
  • Send your children to a no-tech sleep away camp during the summer
  • Know the games your children are playing so you can assess the level of violence, profanity and socialization (and with whom they are speaking in those headsets)
  • Model healthy tech use for your children
  • Give children chores to do which help the family function more smoothly and that get them off their devices
  • Find a way for your child to connect to something greater than themselves which reminds them of their own humanity

As more research is done on digital addiction, we will learn more about what types of children are most susceptible. In the meantime, my theory is that gifted children are more likely to find missing social connections and intellectual stimulation using social media, video games and the Internet, making them particularly vulnerable to becoming digital addicts.


Guest Blogger

Helping Your Child Manage Anxiety

Volume 10

“Those kids were mean to me again in school today,” Jake told his mom quietly.

“Oh no! What happened?” Jake’s mom asked, concerned.

“They wouldn’t let me sit with them at lunch.  I had to sit by myself,” Jake told her.

“Oh no. Not again!” Jake’s mom responded, feeling her own anxiety rising.

Of course Jake’s mom is worried. How could she not be worried when others were mean to her child?

Fears and worries are an inevitable part of parenting. Fortunately, being afraid or worried isn’t necessarily a problem in itself. But when you have an anxious child, it’s very important to show your child that you can handle your fears and worries.

Why?

Most importantly, if children believe that we can’t handle something, how can they believe that they can handle it? If Jake notices that his social difficulties cause anxiety in his mother, his own fears about the situation are likely to be reinforced.

It’s also important to offer children a model of what it looks like to manage our emotions. How we handle our fears – how we demonstrate that we are not controlled by our feelings – can teach our children how to handle their own fears.

So how do we make sure our worries don’t control us?

  • When you’re feeling worried, notice that feeling. Then acknowledge that you can handle it. You can even say to your child, “This makes me feel worried. I can handle it though.”
  • Then model how to “release” that worried energy. Take some deep breaths. Or wrap your arms around yourself, give yourself a tight squeeze and then slowly let go. Or do a simple mental exercise, which can bring the more rational part of your brain back online. (For example, go through the alphabet, skipping every other letter… A, C, E….)

You can even reinforce this strategy by making a plan ahead of time for how you’ll handle it the next time you feel worried. First, identify the situations that cause anxiety. Do you become anxious when your child says they got in trouble for not paying attention again? Or maybe when your child struggles with peer relationships? Once you identify your trigger (most people only have a few that they just recycle!), make a plan for how you’ll handle it in the moment. You can follow the format: “When my child ______, I will ________.” That might sound something like, “When my child tells me that he’s struggling with peers, I will tell him how I’m feeling and then get up and walk around until I feel better. Then I’ll talk to him once I’m calm.” The more you remind yourself of your “calm down plan” when you’re not flooded with emotion, the more you’ll be able to call upon it when you are.

About the Author
Rachel Bailey is a Parenting Specialist who has been serving families in Northern Virginia for over a decade. Besides being a mother of two, she has Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and a certification in Positive Discipline. In the past, Rachel has provided services as an ADHD Coach, intensive in-home mentor, and psychotherapist. Currently Rachel provides parents with hands-on tools for raising children who meet their full potential via individual consultations and her online Parenting Academy. For more tips and information, please visit www.Rachel-Bailey.com or her Facebook page.


5 Sly Ways Parents Can Help Gifted Children Make and Keep Friends

Volume 9 

Strong social ties are critically important for gifted children who struggle to connect with same-age peers. Here are five ways parents can engage in a little behind the scenes social engineering to help their children bond with friends.

Find a social coach for your child

Hire a therapist or identify a family member who has a particularly high social IQ and ask them to coach your gifted child on social issues that come up in your child’s life. Talking to a social coach once a week provides gifted kids with a forum where they can discuss situations in real time. Gifted children may not have the experience to effectively navigate sticky friend issues and some bright kids struggle to accurately read social cues. While mom and dad may want to serve as the social coach for their children, kids tend to more readily take advice from a non-parent adult, especially one they consider socially adept. Also, a social coach can provide more objective feedback since it’s unlikely they know the cast of characters involved in the child’s social life.

Encourage your child to follow the latest fads

Your child may be more interested in the Periodic Table of Elements than Pokémon but keeping your child current with what the other kids are talking about can help your child form solid social connections. You may hate the idea of your child playing Fortnite but if all the kids in your child’s class are playing the game, encourage your child to at least dabble in it enough to be able to hold their own in a conversation about the game around the lunch table at school. Celebrate your child’s individuality while helping them to develop ‘social currency’ with peers.

Befriend the parents of children your kids like

When your child makes a connection that offers the promise of friendship, make extra effort to meet the child’s parents. While your child’s friend’s parents may not be your cup of tea, force yourself to engage socially for the benefit of your child. Inviting a parent to stay at the house for coffee during play dates or connecting with the parents via text/email can help keep your child plugged in with the friend set.

Arrange for your children to be in classes with their friends

Some parents go so far as to build ‘must be in class with so and so’ into their child’s IEP or 504 plans at school. Others simply meet with the guidance counselor at the beginning of the year to cajole these scheduling Gods into putting their child into lunch and P.E. with at least one of their buddies. Those of us with gifted children know that if our kids don’t have a good friend in an unstructured class, there is a chance our kids won’t want to go to school at all.

Force your children to take “safe” social risks to build confidence and skills

Pushing your child out of their social comfort zone may seem contradictory to the previous advice outlined here, but it’s important for kids to develop social skills by testing the waters in the adult world. Have your child pick up the phone to order pizza for the family. Send your son or daughter to knock on a neighbor’s door to borrow something. Let kids speak to the cashier when returning merchandise at a retail store. Look for ‘safe’ opportunities like these where your child can engage with adults in unpredictable situations. Successfully managing human interactions with strangers can help gifted children to build social confidence so they are more apt to approach prospective friends on the playground, in class or out in the bigger world.

Having a good friend nearby can make or break any child’s school year, summer camp or enrichment activity. Parents of gifted children must often work extra hard to help their children make and keep friends.


Guest Blogger

Finding your Tribe to Not Only Survive…But Thrive

Volume 8

What is a tribe?

Throughout history, humans have self-organized into tribes for survival. Groups relied on each other for mutual benefit and support, be it physical survival, or social and emotional well-being.  As civilizations evolved, tribal needs evolved as well. Mirriam-Webster defines these tribes as “a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest.”  They often share a common goal or journey, common frustrations, and common needs.

Why is it important for parents of gifted children to find their tribe?

The gifted population is small, making up approximately 2-5% of the total population. This segment isn’t better, or worse than the other 95-98%, but is definitely different.  The needs of the gifted, by definition, are unique, and those who understand them are often hard to find.

As a parent, understanding needs of gifted kids and figuring out how to meet those needs is critical.  There is research and experts available to help build understanding, but there are few things that beat picking up the phone and talking to a friend who has walked the same path.  Understanding how a fellow tribe member worked within an existing environment to get their child’s academic or emotional needs met, and understanding what didn’t work, provides a great deal of insight to help you support your child. Beyond that, having someone to share frustrations and successes is invaluable.  Parenting is hard and connecting with those who share common challenges helps ease the journey.  Some parents readily share their child’s level of giftedness, unique needs, and successes.  Other parents live more under the radar and don’t share this information even with their closest friends and family.  Finding your tribe where all these intricacies are considered completely normal allows you to feel that you’re not alone, not crazy, and there’s hope!

How to find your tribe?

Finding others in the 2-5% of the population isn’t impossible.  There are established organizations that target the needs of the gifted – academic, social, emotional, and specific needs or areas of interest.  It is important to understand which subsegment within the gifted population is your tribe – does your child have learning differences and is considered twice exceptional?  Is your child profoundly gifted?  Does your child have a specific passion?  Understanding where in the gifted community your tribe lives is important.   Once you identify your sub-segment, begin your quest.

I live in a great part of the country, but far away from any major cities. Because it lacks the population density of a city, one might think there aren’t as many opportunities to find your tribe in places like this.  While this may be the case, it’s not impossible!  Tribes can be local or remote.  Here are some recommendations to get started:

  • Look for local gifted parent groups
  • Attend your state’s gifted conference
  • Find events that cater to the interests of your child (math circles, academic competitions, chess tournaments, book groups, etc.).
  • Find a national organization.  There are several large organizations that address the needs of the gifted, such as NAGC, SENG, Duke TIP, Johns Hopkins CTY, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, and many others.  Look into groups like these and see which one is a fit for your child’s needs, and your parenting style.
  • Facebook can be your friend, too. There are numerous parent groups comprised of parents across the gifted range, and for specific 2e segments.

I assure you, that once you find your tribe, it is magical.  To feel understood and “normal” is a gift unto itself.  And, as hard as it is to parent a gifted kid, it’s even harder to be a gifted kid.  Help your child find their tribe, too.  I have found that, when my children find others with whom they connect, my tribe is there, too.  It is truly a life-changing experience.

About the Author
Venetia Muench lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband and their two awesome, and different, gifted sons. She is a passionate researcher and tireless advocate for their needs. Reach Venetia at vseblatnigg@yahoo.com.


What No One Ever Tells You About Grade Skipping

Volume 7

Academic acceleration for gifted students can take many forms but one of the most controversial is whole grade acceleration, commonly known as, ‘grade skipping.’ This practice is controversial only because negative preconceptions still prevail among teachers, administrators and parents that grade skipping is harmful to students.  We now have reams of research indicating that whole grade acceleration is successful for most of the students who skip.

Five years ago, my son skipped the third grade as he transitioned to a new school. I learned a lot about the consequences of him skipping a grade that I wish someone had told me back then. It likely wouldn’t have changed our decision to grade-skip him, but it may have made my son’s journey a bit easier. Several parents I know have also grade skipped their children. After speaking with them, here are just a few of the lessons we parents have learned along the way.

Make sure your child is truly prepared to be the last one to reach milestones.

Our son is tall, so he has always looked older than he is. But other children who grade skip may be the smallest in their class throughout their years in school. This difference may bother some children. When classmates start to show outward signs of puberty (acne, facial hair, braces, etc.), grade skipped kids may feel left behind. We have to remind our children that they are ‘normal’ and that they, too, will go through all the same changes in another year. I imagine we will face similar issues when our kids’ friends start driving. The key is to make sure your child understands that their body isn’t necessarily accelerated at the same pace as their brain. 

 Be prepared to tell every single one of your child’s teachers every single year that your child is younger than classmates.

When my son was grade-skipped, I assumed each of his teachers would be informed. Nope. Few, if any, of his teachers had any idea he was a full 1-2 years younger than his classmates. In notes home to me, teachers would tell me how ‘immature’ my son was and how he was behind in social skills. I had to schedule parent-teacher conferences with each teacher to tell them that he was, in fact, much younger than the other children in his class. After hearing that, teachers would apologize to me saying they had no idea he had grade skipped. I even had to go speak to my son’s physical education teacher because he kept getting “P” for progressing on his report card rather than satisfactory grades in gym class. When I told the teacher my son was younger, the teacher said, “Oh that explains why he doesn’t have the coordination to do this activity…he isn’t supposed to be there developmentally yet.” After that, my son had a much easier time in gym class! Occasionally, parents of accelerated students meet with a teacher who says she doesn’t believe in grade skipping. One even sniped to me, “Well he’s just going to have to learn how to act more mature!” I laughed out loud. “How does one pretend to be older than they really are?” I asked her perplexed.

You will have to work hard to help your child develop social connections.

For neurotypical children, there comes a point where mom and dad no longer coordinate play dates, orchestrate social interactions, buddy their kids up for camps and otherwise direct their child’s social life. But with gifted children who are younger than their peers, parents must work extra hard to make sure friendships are strong. Younger children often have different interests than their older classmates so it’s important for mom and dad to continue to make sure the accelerated child has solid social connections inside and outside of school. This means befriending the parents of your child’s classmates and extending lots of invitations for kids to come over and play at your house.

Arm your child with answers to student, teacher and parent questions about why they skipped ahead.

Teachers, parents, and classmates still ask my son, “Why did you skip a grade?” when they hear he accelerated. At first, he was embarrassed by this question and wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t want to sound like he was bragging about being smart or imply others were not as advanced. After much discussion about how to respond, we settled on, “I was ready.” Usually, that works to assuage inquiring minds but occasionally there are still teachers (!!) who make comments to my son about how they believe grade skipping is a huge mistake. Other parents I know face the same criticisms, sometimes within their own families. Myths still abound that full grade acceleration is damaging to children.

If your child is very, very advanced academically, consider a multi-year grade skip.

By skipping one grade, we tried to toe the line between getting our son more advanced material but keeping him socially close to kids his age. I’m not sure we gained much academically by only advancing one grade. If you’re going to skip, consider putting the student where they should be academically, even if that means skipping several grades ahead. Sometimes this means forfeiting social connections, but other times putting a child with intellectual peers results in more friends. Classmates finally understand their jokes and perspectives.

Grade skipping can make a huge difference to your child.

When a child is placed in the right academic setting for their abilities, it can be life-changing. Frustrations disappear and children are excited to learn again. Some parents even report improvements in a child’s executive function skills after a grade skip because when more is expected of them, they rise to the occasion.

Grade skipping isn’t right for every gifted child. There must be a compelling reason to consider this type of acceleration. Using the Iowa Acceleration Scale can provide schools and parents with objective criteria to determine if grade skipping is the right form of acceleration for a student. Ultimately, the decision rests with parents. If you feel grade skipping is right for your child, pursue it while keeping these lessons in mind.


How I Respond to Awkward Comments About My Child’s Giftedness

Volume 6

Strangers and family members alike sometimes say offensive, confusing or awkward things to parents when the subject of giftedness comes up. This is how I have handled actual comments people have made to me about one or the other of my sons these past few years.

“Why did your son skip a grade?”

“He was ready.”

“So how smart is he?”

“He requires a different educational approach in order to be appropriately challenged in school.”

“He doesn’t seem that smart…clearly, he’s no genius.”

“Thank you. We work hard to help him develop the social skills he needs to fit in with other children his age.”

“All kids are gifted.”

“You’re right…all kids have gifts. “Gifted” is the word used to describe a particular subset of children who have IQs that are one or more standard deviations from the norm and who are asynchronous in their development.”

“Why are you homeschooling him?”

“So he can learn at his own pace.”

“We don’t push our child…they are only kids once.”

“We don’t push ours either…he pulls us in the direction where he wants to go.”

“Grade skipping hurts kids socially.”

“That is a widely held belief but actually the research shows that grade skipping benefits the majority of children who are ready for it.”

“I was shocked to hear that your son is in the gifted program” (said about my 2e child)

“There are many children who are gifted and who also have another exceptionality such as ADHD or a learning disability. It’s more common than you might think.”

What are some of the awkward comments people have made to you about your gifted child? Share on the Facebook page @Raising Children with Intelligence.


Home School “Hacks” Part 1

Volume 5

As a mom who has been homeschooling her son for fewer than 30 days, I’m hardly qualified to share hacks with parents who have been their child’s teachers since birth. However, as a newbie to this world, I’ve seen some super amazing things that blew the roof off everything I thought I knew about homeschooling. Here are a few hacks I want to share…especially with parents who think, “I could NEVER EVER homeschool my child!” I’m proof that yes….yes, you can.

1 – You can work full time and homeschool.

Sorta. If you have elementary age children, this could be a challenge. But if you have fairly-responsible middle schoolers, you absolutely can work full time. I met a mom who is a college professor and when she goes out the door to work in the morning, she leaves a schedule and list of assignments for her son. She Facetimes him throughout the day on her breaks to check in and see how he’s doing. At the end of the day, they review his work and determine the next day’s agenda. Other parents work from home a few days a week and bring their homeschoolers to centers or classes while they type away on their laptops at a local coffee shop, which is exactly where I am typing this blog. So it is definitely possible to homeschool and work a demanding full-time job.

2 – You don’t have to do any teaching. Like at all.

There are so many different flavors of homeschooling. For those of us who live in Virginia, the requirements to demonstrate that your child has made progress in their academics are (shockingly) lax. So, you can pretty much do whatever you think your child will enjoy and call it ‘school.’ There are entire Facebook communities of parents who homeschool their children using only YouTube and Netflix! There are groups who swap curricula every year with other parents to minimize costs. There are groups that co-op the teaching so each family teaches all of the kids one day each month and the rest of the time their children are off with other parents. There are at least three dedicated “centers” near me – and many more around the country – that offer one-off and seminar classes just for homeschoolers. The public library has literature programs for homeschoolers. The gym offers PE classes during the day. Home schooling can just as easily be called ‘taxi driving your kid to various places around town’ because parents aren’t actually teaching most (any?) of the time. And if you don’t live in an area with robust homeschool communities, there are a ton of online resources – classes, mentorships, virtual field trips, online chess tournaments, etc.  Most of us raising gifted kids know our children are way smarter than we are anyway so it’s a relief to realize we don’t have to try to teach them anything.

3 – Home school kids learn what they want to learn rather than what adults want them to learn.

If your fear about homeschooling your child is that they would end up hanging out in their pj’s all day playing video games or Snapchatting friends, fear not. After exactly one day of that, my son announced he was bored. I said, “Well what do you want to learn?” and he said, “Solving the Rubik’s Cube is something that I’ve always wanted to figure out…I think I’ll do that.” He dusted off his 3×3 cube and before I knew it, he was pouring over pages of notes he had taken on algorithms for Beginner Strategy (which is a thing in cuber land.) He was soon spending his piggy bank money on 5×5 cubes and Pyraminx and other weirdly-named and shaped puzzles. He watched dozens and dozens of YouTube and other videos online about how to shave seconds off his solving time. Within two weeks he was able to solve the 3×3 in under a minute and today he’s down to about 48 seconds (and dropping). The best part is hearing him say, “I’m so proud of myself” each time he achieves a new personal best. This is a kid who routinely said, “I want to die,” as he walked out the door to catch the bus for school. Will solving the Rubik’s Cube help him get into Harvard? Nope. Will it allow him to connect with other kids just like him at whatever non-Harvard college he attends? Yup – and that is A-Okay with me. His happiness and enthusiasm for self-directed learning will pay dividends for the rest of his life.

4 – Your child will relax and be more pleasant if they are not dealing with the stress of school.

This morning my son said to my husband, “Dad I’ve noticed we’ve been getting along a lot better since I left school. I’m really glad because I love you a lot.” My husband nearly fell over. When kids enjoy more time in the safety and sanctity of home without the stress of having to ‘suit up’ to head into a stressful school building every day, they are much more pleasant people. It’s not necessarily the stress of performing that impacts them, but the stress of performing in an environment which is not a good fit for them. Our son still attends his school six hours a week for high school classes and on those days he is generally less pleasant.

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. I swore I would never do it. I couldn’t. I shouldn’t. But I did. And I am so glad we made this decision for this child at this time in his life. Six months from now I may have some real hacks to offer you but for now I just wanted to share some surprising side-effects and benefits of bringing your baby back home to the nest.


Why Parents Hate the Label Gifted

Volume 4

I would like to meet the person (or committee more likely) who first used the word ‘gifted’ to describe high ability children. I would tell this person that being this way…so different from everyone else intellectually, emotionally and otherwise…is no gift!

It’s actually unclear who first used the label “gifted” to describe children with high potential. In 1972, S.P. Marland delivered the first national report to US Congress about gifted children and their educational needs. That presentation, now known as The Marland Report, contained a definition of giftedness along with research supporting the need to differentiate classroom instruction for gifted learnersRead a full history of gifted education published by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).

What I call tell you after speaking with hundreds of parents raising gifted children is that few, if any, like the label gifted. Many of us feel the term reeks of elitism and it does not accurately represent both sides of the high-ability coin. Yes, our children have aptitudes that surpass the norm, but they also face unique challenges trying to fit into a world that is not designed to accommodate their needs.

If we must label these children, here are labels I would prefer use to describe our kids:

  • Asynchronous – This is the label I like best because it is devoid of positive or negative connotation. In technology, asynchronous means, “of or relating to operation without the use of fixed time intervals.” In human development, asynchronous learners simply are not synchronized with other children – they can be ahead in some areas and/or behind in others.
  • Precocious – This is a word with which most people are already familiar so it could easily be used to describe our kids. The formal definition is, “having developed certain abilities or proclivities at an earlier age than usual.” That one works fairly well as a label, but it sounds a bit old-fashioned.
  • Intellectually-Curious – This term suggests an innate desire to learn, which is a primary characteristic of gifted children, but ‘curious’ isn’t quite the right word. “Intellectually-ravenous” might be a better descriptor but I’m not sure the folks in the annals of education research would be happy with this label. And there are some students who have their curiosity diminished after spending time in educational environments that don’t meet their learning needs.
  • High-Needs– I use this term a lot to explain to people why it is so challenging to raise my two boys. “They are high-needs children,” says as much about the challenges of parenting these kids as it does about the characteristics of the children themselves. What I like about the term is that it doesn’t imply judgment. It simply indicates that the needs of this population are higher than average. We parents raising gifted children know this to be true.

Whether we like it or not, the label “gifted” is what is currently used in education, research, and child development circles to describe our asynchronous, precocious, intellectually-curious, high-needs kids. Which of these, or other, labels do you prefer? Email me chris@nationalcenterforgiftedservices.com.


From Polar Shifts to Nuclear War; Why Gifted Children Worry (and How Parents Can Help)

Volume 3

Why Gifted Children Worry

Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five areas of increased sensitivities more prevalent in those with higher intellectual capacity. These overexcitabilities (OE’s) include Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Emotional and Imaginational. Children with combinations of OE’s are capable of feeling very deeply about intellectually-advanced subjects, including perceived global threats. Unfortunately, by the very nature of these children being gifted and having asynchronous development, they don’t have the maturity to process these perceived threats emotionally. And since no gifted child has had decades of ‘real life’ experience on the planet to help them qualify threats as highly-unlikely, they worry. New research suggests that people with “hyper” brains (i.e. high IQ’s) also have “hyper” bodies with hyper-reactive nervous systems.

In our house, anxiety didn’t really present itself until the middle school years when adolescence began and the limbic “fight or flight” system started to become more active. Our eldest son had always worried a little bit about his parents dying and he would get hysterical if he couldn’t find one of us in the house. But in 6th grade after reading a (fake) news story about “the impending polar shift and how it was going to destroy the earth,” he become consumed with worry. He talked incessantly about the poles collapsing on whatever date the article had predicted they would shift, and no amount of reassurance from us would assuage him of his fears. When that day on the calendar came and went without incident, he calmed down for a few days and then transferred his worry to something else. His amygdala had been activated and it has not really calmed down since. Today he worries about North Korea nuking the United States despite repeated assurance from high-ranking US intelligence officer friends that such a scenario is extraordinarily unlikely.  My son’s self-defeating beliefs often sabotage his ability to enjoy the here and now.

Anxiety can be a tough dragon to slay but here are some of the tools we and other parents have used to help their gifted children manage their worries. Note: If the worrying interferes with your child’s ability to maintain their regular routine, it’s best to engage a good cognitive behavior therapist in your area who understands the needs of gifted children. Any threats of self-harm or symptoms of depression should be taken seriously and treated as medical emergencies.

  1. If the worry is pervasive but not overwhelming, encourage your child to get in the habit of taking three slow, deep breaths at various intervals throughout the day. Three calming breaths have been shown to completely reset brain chemistry and the increased blood flow to the extremities helps to calm jumpy nerves.
  2. If your child worries about world events, limit or eliminate their access to news. In the age of instant access to information, this is a lot harder than it sounds. But being able to recognize triggers is an important step towards helping your child manage his or her own anxiety in the years to come. And let’s face it, news today is all about producing anxiety in the viewer!
  3. Exercise is critically important to calm down the anxious brain. Encourage your child to move more and sit less during times of anxiety. Even a brisk 20-minute walk can help take the edge off.
  4. For some children, journaling helps them process their fears. Ask the child to write about their worries, including worst case scenarios. Have them also think about the statistical odds of these events happening. Some psychologists advocate having the child make a tape recording of them saying their worst fears. They advise that the kids play the tape repeatedly so the brain becomes desensitized to the message. Then when the fear crops up in their head, the brain considers it ‘old news’ and doesn’t react with a flood of adrenaline in a panicked response.
  5. Each time a perceived threat does not happen as feared, highlight that to your child as an example that sometimes we worry about things unnecessarily and that the more you live on the planet, the more you realize most fears are unfounded. Focus on concerns over which your child has direct control such as eating a healthy diet, getting ample sleep and developing hobbies.
  6. Practice mindfulness with your child where you teach them to focus on the here and now. When a child is feeling anxious, ask him or her to name five objects they see, sounds they hear and textures they feel in their environment at that exact moment. This exercise forces them to focus on the immediate rather than worry about the future.

Anxiety is part and parcel with being gifted for many children. Most our kids will develop healthy coping mechanisms by the time they become adults. Parents can help by expressing empathy and patience when a child worries. Try some of these techniques with your child and let me know what works best.


5 Things Parents of Gifted Kids Wish Every Teacher Understood

Volume 2

1. Our children have a “rage to learn,” not perform.

Gifted children are the stewards of their own learning and we parents are just the chauffeurs and financiers who get dragged along for the ride. Often our kids pick a (seemingly random) subject and attack it with a voracious appetite…learning every little detail there is to know. In our house, we have enjoyed (endured?) hundreds of hours of discussions about the geographic borders of nations, US Presidents, the periodic table of elements, Pokémon (ugh) and, most recently, North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. When one obsession subsides, another one quickly moves in to replace it. Gifted kids aren’t learning so they can perform well on a test or because they want to impress their teachers (ha – I wish). They are learning because it’s who they are. For them, learning is as important as breathing. My son once said to me through tears, “Mommy I’m a terrible person because after I meet someone and suck all of the knowledge out of their heads, I feel like I am done with them and I want to move on to the next person.” Our kids are learning machines! If a teacher is having trouble getting a gifted child to perform…to produce output…he or she could try aligning the assignment with the child’s latest obsession.

2. Socializing is critical to our child’s happiness…please keep them with their friends!

There seems to be an unwritten edict upheld by teachers and administrators dictating that friends should be separated from one another at school. Making a friend is such a monumental achievement for a gifted child that the least a teacher can do is allow the child to spend time with their friend. Our kids need all the social-emotional coaching they can get. Please let them “feel normal” for a change by allowing them to sit with their buddies at lunch or during recess. In elementary school, put gifted kids in classes with other bright children but also with whomever their ‘best’ friend is for that year. In middle school, make sure gifted students have lunch at the same time as their friends and let them sit together, even if it means bending the rules to do so. If you cut off a gifted child socially, he or she will have a much harder time engaging in the entire school day. Know that we parents are working overtime during the non-school hours to cultivate and support these friendships and we appreciate you encouraging the bonds while your child is under your direction at school.

3. Some gifted children do not speak the help language.

There is a fantastic video on YouTube called “James and Susie; An Allegory” that highlights why gifted children can under-achieve in school. As odd as this may sound, many extremely bright, articulate children do not have the vocabulary to ask for help. I was at a parent-teacher conference once with my son and his teacher was utterly dumbfounded about why my son was “refusing” (her word) to do an assignment. She was telling me how he just stared at his paper the entire period and would not start writing. I turned to my son and asked why he hadn’t done the assignment and he said he did not understand what she wanted him to do. Incredulous, I asked him, “Why didn’t you ask for help…ask her to explain it in a different way?!” He said, “I will never ask for help, mom. I just won’t.” It was then that I realized he had NO IDEA how to ask for help in a way that didn’t diminish him or make him feel ashamed that he needed more direction. Our children often don’t have to ask for help – they “get” things intuitively and everything comes easy for them. Until it doesn’t. Then our kids do not have the words…the vocabulary…to ask for help in a way that doesn’t make them feel extremely uncomfortable or somehow ‘less than’ in their minds. Often, their entire identity is wrapped up in being smart so if they are having to ask for help…what does that mean? They suffer a mini existential crisis that leaves them staring at a blank piece of paper or getting an F on an assignment. Teachers might assume the child is being difficult when the problem is actually a language issue.

4. Classes like P.E. and Art can be as challenging to the gifted child as Math or Science is for other students.

Some intellectually-advanced children are also gifted athletes and artists but most are not. For kids who tend to be not-very-athletic, physical education class can be the “hardest” class of the day. Not only do these children suffer the humiliation of being picked last for teams or dropping the ball on a big play but they are often teased by the very people who are supposed to protect them from bullies – their teachers! Some PE teachers punish children for their asynchronous development by making them do pushups or run laps when they are not as athletically competent as their neurotypical classmates. Others delight in poking fun of very intelligent kids to show the other children that, “smart kids have weaknesses too.”

In art class, gifted children can be paralyzed with fear when asked to produce an original work since there is no “right” answer. Research shows gifted children have trouble seeing shades of gray (figuratively, not literally) so they struggle when asked to comment on why they do or do not like a work of art or how it makes them feel. Most of all, many gifted children struggle to understand why they must sit through ‘boring’ Art and PE when they could be reading a novel or learning something that interests them. Electives like PE and Art are the “school” part of the school day for many gifted children.

5. Our kids aren’t showing off when they raise their hands in class, they are desperately trying to stay engaged.

I once had a teacher tell me at a parent-teacher conference that she won’t call on my son because “He always has his hand up and gets the right answer and it makes the other kids feel bad.” Uh…my son is raising his hand because otherwise, he would have nothing to do since he already learned what you are teaching and, by the way, maybe he can add new information to the discussion IF YOU WOULD CALL ON HIM. Rant over. It’s so hard for our kids to stay engaged in lessons they already know or to be enthused about another round of review. If they raise their hand, please acknowledge that they are sincerely trying to participate. Yes, they can be distracting when they bring in ancillary details and, yes, there are 34 other students in the class who also want to participate, but please don’t penalize gifted children for knowing the answers and wanting to stay engaged in the lesson.

 What are some of the things you wish your child’s teachers understood about gifted children? Join the discussion on the @Raising Children with Intelligence Facebook page.


How the National Center for Gifted Services Came to Be

Volume 1

Hi, I’m Chris Croll, founder of the National Center for Gifted Services.  The Center launched in 2017 with the goal of developing a resource for parents across America who are raising gifted children. The Center is a safe place where parents can interact with one another, access the latest research and do a deep-dive with parenting and behavior experts who have first-hand experience raising and teaching gifted kids like ours.

One of the reasons we parents of gifted children struggle so much is because the world isn’t always kind to gifted children (or their beleaguered parents!). Many confuse ‘gifted’ with ‘high achieving’ and assume that our children earn straight A’s in school, behave themselves like little adults at home and are all on a path to lifelong success. Anyone raising gifted children can tell you this is, laughably, not usually the case.

When my oldest son was “diagnosed” as being profoundly gifted (yes, I consider it a diagnosis since the ramifications are as broad and deep as any other learning difference), my husband and I had to develop our own roadmap to chart our son’s education and personal development. After I launched a local parenting group in my community, Loudoun County Parents of Gifted Students, it became clear that many parents of gifted children need broader and more personalized support than what is generally available today.

Parents of gifted children often feel woefully unprepared for the unique challenges we face trying to raise our children. Sadly, due to society’s misunderstanding of what ‘gifted’ really entails, we are often forced to face these challenges alone. For some parents, even close family members and friends are ambivalent or even hostile when we try to talk about how hard it is to raise asynchronous children.

The National Center for Gifted Services is here to help parents connect with resources and other parents of gifted children. My goal is to work together with you to create home and school environments that allow our kids to develop optimally and to achieve their full potential in life.

Thank you for visiting. I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Chris