Is Your Child Gifted?

My daughter has been reading since she was 4. She is 6 now and reading way beyond her classmates. I think that she is gifted and want her tested. My daughter’s teacher says that there isn’t a gifted program for 1st graders. What should I do?

Reading at an early age is wonderful but doesn’t necessarily mean a gifted classification. I have had many excellent early readers with average IQ’s over the year. The average IQ is 100. Most school districts require an IQ score of 130 for a gifted classification or 140 for highly gifted. Gifted children often have many other characteristics in common such as a highly developed sense of humor, and a sensitivity to issues beyond their age. Children may be gifted in one academic area but not all. The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) website can answer many of your questions.

I believe that you should speak to your school’s ESE specialist. There is an initial screening that can be done to see if your daughter is a candidate for a more extensive evaluation. First grade classes are taught with the assumption that children enter reading at all different levels and the high group is often reading at the next grade level. Talk to the teacher about where your child fits into the mix to make sure her needs are being met.

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  • My son is gifted. He was in a mixed ability primary school (elementary) and it was a bit of a nightmare for him, to be honest, because of course he would finish the class work ahead of everyone else and then mess around because he was bored and then he’d get into trouble. He was also discouraged from answering all the questions posed by the teacher all the time. He’s now at what we call ‘grammar’ school in the UK – these are state schools (free high schools) but entrance is according to academic ability (you have to pass an exam to get in) and he’s much happier now he’s being challenged on a daily basis.

  • My son seems to be facing the same problems as Liz’s son has overcome. He is far above the level of his classmates, and is now being discouraged by his teachers from “showing off” his intelligence by answering all the questions presented to the class. I see this as restraining his full ability, and highly disagree with it. He finishes his assignments early and tends to get bored afterward. His social skills are not where they should be, and Steve and I suspect it is because he is too advanced to relate to the children on his grade level. He would much rather engage in conversations with adults than with othr kids. His interests are different from those of most 6 year olds. He will sit with me and read through my college textbooks(as well as he can)and then want to discuss things he’s found, such as human anatomy and botany. He has a very mechanical mind, and likes to build things. During Christopher’s spare time, he plays video games, reads, and plays Magic The Gathering(a skilled card game rec. for ages 13+). I really worry that his mental advancement will cause more social damage than good. Any advice? FYI, I have a 4 year old daughter who, so far, seems to be perfectly on track with her age group in all areas. This makes things stressful at home because I never know if I’m comparing them too much….

  • I don’t have an answer, just some observations, about myself as a child, and one of my kids. My son knew all the answers too, doesn’t have to do homework, and was doing multiplication tables in kindergarten. What I’ve noticed is that if we don’t keep up their level of interest they begin not to care so much about school. Their intelligence becomes something they don’t bother to ‘celebrate’ in trying to achieve more, because no one seems to appreciate it (no one being the school).

  • My kids are still too young to be determined for giftedness but my husband is gifted and he underwent the same things Liz’s and Randi’s kids experience. He used to tell stories how he would intentionally wrong some of his answers during exam so that teachers will treat him like his other classmates and not be discouraged to participate in class recitations.

    Good thing his potentials were recognized in high school and was able to have an outlet for this giftedness through inter-school quiz bees.

  • Dear Parents,
    As an educator, I have to address a few things that you’ve mentioned:

    1. Most teachers are trained in differentiated instruction, and incorporate it into their classrooms daily. What this means is that your child IS being challenged at his or her academic level. Academic skills in the classroom are being taught on multiple levels. Children are given independent reading levels, so they can read by ability (Accelerated Reader). Children are being placed on computers to research mammals, while the on-grade level children are learning what a mammal is. Children who perform at a higher level in math are on programs that track their ability(Fast Math & Math In a Flash), and give them practice accordingly. It drives me a bit mad when parents use the ‘my child is bored’ bit, and say that, that’s why their grades are slipping or their behavior is poor. Maybe that could have happened decades ago, but that simply isn’t the case now. Well, unless you live in a small town. Even then, I doubt it.

    2. In regards to your children finishing early, most teachers have activities that are called ” can do” activities for if your child finishes early. They are called “can do” because that is what your child ” can do” if they finish early. I have my students go to computers, centers, read book, write in their journals, etc. Ask your child if his/her teacher has something like this in place. If not, maybe ask the teacher if your child can have a “can do” activity like this if they are done. Or just give your child a book to read when he or she is finished.

    3. If you feel that your child’s needs are not being met, please talk to the teacher in a kind/non condescending way. You know the expression ‘you get more flies with honey than vinegar’. Well, it’s true. Ask kindly if there are gifted programs that he/she may qualify for at school (part-time or full-time)? If not at that school, are there others schools that have programs in your district? And if no such programs are available, would they(the school) consider allowing your child to go to another grade level for part of the day to meet their needs. After all, there’s no harm in asking. My school does this all the time.

    What I wouldn’t do is go into the classroom with archaic views of what school was like when you were young, and assume that, that is what is going on now. All you are going to do is irritate the school and teacher if you do that, and he/she will be less likely to work with you.

    4. What I don’t advise is asking that your child skip a grade. “Why?” you ask. Well, it’s simple. What happens when your child is 15 or 16 and are heading off to college? Then, you have a child that is way too young, thrust into a situation that may be potentially problematic for someone that young.

    5. Remember that teachers are educated professionals, and joined this profession because we want to see children learn. We surely did not join this profession for the pay. Because, honestly, we could make more money working as a front end mananger at a supermarket. When we hear things like ‘the school doesn’t care’, it infuriates us. Trust me, even bad teachers care about their students. Otherwise, they’d be doing something a little less stressful, that pays more.

    6. And one more thing, your child is NOT the only child in the class. If your child is answering every question before the other children even have a chance to think about, how will the other children ever learn? There’s another expression that I love that applies in this situation ‘It’s not all about you’. Simply put, your child is NOT the only child in the class. If he/she is yelling out the answers all the time, the other children are being robbed of a chance to learn. My advice, see if the teacher will let her/him write her/his answers in a journal or erase board, if you’re so concerned. Then he/she will be able to participate all the time. But honestly, I’d just let this one go. One of the things that people have to learn in society is to share and take turns. If your child is being able to answer all the time, they are not learning this lesson. Not all lessons in school are academic. Some lessons are life lessons. Sharing and waiting your turn, are just few life lessons that we practice in school.

    Good luck! With a bit of patience and cooperation, your child will excel. And remember, teachers and parents should be partners.

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  • There is an excellent chapter in the book Nurture Shock that addresses this issue in detail, and with research. Chapter is titled The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten. I suggest parents read this book. Maggie provided an excellent response.

  • In response to Jessica, I must say that your comment is a virtual compendium of the attitudes that can make school a hellish experience for *profoundly* gifted children.

    You ask, “If your child is answering every question before the other children even have a chance to think about [it], how will the other children ever learn?”

    I would reverse your question: If the other children need to think so much about the question before an answer occurs to them, how will the profoundly gifted child ever manage to stay engaged instead of tuning out and even becoming an underachiever? You say, “Maybe that could have happened decades ago, but that simply isn’t the case now.” You are, to be blunt, quite wrong.

    The attitudes you express may be useful in socializing those well-adjusted little citizens of above-average IQ who tend to take up all the space in so many of the supposedly “gifted and talented” programs for children. But these attitudes can and do cause lifelong damage to profoundly gifted children, whether you “doubt it” or not.

    In any case, it is not the responsibility of any child, profoundly gifted or otherwise, to fret over how the other children in the classroom will ever manage to learn. Guess whose job that is, O Educated Professional.

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  • To any parent who feels their child is gifted and feel the school isn’t responding well I have one main answer: Go privately and pay a licensed person to administer an intelligence test and get an IQ score. This may save you several years of arguing with a school district, or satisfy your curiosity about how intelligent your child is. The Woodcock Johnson is test I could recommend as it is very child friendly but does determine areas of high intelligence, Your local MENSA chapter could recommend someone to administer the test.

    The reason I say this is I have a masters degree in gifted education and taught gifted ed in two schools. Many parents felt their child was gifted and wanted testing. We had no testing for giftedness at all K-5, just standardized testing and classwork. I especially remember a few parents who argued year after year about getting their child into the program and finally got IQ testing privately. In several cases the IQ’s of the children was 180 or so.

    The arguing stopped! The school was wrong and admitted the children into the programs.

    Save yourself time and agony and spend some money and solve the problem. Take the score to the school and calmly discuss it with the counselor, principal, or someone.

    Differentiation is done in most classrooms in the USA, but for the very tip top of students this is not enough and other strategies may be needed.

    Carolyn Wilhelm, MS in Gifted Ed., MA in K-12 Curriculum & Instruction, National Board Certified Teacher

  • I don’t know if I’ve missed something, but Jessica’s response seems to be over-reaching. It’s nice to hear about all the different options expressed in her response;however, one can’t assume that which you’ve stated to be the norm.

    In any case, I would definitely recommend the mom exploring other educational resources – whether it be primary or supplemental. My daughter was actually tested in Kindergarten, when her teacher noticed she was an advanced reader & asked more inquisitive questions. She began testing her preliminarily during class. I don’t remember the name of the test though, but basically, the test asked certain questions that started off at a certain grade level and if the child answers a certain amount of them correctly, the teacher keeps testing them until they can no longer keep up. My daughter tested all the way up to the 5th grade level in some areas. That was when she submitted her name for testing and that was the last year my daughter attended that school. She’s been in a gifted program ever since and will be graduating from 8th grade next year!

    You are your child’s advocate – if his/her teacher doesn’t/can’t help you…find someone or a program who will. Good luck to you & your little brainiac!

  • Gifted is just a part of the whole child. I find some parents let this become their child’s identity and that can be debilitating for them.

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