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Being labelled "gifted" - Did you worry about it?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Our son had his kindergarten readiness assessment done this morning, and when it was finished, the evaluator commented that it was pretty amazing that our son could read the words he was asked to match to some pictures. I let her know that he's a very good reader and she was surprised and asked about his reading ability. There happened to be a book on the table, and I asked him to read it to her. She mentioned that this was a book that many of the Grade One students are not able to read yet. After hearing him read the book, I knew that it was far below his abilities. He's able to read most of the children's picture books we own at this point, needing help with only a few of the longer words. 

 

She asked if we suspect he is gifted, which we'd never really contemplated. He's always been more advanced than his peers - walking and talking early, incredible memory, physically strong in sports, reading from an early age, that sort of thing, but I figured if anything he was just that - a bit advanced. However, she mentioned that they will likely have him tested for giftedness when he enters school and I'm already a bit concerned about it. I'm not sure I want him to be "labelled" as anything other than himself.

 

Although he's only 4, he's very, very hard on himself. He's showing signs of being a perfectionist at this young age. He gets really down on himself when he makes a mistake, and he will get frustrated when he's not able to do something. (He's not especially strong in art - for example - and will say that his drawings are terrible, and that he can't draw anything - even when they are just fine.) I worry that if he gets labelled as "gifted" then it will be one more pressure for him to live up to. And yet, at the same time, I want to encourage him to reach his abilities and not just settle for doing things that come too easily to him. I want him to strive. 

 

Just wondering if anyone has been in the same boat, and if you have any advice for me.

post #2 of 16

Well, many children who are gifted know that they are different from their agemates.  They are different, so why not allow them to know why they are different?

 

Sure the term isn't perfect... but no term is perfect.

 

When my oldest son was little he was very different from his peers in preschool. He had trouble interacting with them, but desperately wanted to... we knew he was different--he knew he was different.  (most gifted kids are very perceptive and self aware).

 

But he thought there was something wrong with him.  He though he was a freak, because he was so different. I think the more gifted a kid, the more extreme this can be-- a moderately gifted child may not experience this the same was a HG+ kid may. Its like a child in 5th grade being sent to a kindergarten class every day-- they would feel very out of place, no?

 

So allowing him to understand that he *is* different from most of his age peers was really helpful to him--there wasn't anything wrong with him, but there was something very right with him :)

 

We've also struggled with anxiety, overexcitabilities, and poor match for education. If your child had dyslexia would you question the label?  If you child had any other set of traits that made it difficult for their needs to be met in a traditional classroom, would you question the label?

 

Its been a tremendously helpful label for me in navigating schools, psychs, and parenting books/resources.


Edited by forestmushroom - 6/12/12 at 9:06pm
post #3 of 16

As someone who grew up with differentiated gifted education and had a bad experience (and a husband who had a very mixed experience with his differentiated gifted education), I have a lot of ambivalence about the labeling. Luckily for us, we will be homeschooling our school aged child for at least next year, which makes the decision easy for us. However, I think once you have involvement with schools and the like, the question becomes more complicated. For me, I'd want to know what the school will do with the results: Is it access to differentiated gifted education (and if so, what do you know about the program)? Skipping grades? Unless I wanted my child to have access to something that specifically required a gifted label, I'd probably decline testing.


Edited by revolting - 6/18/12 at 4:29am
post #4 of 16

Well, labels can be very useful. 

 

You are new here (Welcome  smile.gif!!). I suspect you used that label to find this forum. It's already been useful to you (at least, I hope so. There's a lot of good information in past threads if you are interested). 

 

Terminology helps us to explain and understand situations and identify concerns. It's a communication tool. Unfortunately, some will try to use it to set expectations or prophesize the future. As long as the people most involved with my dc (DH and I, close family, teachers and coaches) don't set inappropriate expectations and attitudes, I find that inappropriate use of the label doesn't matter in my dc's lives. Our attitude has mattered most. As a pp pointed out, not using the label to describe your ds isn't going to change who he is or change his needs. 

 

I agree with pp that you should get some general information from the school about what's involved in the testing and identification process, how the results will be used, what kind of programs and accommodations they will offer, and the attitude/ambience of those programs. Many school districts wait until the mid-primary grades to identify gifted students. If that's the case, you probably don't have to be concerned for a few more years, unless issues crop up when he starts school. 

 

If anything, at this point I'd be encouraged that this school and this teacher appear to be "gifted friendly" and open to idea that some students benefit from differentiated programming.  

post #5 of 16

No issues with the gifted label here. The label opens doors. It doesn't force a child to walk through every door but it gives them options. My DD was frankly relieved when she was formally labeled. It was reassurance that she wasn't just crazy for feeling so different from others... she actually WAS different and it was common enough to have a name. My DS doesn't really care one way or another. DH and myself both had the label growing up and it didn't warp us lol.

 

Everyone can have moments with whatever label they wear. I know my eldest has felt a bit like a "fraud" this year when hit with a little math she actually had to WORK at. Sometimes she buys into the notion that being "smart" means EVERYTHING is easy... and for her, that's usually the case. That reaction comes from her own inexperience with challenge though. The reality is, she'd have felt that way formally labelled or not as she's regularly pointed out as smart and different by others and has since she was a baby (she's 15 now.) Even without the label, she'd be dealing with the same issues. 

post #6 of 16

Count me as another parent who as a child had some fairly mixed experiences as a result of being labelled gifted as a child and chose to homeschool her own kids as a result. My two elder kids were tested and labelled at age 14 upon school entry, and at that point they had the security of self-concept and maturity necessary for meta-cognition such that the labeling had a minimal risk of potential negative baggage. 

 

I think it is possible to do testing and adopt labels in healthy ways. I agree with those who have suggested finding out exactly what, if anything, gifted identification will entitle your ds to, and pursuing the testing only if there's are compelling options that become available. Testing is considered more accurate at age 7 to 8 because a lot of developmental variability has evened out by then, and children tend to be more uniformly co-operative and motivated to complete testing by that age, making for more accurate norming of results. If you do pursue testing, it's probably best to tell your child they will be "playing some games and answering some questions" with the tester "to help figure out how you learn best."

 

I've explained to my kids that their brains tend to learn the sorts of things that are taught in schools faster and more easily than most kids. I remind them that some things are more difficult for them to learn ("Remember when you did swimming and Gus was ready for the deep end after just one week, but it took you until the end of the year?") but say that they are lucky about school-type learning, in that their brains learn most of those sorts of things easily. That's been easy for me to do without testing and formal identification, and it's been sufficient for them to understand the differences they observe between themselves and others of similar age... but then they haven't spent their younger years immersed in classrooms which operate on the implied assumption that children should learn most things at roughly the same rate at roughly the same age. 

 

miranda


Edited by moominmamma - 6/13/12 at 3:03pm
post #7 of 16

Gifted kids are often perfectionists, and often have big and complex ideas (for drawings, stories, inventions) that are beyond their abilities (planning, fine motor skills, patience) to attain-- which can be frustrating for them. This is of course true of all kids to some extent, but I think it is heightened for gifted kids. They are also often asynchronous in their development-- for example, a five year old may be several years ahead in reading but socially and emotionally only five (or even a bit behind age peers in their social and emotional development).

 

When kids aren't in school, it is easy just to treat them as individuals and let them be who they are, but giftedness becomes more of an issue when there is a group of twenty-plus kids who are all expected to do the same thing on the same schedule-- so see how it goes once he is in school. Sometimes an assessment is helpful in understanding a kid's needs and advocating for appropriate educational services. Whether or not you want your son to be assessed, you may find that some of the literature on giftedness is helpful.

 

Good luck. It's great that your little guy enjoys books :)

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

I just wanted to thank all of you for your insight. 

 

Ollyoxenfree - you're bang on that I only found this forum using that label in a search engine. I have heard of the mothering boards before but hadn't known about this particular forum. I have been doing some reading here and there and have found some thoughts that echo my own, and others that gave me a lot to think about. 

 

I think those of you who said that I should just take it day by day and wait to see how things play out in a school environment are right. Currently, he's pretty happy with the status quo, and who knows, maybe he won't need any extra challenges in school. He's always been quite helpful, both with me, and with his younger sister, and so perhaps he'll be content with doing his work and then helping others get there as well. No point stressing about things like assessments and extra work before I really have to.

 

I am glad this forum is here though in case I have more questions along the way :)

post #9 of 16

As a mother, homeschooler, recent empty nester, private tutor and educational consultant, I only know what I know, but here is my opinion on this question.

 

The term "gifted" is used very inconsistently even within professional education circles. One school with have a "gifted program" for all kids other than the "mainstream" kids, and in that school it might mean that the kids who really struggle and the kids whose parents don't know how to advocate for their kids have their kids placed in "mainstream" while kids who are very bright and kids whose parents advocate successfully for their kids are in the "gifted program." In other words, there is a big overlap between the ability levels of the two groups AND the term gifted doesn't mean anything in that context except "not struggling with school."

 

However, if you are a "master teacher" and your school pays for you to go to a three day seminar in the city on the subject of teaching gifted children, you will not be learning how to teach the kids in the "not struggling" group. You will be learning how to identify and challenge those very rare kids who are shoe in's for going to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Caltech, etc. You can be a school teacher of the "gifted program" classes for thirty years and never have one of these kids in your classroom. You can be an administrator for thirty years in a large city school system and only encounter one of them. This type of child doesn't have to be diagnosed to be recognized. This is the baby who is talking to the doctor at nine months and and tricking his mom cleverly earlier than that. This is the kid who intimidates adults when he's five because he uses such complex vocabulary and discusses such high level concepts.

 

Now, there are kids in between who are also called by some "gifted." These are the kids who are truly more intelligent than average to the point where even without a parent's advocacy, they would be quickly identified once enrolled in school and placed in the "gifted program." They may or may not be challenged there, but they usually will be fairly content and may or may not supplement their school learning with learning outside of school. The difference between this kind of kid and the truly, technically gifted child as defined by experts in giftedness is that the rare version of kid is years ahead before he or she starts school and voraciously consumes knowledge from many sources on top of what he or she is made to learn in school. In fact, this child is often told by teachers to stop answering all the questions and wait a few years to share their knowledge in class because it's too complex for the class to understand.

 

Many but certainly not all of the rare gifted type kids end up in Tier 1 colleges. Tier 1 colleges also have kids from the less rare "gifted" categories, but those kids are typically very organized and hard workers wherease the rare gifted kids have never needed to be that organized and work hard only because they can't stop themselves from learning, not because they are trying to compete or please anyone. It's very possible and I saw it last year for a valedictorian of a large school to fail to get into any Tier 1 schools while the kid at position 15 gets into a dozen or more Tier 1 schools with full ride offers. Why? Because the valedictorian did her work conscientiously, possibly getting a little help from parents but generally on her own. But, she stopped there. She was following instructions, but she wasn't running after knowledge, doing unique things, completing programs at universities that few can dream of getting into. The rare gifted kid couldn't care less about his class rank but was just getting his homework out of the way so that he could read more college textbooks and study the latest cello concerto he found, talk with his friends from overseas on Google Plus, play his theramin and generally have his own intellectual life. The valedictorian with coaching can get into the Ivy League school the next year, but only by doing some things the rare gifted kid did naturally. '

 

This is not about who is better, ranking, etc. It's just to point out that saying someone is intellectually gifted is usually meaningless. Even teachers will say that about a child who is merely smart. But, in a sense, all children are gifted. They are all very valuable and potentially may make tremendous contributions. Many people who are of average or slightly higher intelligence make outstanding contributions, and some who have great intellectual advantages live wasted lives.

 

All that to say that I would not be too concerned about the label. I would simply for all children provide an educationally rich environment that allows them to be constantly learning, without pressure or restrictions from living a balanced life. You can also affect their IQ by providing such an environment, and parents really do their kids a service by doing so. But, don't stress. Just do it and enjoy it. Your child will in some ways seek their own level so to speak, yet I will be the first to say that if you are not careful, kids by their very nature can get caught up in distractions or waste their intellect on TV or other relatively mindless activities. So, don't be passive, but don't be panicked either.

 

Now about perfectionism. In general, that is an inborn personality trait and not brought on by pressure to perform unless there is some kind of unhealthy mentoring where the child is afraid to be imperfect due to displeasing someone or not being good enough. Perfectionism is a typical trait for truly gifted children but they don't have a corner on the market. If you go to Caltech, you will find many, many perfectionists. They may be perfectionistic in some areas of their lives and not others. That may be part of their ability to do some things very well. You didn't cause it. You can't change it. You can help them deal with it in a healthy manner, but don't worry about it. You in fact might be a perfectionist in the area of mothering, so he might have gotten it in part from you. It's not a bad trait or a sign of mental illness. Sure it can be annoying and it can in some ways be a barrier, but it also as I said can be part of the path to success, so embrace it in some areas and teach your child to accept imperfection in other areas IF you can. A perfectionistic child may pace all night trying to think of the perfect essay topic and write it brilliantly in his head when in fact he could type it out on the computer in an hour and get an A+ and then sleep at night. But, he won't, because that would be ingenuine, and a perfectionist will either insist on being genuine or will if he has a manipulative bent insist on writing the perfectly manipulative essay, one that cannot fail.

 

To get a little personal, I never had my son's IQ tested. I was able to estimate it based on a variety of criteria, and those education professionals who watched him carefully also estimated about the same IQ. But, what difference would it make if we had him tested? He could care less. He wouldn't do anything differently. And, people get bent out of shape if you quote your IQ or your child's so, why bother?

 

For gifted kids of the rare type, of the more regular type, or of very specific types such as the musical genius, the answer is the same. Challenge them at all times but without negative pressure. Think about it. Nobody who created a curriculum or wrote a book every met your child. They have no clue what your child needs. Using a curriculum can be useful to make sure you don't miss anything or to track what kids in large groups know and don't know individually. And, they can be useful in documenting your homeschooling so that you just teach whatever your child needs to learn and then make sure that everything in that curriculum is covered in some way so you can honestly tell the state if you need to that you covered that curriculum, even if you didn't use that book. Now, this is for people who are homeschooling and have the time to give them those opportunities. It would be more difficult if you weren't home much or your child were gone a lot, but you can still enrich a great deal while your child is in a formal school. Just don't let kids ever be held back by being in classes that are just way to basic for them. That is wasting their life.

 

So, if you have a rare gifted type child, you may not have a single good solution for education available other than homeschooling, although some districts in large cities may have some solutions that at least partly meet the need. For everyone else, if you are in a high population area, you can probably get resources through the schools and supplement at home taking care to make supplementing fun and low pressure, not more work. In rural areas, you are probably on your own unless it's a wealthy area and then you will probably have some resources that would have to be supplemented.

 

What I am saying is that the only thing to worry about is making sure your child has positive, constant challenge. Being labelled as gifted doesn't mean that much. It's what you do to allow him to grow intellectually, socially, spiritually, etc. that counts. And, try to avoid allowing him into a program that had him do the regular schoolwork and then piles on more work for the "gifted" kids. That is pure silliness. Gifted kids need sleep and play too.

 

I would also be cautious about skipping grades. It usually doesn't put them in a challenging situation if they are the rare gifted type, and then they are the youngest, least socially developed, last to get their drivers license, etc. If you're going to skip, skip one grade only or just go to college under parental supervision. I really am not a fan of going to college early and refused to allow my own son to do that or to go to the state science and math school at the university. That just leaves a young adolescent who still is learning life skills on a college campus without parents and with easy access to substances and unsupervised dorm rooms at night. Parents usually have no clue what is really going on there, and those kids arrive at their Tier 1 college with more experience than is in their best interests.

 

I hope you guys don't mind that I'm so opinionated on these topics. I have lived them for nineteen years as a parent and teacher and have come to some conclusions that I feel very confident about. If only someone had told me all this first, things would have been easier. Things turned out well, but less worry and wondering would have helped.

post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Governess View Post

I would also be cautious about skipping grades. It usually doesn't put them in a challenging situation if they are the rare gifted type, and then they are the youngest, least socially developed, last to get their drivers license, etc. If you're going to skip, skip one grade only or just go to college under parental supervision. I really am not a fan of going to college early and refused to allow my own son to do that or to go to the state science and math school at the university. That just leaves a young adolescent who still is learning life skills on a college campus without parents and with easy access to substances and unsupervised dorm rooms at night. Parents usually have no clue what is really going on there, and those kids arrive at their Tier 1 college with more experience than is in their best interests.

 

 

 

Research on gifted kids and their educational options absolutely supports grade skipping.  It is a myth that grade skipping causes social problems.  Reams of research on the gifted show that they are more comfortable and successful when they are with their intellectual peers than with their age peers.  Have you read "Genius Denied," or "Nation Deceived," both books about how to handle the educational needs of the highly or profoundly gifted?  I suggest you do and it will likely give you a fresh perspective on the topic.

post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by chaimom View Post

It is a myth that grade skipping causes social problems.  Reams of research on the gifted show that they are more comfortable and successful when they are with their intellectual peers than with their age peers.  

 

My experience with my eldest has borne this out. She has just completed a year at age 17 living on her own in a large city getting high level specialized education, hanging out with young adults, making her own way, working at a very advanced level in her chosen area, travelling internationally. Challenged in this way she has flourished. In high school with age peers she would have continued to feel out of place, unchallenged, lacking meaningful social connections.

 

Miranda 

post #12 of 16

Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

 

My experience with my eldest has borne this out. She has just completed a year at age 17 living on her own in a large city getting high level specialized education, hanging out with young adults, making her own way, working at a very advanced level in her chosen area, travelling internationally. Challenged in this way she has flourished. In high school with age peers she would have continued to feel out of place, unchallenged, lacking meaningful social connections.

 

Miranda 

 

I agree with this. High school can be totally inappropriate for capable, driven and mature teenagers. My own 15-year-old skipped a grade early on and is now moving into an early college program this fall allowing  her to attend the community college full time for dual high school/college credits. DD really needs this as high school has been a terrible fit for her on all fronts. We know other exceptional kids who have gone this route and thrived. My own will live at home the next two years and graduate "high school" at 17, well into her college sophomore year with several professional internships under her belt. What she does at that point won't be decided until it has to be but I tell you, the kids we know who have gone this route were far better prepared for college socially and academically than their age peers who went the traditional high school route. Most of DD's friends are already in college now and she's been exposed to far more from the kids in high school "trying" to be older than from her young adult friends who share interest with her. Being with her young adult friends is frankly a relief from the hormone driven drama of high school... and guess what, she could care less that she is the only one without a driver's license! 

 

My point, there are many different ways and times to accelerate a child and it's a mistake to universally condemn the practice.


Edited by whatsnextmom - 6/18/12 at 9:03am
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by chaimom View Post

It is a myth that grade skipping causes social problems.  

 

Well, it may be a myth that grade skipping causes social problems. In some cases, it doesn't help them either.  I don't think it's a myth that grade skipping is a bad idea for some students. I wouldn't universally condemn the practice, but I wouldn't suggest that it's a universal answer for all academically advanced students either.

 

Like so many things, it depends. It depends on careful assessment of whether a student is appropriate for a skip. It depends on implementation by the school, integration of the student into the incoming class, and support for the student. 

post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

I wouldn't universally condemn the practice, but I wouldn't suggest that it's a universal answer for all academically advanced students either.

 

 

I agree. My eldest has been an excellent candidate for acceleration while my DS is not. Both test at the same level but personality alters what is good for each pretty drastically. Skipping is not right for all but it's also far more successful and positive than the general population give it credit for.

post #15 of 16

DD has never been formally tested, so we do not refer to her as gifted.  In conversation, her teachers will make comments like "you'll see that a lot of gifted children, like her, will do that" or "when gifted children start middle school, they'll.....", but for the most part we avoid referring to her as gifted.

She is in an accelerated class at school (the class works a grade level ahead in math and an accelerated pace in other subjects) and she knows that she has an advantage academically compared to most of her peers,   She knows academics come easy to her, she knows some people would refer to her as gifted, but we see no need for the actual gifted label.

If we were in a school district where her academic needs were not being met (either inside the classroom or resources we can provide her at home) we would have no problem wither homeschooling her (huge homeschooling support group, but currently her needs are best met at the public school) or having her formally tested so that she would then receive services to meet her needs.

post #16 of 16
Others have said it very well, however, here are my two cents. DH and I recently went through similar concerns with DD, although our school situation is different than yours. She reads at a much higher level than her grade. She was utterly bored going over beginning phonics when she routinely reads 300 page chapter books. So to enable her to be placed in a different grade level for reading as well as to open up additional fun programs for her, the school required her to be tested. We are waiting on results. In the meantime, While we don't want to "push" her, we do want her to be challenged and not bored or forced to do busy-work. You will know when and if your son's needs are being met. See what your school has to offer him and go from there. On another note, Dd gets very frustrated that her drawings are not what she sees in her minds-eye. She tends to be on the perfectionist side and gets very upset if things don't go how she feels they should. (i am talking to a much greater extent than most kids would feel bc most kids do want things to go their way.) We are working on it and trying to learn strategies to help her with over-excitablilites. You know your child better than anyone and will know when to advocate for him. That's my ever so humble opinion anyway. wink1.gif
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