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-   -   Advocating for your gifted child(ren) (http://www.mothering.com/forum/370-parenting-gifted-child/1424202-advocating-your-gifted-child-ren.html)

junipermuse 06-16-2014 12:03 PM

Advocating for your gifted child(ren)
 
So I don't think I've posted in this particular forum before, but here it goes. I have two kids,a girl who is 7.5 and a boy who will be 5 in August. Neither have been formally tested but I'm fairly certain they are both gifted. I can give a little background if it helps. My husband and I both tested in school as gifted. Dh started kindergarten at 4 and had to visit the 1st grade classroom for reading and math and after a while the principal felt it wasn't meeting his needs and recommended his parents pull him out of that school and put him somewhere else. For the rest of elementary school he attended a school for the highly gifted. His IQ is somewhere above 180. I grew up in an area with good public school gifted programs. So I was able to attend my local public school. I was placed in the gifted class after kindergarten.

But more about the kids. Dd has always been extremely verbal. She had a vocabulary of 1000 words by the time she was 2. She was the kind of kid to get obsessively interested in a topic and learn as much as possible about it. When she was 2.5-3 she became interested in the human body, and learned all about the different systems and organs and stuff. Later it was space. Some how she managed to learn stuff that neither her dad or I even knew about space even though she wasn't able to read on her own. As she's gotten older her interests are more broad, so she isn't as obsessive on any one topic. She particularly loves science, history, and literature. While she knew all the letter sounds since 18 months, reading didn't come easy to her at first. Though she progressed from being maybe a half grade level ahead at the beginning of first grade to being at a mid to late fourth grade reading level by the end of the year. Math has never been her strongest subject, but I know that her class this year and last year moved slower than she needed. One weekend I showed her how to subtract multi digit numbers using regrouping, and she picked it up immediately and spent several hours practicing because it was fun. I will say that she hasn't fully memorized her math facts though, and because she has an anxiety disorder, she does particularly poorly on timed tests. She enjoys using the iPad for "research" and then writing little books or reports about it just for fun. And honestly it comes all from her because I'm such as lazy parent really. This year she had aced all of her end of year assessments by the end of the first trimester of school. I don't really feel like the school is offering her appropriate work for her ability levels. However I don't know how to go about advocating for her. I don't want to be the parent who thinks their child is brilliant, when really they are just average. The grade reporting system at her school is designed to be particularly opaque. They give 1s,2s,and 3s. Getting a 1 means you've achieved the standard, but its district policy to only give 1s on the end of year report card, even if the child has already met the standard at an earlier date. This meant my daughter got 2s in areas that she had mastered 2 years before starting school. It makes it impossible to demonstrate that my child is working above her grade level if her report card states that she is progressing toward the standards but hasn't actually met them. Also because of her anxiety disorder she is extremely well behaved in class, which means that I can't claim that she's bored and needs more stimulation. Though her behavior can be horrendous at home especially when she has been under stimulated. Boredom at our house is our worst enemy. If there isn't enough stimulation, she makes her own, often by torturing her brother.

Little brother on the other hand is very different from dd. he was never as verbal, spoke less than 10 words on his 2nd birthday. He has always been a puzzle solver though. He surprised his teachers at school when at 2 he could put together puzzles that the 4 and 5 year olds couldn't. He has certainly caught up to his sister verbally now. Though he can be hard to understand because he has pronunciation difficulties and still has a very baby sound to his speech. This past December he taught himself to read (I think this is what motivated dd to improve her reading she didn't want him to pass her up) he reads at least at a first grade level. He is really good at identifying words, and reading signs, boxes, etc. but he doesn't like to read stories with complicated structure. His ability to read surpasses his ability to comprehend what he's reading at this point. He also really likes science. He enjoys watching shows on science topics and he loves playing with science kits with his dad and sister. It is however hard for me to appreciate his intelligence sometimes because its more nonverbal than his sister. He can also be a bit of an imp and he doesn't sit still real well. I worry about him causing trouble or being disruptive in school. I questioned starting him in kindergarten but his teacher insists he is ready and the director and teacher both feel that since he's already at risk for being bored from being so far ahead that another year of preschool would only lead him to being farther ahead of the other children than he already will be.

So my question is really just what would you do in my situation? How do I advocate for my kids without sounding like a pushy parent? Should I be proactive or wait until problems arise? Any advice would be appreciated.

whatsnextmom 06-16-2014 01:44 PM

I'm not really sure from your post as to what you want for your kids. I get that you feel your daughter is being under-challenged in school but you don't say what you think will help her. Does she need more challenging spelling lists? Is she able to pretest on words and replace with other vocabulary building options? Are their reading groups? Is she allowed to bring in her own material? Do they keep journals and do any free writing? You say she's behind in the math fact memorization but what other math activities are offered? How is she doing with them? What are her complaints? What would SHE change. You can't advocate for your kids until you have an idea of what she needs.

Personally, advocating for my kids has been easy. My eldest was a very obvious case and the staff reached out to us very quickly. DD did a lot of her own advocating over the years. I really only stepped in when the bureaucracy of school got in the way of what she needed and honestly, that wasn't too often. My youngest tended to fly more under the radar and there was a bit more "asking" for accommodation in his case but there was never any disbelief on the staff's part. He was squirrely and a chatterbox as well but never labeled a behavior problem. We always took the most positive approach with the schools. While we never had to bring in samples of accelerated work from home, I kept a file in the early years just in case. We allowed them to try options we knew wouldn't work but were "par for the course." When they failed, the staff was that more interested in anything we had to say.

I advise you now to let go of the grade thing. Grades rarely reflect ability. In the younger years, it's all about being on target. In the older years, it's all about how well you've managed the work load. Don't waste your energy on grades right now. Both my kids got a lot of "meets grade level standards" in elementary for areas they were many years advanced. Everyone knew they were ahead... never had to prove it with a report card.

You don't say if you've talked to the teachers yet. If so, have they agreed that your child is advanced? What have their ideas been? Does the school have a gifted program. What age do they test and what does the program have to offer. You say she is a behavior problem at home, what sorts of activities does she do that improves her behavior? What does she want in class that she's not being allowed to do now? Does she know she's allowed to ask for more? What are her complaints specifically? Your son, are you looking at speech therapy for him? Many schools offer it free during school hours. Lots of kids go and most I know really enjoyed it.

Linda on the move 06-17-2014 01:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by junipermuse (Post 17701458)
Little brother on the other hand is very different from dd. he was never as verbal, spoke less than 10 words on his 2nd birthday. He has always been a puzzle solver though. .... He has certainly caught up to his sister verbally now. Though he can be hard to understand because he has pronunciation difficulties and still has a very baby sound to his speech.

Has he had a speech evaluation? Many kids his age have little speech quirks that haven't quite worked themselves out, typically, kids are understandable by a stranger at this age. I would check into what resources you have outside of school, and also request a speech evaluation at school for in school services. I did both for my DD.

Have your tired just talking to your daughter's teacher? In your post, you don't really talk about what she is doing at school or how she feels about school.

Aurorasky 06-18-2014 11:59 AM

I have only one school year under my belt but I quickly learned from my own mistakes when advocating last year. Here are my quick lessons.

1. Know what you want. Have a good idea as to the level your DD and DS are working at and where they are being taught at. Have an idea of what you want...differentiation, enrichment, and/ or acceleration in those areas. If you don't have assessments ask if they can out of grade level testing.

2. Discuss goals. Goals create accountability and allow teachers to show their expertise in HOW the goals are achieved. This prevents the battle of who knows how to best teach and prevents to advocacy to be one commitment at a time which starts to feel like high maintenance parenting (can we have different spelling lists, can she bring in her own books, can you give her a research project...). All of those can come up under the umbrella of meeting the goals and not seem so demanding. When our K teacher bragged about how our DD was already above CC standard we asked "great so what are the reading and math goals for her by year end?" From this the teacher outlined a specific level for DD, and then started to identify some skills to introduce that she felt DD was ready for...teaching DD mental Maths and retelling skills and began given timed math tests as she believed these were the key areas DD would need for success in first grade. I may in retrospect have asked for better differentiation but the teacher owned it and executed it so I was happy with that.

3. Be realistic. After volunteering in class a few times each month I realized that a lot of differentiation was impossible. We didn't have teaching aides. Our teacher had small kids of her own so time for planning was limited. She had 2 ESL kids, 3 Special Needs and 2 gifties including DD. Plus 1 behavioral problem child. Exhausting! Differentiation sounded great but reality was I needed to use our PTC time to help her think of creative ways to meet my child's needs without causing her disruption. Asking purposeful questions helped. "Who else needs to be taught retelling?" "Where is there a group working on math at the level she is working at?" "If she worked on an independent project what would she be missing?"

4. Don't take it all on yourself. Every advocating meeting I was already given ideas of things to do at home to enrich or accelerate my DD. ;)

5. Don't speak negatively about your child. Our teacher never did this but a previous one did...that teacher gave a lot of "she needs to listen" "She needs to stop socializing so much" speeches as qualifiers. And I'd have to ensure the two issues stayed seperate...which frankly was exhausting for me as I could easily get sucked into wanting to hear more about my DD's behavior I know is a bit challenging....

junipermuse 06-22-2014 11:01 AM

OP here. Thanks for the responses. I'll try to answer some questions, and supply more information.
I think part of the problem is that I don't know exactly what I want. I'm bothered that I didn't ask what the goals for her would be once she had clearly met the standards so early in the year. I think the problem was that we were all more focused on her behavior, waiting for issues that in the end never materialized. Her kindergarten year was very difficult with multiple trips to the office because of tantrums, twice dh and I were called to pick her up and take her home. Over last summer we started taking dd to a therapist for her anxiety as well as working again with an ot for some sensory issues that were contributing to her anxiety and behavior issues We didn't know if the behavior stuff would happen this year. But at the start of the year I was trying to coordinate recommendations from the ot and the therapist with dd's teacher. On top of that, because dd has several severe, life threatening allergies, I had to ask the school for extra help in keeping her safe. And by that point I think I felt like we were already so much trouble, that I would really be pushing my luck with asking for any more accommodations. In addition to not wanting to ask for too much, I also feel like its hard to gauge what is actually happening at school academically. For example with math, she got 100% on her end of year math assessment. The math fact test wasn't included in that assessment. And honestly she isn't actually behind in memorizing the math facts. She recalls them plenty quickly in real life situations, but because of her anxiety disorder she shuts down during the timed tests. I don't want teachers to wait for her do better on timed tests though before offering more challenging work in math though you know. There are other math activities offered besides rote memorization, but I still feel the work moves too slowly and is too repetitive to hold her interest. When she is given appropriate challenges she loves math, but she gets bored when it is something she already knows how to do. The math curriculum they use is a spiral curriculum so I think the idea is that most kids won't have grasped the concept completely the first time through, but dd always does. Also because I worked all last year, I've never been able to watch a class in session, so I don't know if she's being challenged in other areas or not. And since the only homework they gave was math homework, that's really the only subject I was able to observe directly. Well, that and reading. She reads a lot at home, and I was able to watch her reading skill develop right before my eyes. It was interesting because she went from only reading bob books, to reading books like the Secret Garden in a matter of a few months. Reading is differentiated but there are only three levels, there is group for the kids who are ahead and one for for kids working at grade level and the other group is for English language learners. But really that means there are only two groups for English only kids. And since they have to make those groups equal in size it's likely that she is far ahead of many of the kids in the group she's in. The reading groups are also very big. Basically the three 1st grade classes were all combined and then split up into three equal groups by ability, but that means that they're still working in a huge group of 24 kids rather than in small, more individualized reading groups. My understanding is there is very little differentiation done except for kids who are working below grade level. That seems to be the schools main focus, bringing up scores for the lowest performing kids. I do think the teacher recognized that dd was ahead, but I think for her that just meant being able to focus more on the other kids who needed more help. It's not that I don't talk to the teacher, but I think she's reluctant to clearly state that dd needs more, when the extra work to make that happen would fall squarely onto her already overworked shoulders. There is also a precedent of punitive action being taken on teachers who request extra help from the administration to meet student needs. (It's a long story which I can go into of necessary, but I'd rather not get into it at the moment). I guess I feel like realistically the school isn't set up to deal with gifted students and that they don't really have the resources to change. And while I feel like right now that's not a problem for dd, that in the long run I'm short changing her, by not insisting the school challenge her appropriately. My biggest concern is that she'll be so used to skating through, that when she finally encounters a real challenge she'll just give up. This is definitely what happened to me as a kid.

As far as ds and the speech issue, I applied to have him evaluated for speech through the district back in September. His teacher this year, and his teacher from the previous year both felt that he needed speech help, but the evaluator said he was too high functioning to qualify. In our district you have to be in the bottom 5% to qualify for services. Also because he's young for his grade level he isn't being compared to other kids who will be entering kindergarten, only to other kids his age, which in many cases will be staying back in preschool another year. If we could afford it I would definitely go the private route, but we're already completely in debt from paying for dd's therapy and paying for Ot for both kids over the past year. Any way I think my concern for ds also comes from the fact that we know two kids who were early readers like him that were redshirted because there parents felt they weren't emotionally ready, and when they finally started kindergarten they were so far ahead they ended up being skipped up to first grade half way through the year, and I'd rather not have that happen to ds.

Thank you everyone for the advice. I think over the summer I will really think about what I want from the school so that when we start in August I can start the conversation with them right away.

Linda on the move 06-22-2014 10:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by junipermuse (Post 17719242)
My biggest concern is that she'll be so used to skating through, that when she finally encounters a real challenge she'll just give up. This is definitely what happened to me as a kid.

I think the ability to work at something can be developed in any discipline and that it's a transferable skill. For some kids music or sports give them something that they really have to develop self discipline and they learn how to work at something and practice so they can improve.

Although, ideally, your DD will have teachers who are able to expand lessons to make them more interesting for her, when this is done, it often feels more like enrichment than real challenge. If you think about Bloom's Taxomony (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) a lot of school lessons are on the lower levels, and when teacher give gifted kids extra things to do on their own they tend to give them a related project at the higher levels. For lots of gifted kids, this is fun. Its appropriate and educational, but doesn't teach them stick with something difficult.

Learning to swim a 200 IM on the other hand, is a great way to learn to stick with something difficult.

I think a lot of kids reach a point somewhere in their educations where they have to work at things, and they find out they aren't the smartest. Its uncomfortable. I think we can help parent them through it by how we have talked to them up to that point and how we talk to them during that point. I think that the more parents imply that that their child is special and wonderful because they are smart, the harder they ultimately make it for their child to reach their potential. It discourages risk taking. Really needing to work at things messes with their sense of self.

junipermuse 06-23-2014 10:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Linda on the move (Post 17720602)
I think the ability to work at something can be developed in any discipline and that it's a transferable skill. For some kids music or sports give them something that they really have to develop self discipline and they learn how to work at something and practice so they can improve.

Although, ideally, your DD will have teachers who are able to expand lessons to make them more interesting for her, when this is done, it often feels more like enrichment than real challenge. If you think about Bloom's Taxomony (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) a lot of school lessons are on the lower levels, and when teacher give gifted kids extra things to do on their own they tend to give them a related project at the higher levels. For lots of gifted kids, this is fun. Its appropriate and educational, but doesn't teach them stick with something difficult.

Learning to swim a 200 IM on the other hand, is a great way to learn to stick with something difficult.

I think a lot of kids reach a point somewhere in their educations where they have to work at things, and they find out they aren't the smartest. Its uncomfortable. I think we can help parent them through it by how we have talked to them up to that point and how we talk to them during that point. I think that the more parents imply that that their child is special and wonderful because they are smart, the harder they ultimately make it for their child to reach their potential. It discourages risk taking. Really needing to work at things messes with their sense of self.

Thank you. I really needed to hear this put that way. Dd does have to work hard at things (learning to swim, riding her bike) and we did talk a bit about how new things can be hard and scary at first and then with practice they become second nature. I think if she's able to draw on these experiences when she starts hitting academic walls, she should have the ability to persevere.

Linda on the move 06-23-2014 01:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by junipermuse (Post 17721562)
Thank you. I really needed to hear this put that way. Dd does have to work hard at things (learning to swim, riding her bike) and we did talk a bit about how new things can be hard and scary at first and then with practice they become second nature. I think if she's able to draw on these experiences when she starts hitting academic walls, she should have the ability to persevere.

That's very close to what I'm saying. You are presenting things like we either know how to do them or don't, and that we work at learning things so we can move them over to the "things I am profient at" catagory. What I think is that it is very valuable for a child to have something in their lives that they simply work and practice at to improve, with no concept of "now I have mastered that, so I"m done." I think this lays a foundation for success in other areas.

Developing the concept that we work at things and continue to improve, even though it will always be challenge because we just go on to the next level, is the skill that I think some gifted kids miss out on developing. My DH is an immigrant, and where he is from parents often respond to their children's complaints and concerns with "it's character building."

I suggest pivoting from teaching your DD that the only reason to work at things is so they will be easy, to also teaching her that it is good to work at things, it builds character and makes her a stronger person. It is true that practice makes some things easy, but it is also true that people who are only comfortable with what is easy for them don't accomplish much with their lives. Help her appreciate the uncomfortable scary parts and understand that those are points in life where growth happens.

moominmamma 06-24-2014 09:34 AM

Linda, that is a very wise distinction you've drawn. I have perfectionistic kids and in my early years as a parent I tended towards the "hard work makes things easy and fun" message. Not entirely, but perhaps more than might have been optimal. I completely agree with you. Sometimes the message should be more along the lines of "there's nothing wrong with having to work hard at something." Full stop: no orientation to outcomes.

Miranda


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